An Educational Transformation

Bass Connections targets innovative thinking around complex social problems.
February 13, 2013

A $50 million gift from Anne and Robert Bass of Fort Worth, Texas, will launch an initiative to encourage students and faculty members to collaborate across academic boundaries—and to give them the tools to tackle some of the most vexing society-wide issues.

Duke has long promoted interdisciplinary scholarship, exemplified by seven university institutes that cut across academic boundaries. Bass Connections will build on this model through extensive new curricular options and team-based activities for students. The initiative will focus initially on five broad areas: brain and society; education and human development; energy; global health; and information, society, and culture.

According to President Richard H. Brodhead, “Because Bass Connections will involve students and faculty at all ten Duke schools, it will have a transformative impact on our entire campus.” In announcing the gift, Anne and Robert Bass said their aim was to “enable broad collaboration among scholars across multiple disciplines to develop truly innovative approaches to some of the most pressing societal problems.”

The initiative—an element of the $3.25 billion Duke Forward campaign—will provide undergraduates with new classes and learning modules, internships, and civic-engagement experiences. It also will foster collaborative skills through project teams with graduate students, faculty members, and outside experts. Graduate and professional students will bring their specialized expertise to bear on complex problems and have new opportunities to mentor younger students.

Anne and Robert Bass have generously supported Duke over the past two decades, most notably through the Bass Program for Undergraduate Excellence, which aims to improve undergraduate teaching, and through the Focus program, which offers entering students integrated courses developed around interdisciplinary themes. Anne Bass has been a Duke trustee since 2003 and is co-chair of Duke Forward. The Basses are the parents of four children, including Christopher Bass ’97.