Go Forward, Boldly

Duke leaders credit success in philanthropy for advancing some of the university’s most innovative ideas. And that’s why they say the new Duke Forward campaign isn’t just about maintaining Duke’s progress. It’s about supporting a university that does best when it thinks big.
September 27, 2012

The technological marvel of a Mars landing has renewed a fascination with things astronomical. So it’s fitting that Duke’s president, Richard H. Brodhead, sometimes reaches for astronomical examples in describing Duke’s new fundraising campaign. “To the extent that Duke has risen and risen and risen,” he says, “the delta between our inertial orbit and our actual ascent has always been exactly measured by the amount of philanthropy that came to this university.”

This fall, Duke kicked off its $3.25 billion Duke Forward campaign, which runs through June 30, 2017, and involves every school and unit. “We’re not trying to raise money for everything,” says Brodhead. “It involves making some guesses about the future, assessing Duke’s special strengths, and giving ourselves the means to advance toward those goals. We’re trying to identify things that will move Duke forward and move students forward—and we know they come here wanting to be engaged in a hundred things.”

Brodhead talks about the campaign as positioning Duke to play a leading role in creating the model twenty-first-century university: “The university of the future will be defined as much by collaboration as it is by individual accomplishment, and as much by the opportunity to engage with problems as it is by the accumulation of knowledge.” Partnerships across areas of expertise, between researchers and practitioners, and among students and faculty members of diverse perspectives, he adds, will be seen as “the norm rather than the exception.”

Peter Lange, the provost, spearheaded an academic planning effort including deans, faculty leaders, and other administrators that identified campaign priorities. Some are familiar: financial aid, faculty support, the medical center, athletics, annual giving. But he calls the campaign—targeting as it does such interdisciplinary initiatives as innovation and entrepreneurship, the arts, energy, global health, and the environment— “strategically based and thematically based.” The themes reflect “the highest needs and priorities we have, and also the most exciting and promising work we can do,” he says. “They have become integrated into the fabric of the university. They are part of Duke’s identity.”

That identity hinges on crossing over traditional departmental, disciplinary, or even school lines. And the campaign is designed to build on that nimbleness, says Lange. “We’re not interested in encrusting the same institutional structures. We are interested in building a distinctive type of twenty-first-century university, with education rooted in a combination of the classroom and engagement beyond the classroom.”

In Brodhead’s view, the campaign emphasizes the value placed at Duke on innovation, collaboration, and connecting theory and practice— broad cultural markers that he sees as historically resonant and “pretty much visible in everything you run into on campus.” He says you can look at the creation, some four decades ago, of a biomedical engineering department that applies the approaches of traditionally disparate disciplines. Or, you can look at the creation, just a few years ago, of a Winter Forum, a program that encourages students to explore global issues through a combination of readings, presentations, and simulations.

“The world is going to want students who have the flexibility to move across domains of knowledge, to pull those strands together in solving problems,” Brodhead says.

Duke’s most recent comprehensive campaign was the Campaign for Duke. It ran from 1996 to 2003 and raised a total of $2,361,205,387—smashing through the original goal of $1.5 billion.

Robert Shepard, vice president for alumni affairs and development, came to Duke on the cusp of that campaign, in 1995, as executive director of development. The 1990s were a time of unbridled economic optimism; now, the economic atmosphere is more complicated. “One reason for the duration of these campaigns—typically two years in a quiet phase, five years in a public phase—is that you want to allow yourself time to get over bumps,” says Shepard. “People are giving again. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty out there, and a couple of universities that started campaigns before the plunge, when everything still looked great, haven’t met their goals. That has to be reflected in our planning and modeling. But while we have to be prudent and thoughtful, we can’t stop and wait for the perfect moment. There isn’t a perfect moment.”

Brodhead says planning for the new campaign began in the midst of the economic downturn. One option discussed was embarking on a relatively modest-scale effort, something that might have been in keeping with “a particularly bleak time in seeking financial support,” as Brodhead describes it. “But even during that time, there was a very striking thing: Everyone said to us, ‘Look, people don’t recognize Duke unless it’s linked with aspiration. Duke without aspirations is not Duke.’ ”

Many people affiliated with Duke may be tied to a particular program, degree, or experience, Shepard says. “There’s something that ties them to a larger Duke. And what we see is that major donors over time give to multiple areas of the university: They may start, say, with a niche interest, like a professional school or athletics, but the second gift is in a different area, and the third gift is in a still different area. Part of their giving may relate to where they were at Duke. Part of it relates to where Duke is now and where they see the possibility of making a difference.”

In recent years, a familiar set of schools has launched or completed campaigns of more than $3 billion: Cornell, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Penn, Yale, UVA, and Southern Cal, among others. “Among our peer group, we want to be competitive,” says Shepard. “But there’s not a lot of pressure to go out and do better than any particular institution. People recognize that there are differences between institutions and the kinds of campaigns that are drawn up.” Whatever the differences between institutions, there’s a long history of the comprehensive campaign, and the basic model— using the quiet phase to test donor response and refine an overall dollar goal, recruiting volunteers, communicating in ways that range from large events to individual meetings (and now to websites)— is largely unchanged, he says.

Brodhead says that “the entire history of this university is nothing but a history of partnership between educators of vision and philanthropists who want to invest their money in realizing dreams of education.” James B. Duke “couldn’t have created a university,” Brodhead adds. “That wasn’t his industry. You needed an educator to visualize it. But President Few couldn’t have created it either, because he lacked the means. It was this coming together of philanthropy and vision that turned Trinity College into a comprehensive research university and then, over the years, into a world-famous one.

Duke is a place that thinks big. Even in the time between the last campaign and this one, philanthropy—ranging from small annual-fund gifts to multi-million-dollar donations from individuals and foundations—has helped turn some ambitious ideas into reality. Ten examples: 

1. Make Visual Culture Central

The Nasher Museum of Art opened just six years ago—a spark to the arts at Duke that began with a $7.5 million gift from Raymond D. Nasher ’43, with the later addition of $2.5 million from the Nasher Foundation. Duke’s first-ever freestanding museum, it replaced cramped space in an academic building that was hardly hospitable to art. It’s moved quickly to organize its own contemporary-art exhibitions; and it’s become a force for driving conversations around art.

In one early exhibition, the museum presented the work of three emerging artists who were exhibiting together for the first time: Mark Bradford (Los Angeles), William Cordova (Lima, Miami, New York), and Robin Rhode (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Berlin). For each of the exhibited artists, city streets act as fluid, living sources of inspiration— inspiration that has taken the form of painting, works on paper, sculpture, photography, video, installation, and other mixed media.

Embracing art: Part gallery, part classroom, the Nasher Museum of Art hosted more than 80,000 student visits last year. [Credit: Megan Morr]

“I really enjoy working with artists who are not necessarily [yet] seen as the stars of the art world,” said Trevor Schoonmaker, the museum’s curator of contemporary art, at the time. “Ultimately the goal is to make contemporary art relevant to more people’s lives while at the same time working with leadingedge artists and concepts.”

The museum found itself on the aesthetic leading edge with another exhibition it originated, “Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool”—the first career retrospective of the renowned American artist, best known for his stunning, life-sized portraits of people of color from urban centers. “Birth of the Cool” traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Houston Contemporary Arts Museum.

For “The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl,” the museum built an exhibition around artworks either made from old records or inspired by records, sleeves, turntables, or a more general “vinyl culture.” Reviewing the exhibition at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (it also traveled to Miami and Seattle), one critic called it “fascinating subject matter.”

The Nasher inspires visual literacy in other ways: In the past academic year, the museum had more than 80,000 student visits. It drew classes in areas ranging from art history to African and African-American studies, and from public policy to cultural anthropology. And its community-education programs served more than 32,000 K-12 students.

2. Promote State-of-the-Art Health Care

The amenities tell part of the story of the new Duke Cancer Center, which opened this past winter—for example, a patient resource center, a quiet room, a café serving healthy foods, a boutique with specialty items for cancer survivors. But in a larger sense the building points to a new, patient-centered way of delivering health care. As Kevin Sowers, president of Duke University Hospital puts it, “The new cancer center is designed from the ground up with the patient in mind.”

In the old space, family members often overflowed from crowded waiting rooms into the hallway. Research showed that patients brought an average of 3.5 friends or family members with them. So the new building was designed with ample living- room-like waiting areas. For the 120 patients who receive chemotherapy each day, the building offers cubicles for privacy, a bright communal space for chatting, and even the option of receiving treatment, on pleasant days, on a rooftop terrace.

 One stop: The state-of-the-art Duke Cancer Center provides patients with a streamlined approach to cancer care. [Credit: Jared Lazarus]

The Duke Cancer Center now brings together almost all cancer clinical services on the main medical campus, meaning that patients no longer have to travel to far-flung locations to see multiple specialists. “It’s one-stop care delivery,” says Duke Cancer Institute executive director Michael B. Kastan. The building, he notes, also is designed to bolster clinical research. (At any given time, the Duke Cancer Institute, or DCI, is conducting around 700 clinical trials.) Many clinical protocols are multidisciplinary, with surgery, imaging, and chemotherapy components. Having those specialists together in one setting makes it easier to conduct complex trials.

“This is going to be a sea change in patients’ experience,” Kastan says. And that patient population is bound to grow from the more than 50,000 patients that DCI sees every year. Forecasts project a 15.3 percent increase in new cancer cases in North Carolina between 2010 and 2015—and a 22.4 percent increase in the greater Triangle region that is Duke’s home base.

3. Apply Scholarship to Policy Issues

 Solving real-world problems: Public policy professor Bruce Jentleson teaches a course at the Sanford School. [Credit: Les Todd]

In 2009, the Sanford School of Public Policy became Duke’s tenth school—a step made possible by a fundraising effort that raised $40 million, including gifts and pledges. Before the school was a school, it was, back in 1971, Duke’s Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs. It was one of the legacies of Duke President Terry Sanford. In Sanford’s view, a powerful measure of any great university would be its capacity to make its research relevant to “real-world” problems.

Here’s an example of strategic thinking and philanthropic targeting at work: Seven years ago, the size of the Sanford faculty (not counting adjuncts or secondary appointments) was thirty. As of this fall, the size of the faculty has more than doubled, to sixty-five. Those new faculty members have expanded Sanford’s depth of expertise in such areas as environmental and energy policy, global governance and development policy, communications policy, child policy, social policy, and global health and population.

4. Enlarge the Focus of the Humanities

You won’t find spaces overflowing with pipettes, beakers, or test tubes. But in Duke’s new humanities labs, you will find faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates, and visiting scholars engaged in an unusual experiment that’s built on collaborative research.

Crossing borders: Artwork produced through Haiti Lab. [Credit: Les Todd]

The labs bring together faculty members and students who share disciplinecrossing interests rooted in the humanities. Over a period of one to three years, they work on projects related to a common theme. Humanities labs are one component of the Humanities Writ Large initiative at Duke, supported by a $6 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The inaugural lab, in the 2010-11 academic year, was the Haiti Lab; in applying scholarly insights and in-the-field data collection to Haiti’s disaster recovery, it has embraced Haitian culture, history, and language.

One of the newest humanities labs, the BorderWork(s) Lab, explores the acts of division and demarcation— cartographic and representational, political and economic, social and cultural—that parceled up the inhabited world into bounded communities. That theme points to such issues as state, imperial, and corporate power; environmental rights and engagement with the natural world; and the mobility or immobility of communities.

5. Conceive a Signature Civic-Education Experience

Here are some Duke- Engage voices from the field:

From Cambodia: “My official job title at the Housing Rights Task Force is community organizing intern. Almost every day, I’m out in the community. We conduct demographic surveys and discuss with community leaders the threat of eviction the community faces.”

From Northern Ireland: “We are partnering with Belfast-based NGOs that focus on human rights in the context of ‘The Troubles,’ an ethno-political conflict between the Protestant and Catholic populations. The groups with which we work are fostering human-rights culture, working to lessen sectarian division, implementing stronger human-rights reporting and protections, and working at the grassroots level to address how the violent past can be acknowledged and used as a way to construct a more peaceful future.”

Education in action: Engineering student Lauren Shwisberg '12 waters newly-planted indigenous species as part of a DukeEngage-funded wetland restoration project in Beaufort, N.C. [Credit: Eric Van Danen]

And from Durham: “Last week I made the fourth- to eighth-grade students create a human timeline. I handed them a picture backed by tan construction paper. The picture illustrated a specific event or an era in our nation’s history.”

These are all student blog postings from this past summer’s DukeEngage—just three among the more than 450 Duke students who participated in DukeEngage group or individual programs in more than seventy nations.

DukeEngage was launched in 2007 through the establishment of a $30 million endowment from The Duke Endowment and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It funds undergraduates in pursuing an immersive (minimum of eight weeks) service experience by meeting a community need locally, domestically, or internationally.

Those student-immersion experiences have entailed environmental advocacy, community outreach, global health, education, and social justice. DukeEngage students have launched mentoring and school-enrichment programs, created community- support initiatives, designed health-education and outreach programs, improved a community’s health-information infrastructure, produced environmental-education documentaries, and developed microfinance opportunities for disadvantaged women and families.

6. Break Through the Disciplines

"Interdisciplinarity” has become a Duke marker. The term can seem hard to grasp, but it takes on vivid meaning when you consider, for example, what goes into understanding the brain.

What keeps the attention of a radiologist who sees just seventy suspicious lesions in 1,000 mammograms, or the attention of a baggage screener who hasn’t found a handgun in more than a year? Can performing a physical activity while using very specialized eyewear— glasses that simulate a strobe-like experience—boost visual memory abilities? Is it possible to locate a region of the brain that carries information specific to decisions during social interactions? Can we chart the molecular mechanism through which depression can cause “accelerated aging”?

Those are the sorts of questions propelling the research of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS), created in 2007. DIBS brings together the brainpower of such areas as the biomedical sciences, social sciences, physical sciences, humanities, law, business, public policy, mathematics, computer science, and engineering.

 No barriers: Len White of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences assists a student in exploring brain structures. [Courtesy Duke Institute for Brain Sciences]

Since its inception, DIBS has received $3.2 million in philanthropic support for one of its signature initiatives, its Incubator Awards Program. The program provides seed funding for brain-science research that is interdisciplinary, collaborative, exceptionally innovative, and broadly significant. More than twenty research projects have resulted, with interests including the genetic underpinnings of human-brain development, environmental stressors and their relationship to mental health, magnetic fields and their effect on the brain, the neurobiology of hibernation, and how examining cells in the eye might point to indicators of neurological diseases.

DIBS also supports a variety of educational programs. Last year, a DIBS-organized symposium looked at “Free Will and Responsibility: Perspectives From Neuroscience, Psychology, and Philosophy.” Relying on methods ranging from brain scanning to behavioral observations, the assembled experts explored “what we know about our own choices from studies of other animals, brain-damaged patients, and addicts.” As the printed program put it, “This intense interdisciplinary exchange of perspectives should throw new light on some of the most pressing issues of our time”—issues related, for example, to traditional views of free will and moral responsibility, and to institutions of criminal justice and mental health.

7. Combat Health Inequities

The twentieth century was a time of spectacular medical advances—and equally spectacular failures to distribute health and health care fairly across the globe. That’s the impetus for the Duke Global Health Institute. Created in 2006, it involves faculty from almost every Duke school—medicine, Trinity, Sanford, Nicholas, Fuqua, Pratt, nursing—and supports education and training for undergraduate, graduate, and medical students.

DGHI’s thinking about its mission is at once elevated and practical: “We recognize that global health goes far beyond addressing scourges such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, or preparing for the spread of SARS or avian flu. We challenge ourselves to examine the contexts in which these diseases exist. How do poverty, gender, environment, and globalization reinforce existing health disparities, and what can be done in these areas to improve health?”

 Pass it on: A medical student teaches a community health worker how to take a patient's blood pressure. [Credit: Rollin Say '11]

Lots of questions, and DGHI is looking for answers in the U.S., China, Haiti, India, Kenya, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, and elsewhere—a total of some 138 global-health research projects in thirty countries. DGHI researchers are training health workers in Rwanda and Tanzania, with the aim of delivering healthy babies and keeping mothers safe. They’re examining ties between mental illness and HIV/AIDS in Cameroon. In places ranging from Boston to Beijing, they’re studying interventions to prevent obesity—programs in which, for example, participants track their daily progress on individual diet and physical-activity goals and also attend group support sessions.

8. Build a House That Teaches Better Living

How many campuses can boast of a live-in laboratory focused on sustainability and technology? Residents of Duke’s Home Depot Smart Home—ten students— commit to and explore an energy-efficient lifestyle. And they use and develop smart and sustainable technology.

For those student residents, a smart day at the Smart Home can mean doing laundry with rainwater while conducting irrigation- related research in the backyard greenhouse, checking up on the growth of the green roof as well as on how much rainwater has collected in the six 400-gallon tanks in the basement, or monitoring wattage used by each room’s controlled lighting. And doing all of that, maybe, to the background hum of a selfmowing lawnmower.

 Get smart: Sustainable technology initiatives around campus include the Home Depot Smart Home. [Credit: Les Todd]

Among the student projects that have called the Smart Home home base: Duke Transit tracking (DUTrack), a bus-tracking app taking advantage of GPS signals on phones placed on buses as tracking devices; and Perkinsense, an online resource using heatsensitive infrared cameras that allow the Duke community to find out if a study room is open in Perkins or Bostock libraries.

The 6,000-square-foot split-level home is operated by Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. Its energy-attuned features include hot water generated from a solar-panel system on the roof, a harvesting system that recycles rainwater, and an energy-recovery ventilation unit to preheat or precool outside air. It’s the first LEED (Leadership in Energy Environmental Design) Platinum building on Duke’s campus.

9. Bolster Financial Aid

The ongoing economic challenges are painfully obvious—certainly to prospective and current Duke students and their parents. In recent years, the university reaffirmed its commitment to the principles of need-blind undergraduate admissions, and pledged to continue to meet 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need of all admitted U.S. undergraduates. Beginning in 2008-09, Duke enhanced its aid packages, a gesture that carries a lot of symbolic and tangible significance: It entails increasing grants and decreasing loan requirements for need-based aid recipients.

 Duke's promise: The university meets 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need of all admitted U.S. undergraduates. [Credit: Les Todd]

Enhanced aid packages are one outgrowth of Duke’s four-year Financial Aid Initiative, which began in 2005 and raised $308.5 million in new endowment for financial aid. The Duke Endowment contributed $75 million, at the time the largest gift in the Endowment’s history. More recently, trustee Bruce Karsh ’77 and his wife, Martha, have provided $50 million for undergraduate financial aid.

In 2011-12, the university spent $119.8 million on undergraduate financial aid (including need-based aid, merit scholarships, and athletic scholarships). Undergraduate need-based aid alone represented a $92.8 million expenditure— up from $48.8 million just five years earlier.

10. Redefine Academic and Social Space

It’s quite possibly the most popular place on campus. More than 3 million people have stepped through its doors this past year. It rivals dorm rooms and K-Ville for how many students sleep there. And it hosted more than 3,000 for its annual campus-wide party. So if “the library” still conjures images of a dark, musty place with awkwardly spaced computer kiosks, a visit to campus is well overdue.

 The interior of the vond der Heyden Pavilion. [Credit: Les Todd]

No one could accuse the Perkins Renovation Committee, which first met in 1999, of thinking small. Its mission was to imagine what a twenty-first-century library should be. Terms like “awe-inspiring” and “contemplative” were tossed around, and the group of faculty members, librarians, and students came to the bold conclusion that Perkins alone could simply not meet the needs of the future. But while the committee set the wheels in motion for the construction of Bostock Library and von der Heyden Pavilion during the last campaign, there was no way it could have predicted just how far the road would go.

Take the Link, for instance. Duke’s prized hub of technologically savvy classroom space “wasn’t even a glimmer in our eye,” said Deborah Jakubs, vice provost for library affairs, until the renovations of the first floor of Perkins were under way—well after the completion of Bostock and von der Heyden. Bob Thompson, former dean of Trinity College, was growing short on classrooms and had started to take note of all the informal learning that the new spaces in Bostock provided. In came the Link and a sizable Office of Information Technology help desk, uniting academic, technological, and research efforts under one roof. “Several colleagues were aghast that I’d give away space,” says Jakubs, “but I thought it was for the best—as part of the learning continuum. It’s all one big thing.”

As students have increasingly used the library for group study, the library responded with its hallmark “library party,” themed each year around one of the university’s special collections. But other circumstances have allowed Perkins to test its suppleness. The increasing focus on interdisciplinary work could create a host of bureaucratic difficulties for a more rigid library system—say, for a philosophy major researching some of Descartes’ more mathematically minded writings. “You wouldn’t know which library to put a book in,” Jakubs explains. But Perkins and Bostock have been integrating the disparate science libraries over the past few years, beginning with the chemistry library; biological and environmental sciences and engineering will soon follow.

 Deborah Reisinger teaches a French course in the Link. [Credit: Megan Morr]

Librarians need to master new technologies and be able to explain new ways of interpreting data, Jakubs says. "No unit on campus has changed, and is continuing to change, as much as the library.” A change-promoting gift of $13.6 million from trustee David M. Rubenstein ’70—the largest-ever donation to the libraries—is supporting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library; that area is scheduled to be renovated in the final phase of the so-called Perkins Project.