Sy Mauskopf (second from left), history professor
and director of the FOCUS
program, chats with first-year students in Trinity Café.
The quality of the student experience is part of achieving institutional
excellence. We have listened to our students in assessing how we
might best build on our rich traditions to create a future even
more conducive to the nurturing of all students, whatever their
background and age. The ideal experience blends housing, on-campus
student life, and off-campus experiences. Our plan as a whole calls
for increased intellectual collaborations. So too it must call for
increased community building in student life, as well as enhanced
interactions with the local community, its agencies, and institutions.
One way we build community is by strongly encouraging students
to volunteer. More than 80 percent of Duke students perform some
kind of community service work while at Duke, according to the Community
Service Center. Break-for-Change, a student-led organization,
promotes social action through alternative spring breaks each year
and courses taught by students. The Duke
Chapel sponsors about 150 students who travel in groups on mission
trips to Third World countries such as Honduras, facilitating interaction
between Divinity School graduate students and Duke undergraduates.
More than 300 students tutored last year in schools and community
centers affiliated with Duke through the Duke-Durham
Neighborhood Partnership Initiative. These types of civic engagement
not only foster individual growth but also forge bonds both within
the campus community and beyond.
Greater associations between faculty and students and between undergraduate
and graduate students are also important and encouraged. The
quality of graduate students interaction with undergraduates
can have an enormous impact on young students who are deciding about
their future, says Kathleen Pryer, an assistant professor
of biology who earned her doctorate at Duke. Doctoral students
are also valuable colleagues to faculty, bringing novel and sometimes
riskier approaches to research that can result in exciting breakthroughs
and long-term collaborations.
Part of the beauty of our freshman FOCUS
(First-year Opportunity for Comprehensive Unified Studies) program,
is that, in addition to providing students in small groups the opportunity
to delve intensely into a subject, it fosters close faculty-student
interaction through dinner seminars. The program also builds connections
through stimulating field trips, such as a trip to St. Petersburg
for students studying Changing Faces of Russia or a
visit to Athens for those studying Greek culture.
The nurturing of personal and intellectual growth through the
creation of a true learning community rests on four foundations:
recruitment of an intellectually engaged and multi-dimensional student
body, reduction of barriers to interaction among diverse populations,
attention to the personal well-being of every student, and maintenance
of a healthy, safe, learning environment.