Duke is expanding its presence abroad at an increasingly rapid pace. New partnerships in countries like China, Singapore, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates aim to increase scholarly mobility and, along with it, fresh ideas and new research opportunities.
Duke is expanding its presence abroad at an increasingly rapid pace. New partnerships in countries like China, Singapore, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates aim to increase scholarly mobility and, along with it, fresh ideas and new research opportunities.

Going Global

October 1, 2010

As Durham’s summer unmistakably asserts itself in late June, the books are finally packed, and L. Gregory Jones is moving out of the office he’s inhabited for thirteen years as dean of Duke Divinity School. After a few months of double duty, he’s ready to fully take on a newly created role at Duke, vice president and vice provost for global strategy and programs. He is just back from a trip to Kunshan, China—soon to be the site of a 200-acre campus with a strong Duke link—where the mayor congratulated him on Duke’s basketball fortunes. From there, he flew to Singapore, where he had his first look at the Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School and its glistening eleven-story medical-education and research building, dedicated this past fall.

He hasn’t toted up his frequent-flyer miles, he says with a laugh and adds, “but there are a lot more on the horizon.” In a couple of weeks, he would head off to Brazil for “a kind of discovery process of learning what’s going on, what the opportunities are, what the needs are, what the challenges are.” In early August, he was set to go to India; in early September, South Africa.

Jones is still feeling his way in his new role—and so is Duke, as it moves more systematically and more assertively into the global arena.

 L. Gregory Jones. Chris Hildreth

About a month earlier, as he was preparing for the personal and institutional transition, Jones M.Div. ’85, Ph.D. ’88 had published a reflective essay in The Christian Century magazine. “I am haunted by Abraham’s trust in God to lead him,” he wrote. “Abraham has nofull-fledged plan for the future in hand….I am a planner by temperament; I don’t like risky business. I don’t even take fun trips without guaranteed reservations and clear itineraries.” In his essay, Jones concluded that “there is a great deal at stake in developing education globally in ways that nurture life rather than replicate or intensify brokenness.” But, he acknowledged, “my new position is anything but guaranteed or clear…. There are risks on all sides.”

Today, Jones says, “there are more bad models than good models of how to do global relationships.” This summer, Michigan State University announced the closing of its branch campus in Dubai. The project lost millions of dollars, partly because of its birth in the midst of a global economic downturn, according to MSU administrators. Four years ago, the Johns Hopkins University and Singapore’s government ended a joint research and education program “amid considerable acrimony,” writes Ben Wildavsky in his new book, The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World. “The partnership, which had received $50 million in funding over eight years, collapsed because it failed to meet recruiting goals, fell short on transferring technology to local industry, and became mired in disputes over subsidies.”

Duke’s global reach was accented in the most recent strategic plan, “Making a Difference.” That reach is growing. For the Class of 2004, 753 international students—students who are neither U.S. citizens nor U.S. permanent residents—applied; sixty enrolled. For the Class of 2014 (with a slightly larger enrollment), 3,600 international students applied; 155 enrolled. A big factor underlying those student numbers is a surge from China. For the Class of 2004, Duke had ten applicants with addresses in China; outside the U.S., Turkey was the country that produced the greatest number of applicants. For the Class of 2014, the number of applicants from China was 733.

Back in 1985, Slavic studies professor Edna Andrews worked with study-abroad administrators to establish a Duke in Russia program. Through St. Petersburg State University, Duke has, over more than two decades, offered both summer and academic-year experiences, some involving the law and business schools. A faculty member from St. Petersburg has been at Duke every semester since the fall of 1988. “This is the longest faculty exchange with a Russian university in the United States,” says Andrews, who teaches in the summer program and regularly lectures at St. Petersburg during the academic year.
Russia was an early template, and Duke undergraduates now study abroad, in places ranging from Glasgow to Istanbul, at the highest rate of participation—48 percent—of any of the top-ten private research universities. A Global Semester Abroad program to be offered next spring will have students studying development, environment, and global health, through classroom learning and community-based research alike, in India and China; it will involve faculty members in public policy, cultural anthropology, and global health. Duke has seven centers—more than any other private university—funded by the Department of Education’s Title VI program, a federal initiative to promote foreign language and area studies. The Duke centers focus on, among other interests, international business, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Slavic and Eurasian languages.

The Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), founded in 2006, reaches across disciplines and across campus in addressing health disparities around the world. It coordinates—and expands—research efforts in areas ranging from emerging infectious diseases to global environmental health; sponsors courses ranging from “Gender, Poverty, and Health” to “Natural Catastrophes: Rebuilding the Ruins”; and oversees research projects ranging from water challenges in Ghana to Buddhist monasteries and how they might be integrated into the mental-health system in Thailand.

DukeEngage, begun in 2007, offers undergraduates immersive civic-engagement experiences, for at least eight weeks, somewhere in the world. This past summer, those experiences included (among many others) creating teaching materials in India and working with refugee and migrantworker communities in Ireland.
And users of the Duke website can click on a translation from English into any one of eight languages. Even the university’s front door in cyberspace, then, is globally sensitive.

In his book, Wildavsky observes that “scholarly mobility has a long-standing tradition, dating back some nine hundred years to a time when students from around Europe flocked to the first universities in Bologna, Paris, and Oxford. The twentieth-century version of this phenomenon emerged in the United States, which, after World War II, became an unsurpassed magnet for students and professors from around the world.”

Now the U.S. is less an academic magnet than a node in a global network. “The Rise of the Global University” was proclaimed by Simon Marginson, a professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne, in an essay this past May in The Chronicle of Higher Education. He wrote that the “multiversity”—the university with multiple constituencies and demands, so labeled in the 1960s by Clark Kerr, the influential president of the University of Calored of the concept of a comprehensive campus abroad than of the notion of “a globally connected network,” as Jones puts it. “What’s driving us are intellectual, educational concerns about what kind of students and faculty members will be the leaders of the twenty-first century.” Duke’s decisions on where to focus geographically are in large part driven by perceptions of which nations will be the world’s dominant players. By that criterion, China is an inescapable choice. Other places seem ripe for an educational infusion. India, notably, has one of the world’s youngest populations. Yet, as The New York Times reported in a March survey of education in India, “Even as India’s top students are world class, most Indian universities are not, with roughly two-thirds of colleges and universities rated below standard. And the limited number of quality schools is especially problematic given that 40 million ifornia—has given way to “the Global Research University.” The newer creation, as Marginson defined it, “is the multiversity with much more mobility, more cross-national research and learning, and moreglobal systems and rankings.”
In that spirit, Shirley M. Tilghman, the president of Princeton University, has declared that “every department in the university, not just those specifically concerned with international topics, has the potential to embrace a more international outlook.” Princeton has revised its unofficial motto from “Princeton in the Nation’s Service” to “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations.”

 New horizons: rendering of Kunshan campus. Courtesy Fuqua School of Business

Many other universities could comfortably adopt the same credo. Wildavsky points out that Singapore alone has forged collaborations with the California Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, and Stanford universities, along with Duke. He notes that Qatar is home to branch campuses of Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown University’s foreign-service school, Northwestern University’s schools of communication and journalism, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, and Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The most dramatic expression of global-mindedness is New York University’s venture in Abu Dhabi. NYU Abu Dhabi eventually will have 2,000 undergraduates and share an island with future outposts of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums. It will be a full-service undergraduate institution offering a broad curriculum in the arts and sciences and issuing its own diplomas. In Wildavksy’s book, John Sexton, president of NYU, is quoted as saying, “I feel very strongly that the top universities in the world will not be location-bound the way the Oxfords and the Cambridges and the Ivies have been.” His interest, he says, is attracting the “cosmopolitans,” students who will seek out the most ecumenical education available anywhere.

Duke officials, though, seem less enamored of the concept of a comprehensive campus abroad than of the notion of “a globally connected network,” as Jones puts it. “What’s driving us are intellectual, educational concerns about what kind of students and faculty members will be the leaders of the twenty-first century.”

Duke’s decisions on where to focus geographically are in large part driven by perceptions of which nations will be the world’s dominant players. By that criterion, China is an inescapable choice. Other places seem ripe for an educational infusion. India, notably, has one of the world’s youngest populations. Yet, as The New York Times reported in a March survey of education in India, “Even as India’s top students are world class, most Indian universities are not, with roughly two-thirds of colleges and universities rated below standard. And the limited number of quality schools is especially problematic given that 40 million extra students are expected during the coming decade.” Then there are places where Duke may want to be to serve local needs. Jones mentions sub-Saharan Africa but notes that financial sustainability is an issue.

 Michael Merson. Chris Hildreth

Duke’s most ambitious international outreach so far is in Kunshan, China; the City of Kunshan is providing land and footing the bill for the five-building campus, which is expected to open next year. “We’ve spent a long time talking with the City of Kunshan to develop trust and to ensure that we could establish a long-term relationship,” says Jones. “Because anytime that something like this doesn’t work, you take a reputational hit. Once we establish a commitment that we’re going to be engaged somewhere, it becomes incumbent on us to do everything possible to make sure that it will work effectively—that it will work at a level that not only meets Duke’s current standards of quality but enhances Duke’s reputation for the long term.”

In Kunshan, Duke will be working with various universities, including Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which is rich in science and engineering talent. (This past winter, investigators looking into Web attacks on Google and dozens of other American companies traced the intrusion, in part, to computers at Jiao Tong. According to Jones, “From what we’ve been able to learn, there’s no evidence to suggest that there was institutional complicity.”)

The Fuqua School of Business, the Nicholas School of the Environment, and DGHI will have an early presence in Kunshan. Eventually other Duke entities will join them, including the Sanford School of Public Policy. Sanford dean Bruce Kuniholm A.M. ’72, Ph.D. ’76, M.P.P. ’77 says that during his visit to the future campus, he was impressed to learn that Kunshan makes half the world’s laptop computers and that nearby Shanghai has some 4,000 buildings that are thirty-six stories or higher. Sanford will move gingerly into Kunshan, he says, to ensure that the model is financially sustainable and that faculty members are willing to teach there. Initially Sanford will join with Fuqua, probably offering executive training for students with science and engineering backgrounds and for mid-career professionals.

James Yang

Ralph Litzinger, an associate professor of cultural anthropology and author of the Duke University Press book Other Chinas: The Yao and the Politics of National Belonging (2000), calls the plans for the campus in Kunshan “beautiful.” But he questions the process that landed Duke there. Litzinger was director of Duke’s Asia/Pacific Studies Institute (APSI) for seven years. Since the summer of 2008, he has led the DukeEngage program in Beijing, which places students at a middle school to work with the children of migrant workers who have moved from the countryside to China’s largest cities in search of employment. Next spring, he’ll teach in the inaugural Global Semester Abroad, through which students will divide their time between China and India.

“I was a little bit caught off guard that Duke had discovered China through the business school,” says Litzinger. “It seems that what’s defining Duke’s international effort is no longer coming out of the arts and sciences. It’s coming out of the professional schools. All the stuff that we had been doing very innovatively in the APSI—we could never get the administration really to pay that much attention. All of us who had been on the ground for twenty years in China, reading Chinese, speaking the language, traveling all over the country, negotiating research access, were suddenly invited to the table after the fact. It kind of took a lot of us by surprise.”

Litzinger is deeply curious about the ultimate shape of the curriculum in Kunshan. “Knowledge is political in China in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine. I don’t know if Duke is really concerned with that. Cultural studies, the visual arts, the critique of film, ethnicity, environment, power relationships, human rights—these are things that anyone who follows what happens in Chinese universities knows you can’t openly talk about. There are films that are banned, there are books that are banned, there are scholars who are censored.

“Will I be able to go onto the Kunshan campus and teach a contemporary ethnicity course that does an evaluation of the Xinjiang and Tibet protests? Will I be able to teach an environmental class that talks about how, in the developing world, community groups can organize against the state? Will I be able to use examples of protests in China? Will I be able to bring community leaders in China, people who work in labor and the environment and who are under surveillance by the Chinese government, onto the campus? These are the things that a lot of us are worrying about—just what the pedagogical experience will feel like on a campus like this. That’s assuming that this is going to be a campus where there really will be a critical liberal-arts education.”

Such a roster of concerns can suggest that global engagement is a tug-of-war between idealists and pragmatists, says Sanford’s Bruce Kuniholm, who was Duke’s vice provost for academic and international affairs from 1996 until 2001. In his view, the path to engagement is more nuanced. He says that “human rights, the rule of law, espionage, and freedom of speech are all legitimate issues,” but that they don’t represent a rationale for foregoing educational partnerships. Kuniholm finds a historical analogy in President Nixon’s political opening to China in 1972, eighteen years after Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had refused a handshake with the Chinese premier at a Geneva conference. Freezing out China, now with a fifth of the world’s population and having overtaken Japan to become the world’s secondlargest economy behind the U.S., didn’t advance the aims of U.S. foreign policy; today it wouldn’t advance the interests of globally minded U.S. universities.

“What is the alternative to engagement?” Kuniholm asks. “Globalization is a fact of life and boundaries no longer have the prominence that they used to. We have to recognize that we’re all bound up in a global community.” Operating in places like China, he adds, “we have to be sensitive to the cultural context in which education occurs”—including awareness of mixed perceptions of the U.S. “That involves aiming for civil discourse, for finding common ground, and not focusing on issues that will polarize people. Lecturing people about their inadequacies is not a first step toward mutual understanding.”

 Blair Sheppard. Les Todd

Before Kunshan, Duke’s most conspicuous overseas partnership was the medical school’s outpost in Singapore. The roots of that partnership date back a decade, when Singapore launched an initiative meant to make the country the biomedical hub of Asia.

This past March, Michael Merson, director of DGHI, added the role of vice chancellor for Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) affairs. Merson took over from R. Sanders Williams M.D. ’74, who left Duke at the end of February to become president of the J. David Gladstone Institutes. Global health, to Merson, is a logical pacesetter for the university’s global strategy: Infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, SARS, and HIV/AIDS may strain local health-care systems, but they don’t adhere to local boundaries.

In a February 2008 paper in the journal Academic Medicine, Williams, Merson, medical chancellor Victor Dzau, and others wrote about the launch of Duke-NUS, a graduate medical school that is unusual for Asia, where most students enter medical school directly from secondary school. The original agreement, signed in 2005, called for Singapore to invest $350 million in facilities, salaries, start-up research funding, and other needs over seven years. For the inaugural class, in 2007, the student enrollment was twenty-six; the subsequent classes enrolled forty-eight and fifty-six students. The initial faculty recruits came from Duke and other American universities, as well as research institutes in Singapore.

The Academic Medicine paper points out that Duke expects to find in Singapore new opportunities to learn from the expanding influence of Asian nations in science and medicine. Merson says that protections for human research subjects are at least as stringent in Singapore as in the U.S. He adds that Singapore has an expanding array of funding sources in the biomedical sciences, including government ministries and pharmaceutical companies.

Merson and his coauthors, back in 2008, envisioned Singapore-based opportunities in areas such as primate research and human embryonic stem-cell research “where political or other constraints create barriers for U.S. scientists.” Early in the Obama administration, rules governing human embryonic stem-cell research were liberalized. Then, in late August, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction that, if upheld, will prohibit research not only under the Obama rules but under the more restrictive Bush rules as well—a confusing, shifting, and (for researchers) frustrating dynamic that contrasts with Singapore-style stability. Still, according to medical administrators, new technology has largely, though not entirely, supplanted the need to destroy embryos to produce stem cells for research.

Primate studies can also be contentious. In Singapore, administrators say, research has involved primates only in non-invasive cognitive studies. For all work involving animals, they add, the policies in Singapore are basically identical to those in the U.S. There is at least one research advantage in Singapore: Primates of research interest are indigenous to the area.

Duke-NUS research focuses on some familiar areas, such as cardiovascular and metabolic disorders and emerging infectious diseases. Other research takes advantage of the characteristics of Singaporean society. As an example, Merson notes that Singapore is one of the most rapidly aging countries in Asia. One project is developing a longitudinal database on the physical and mental health of older adults. The idea is to determine, among other things, the extent of their social isolation, changes over time, and differences between income groups. “You find in Singapore a society with an average lifespan that is longer than ours and that is focused very much on delivering health-care services to the aged,” says Merson. “You can study some very interesting issues around aging, some of which have relevance here.”

Duke-NUS may have relevance for Duke’s own medical training, Merson says. Even as Duke prepared its curriculum for export, officials began to think about curricular innovation within its familiar borders. At Duke-NUS, didactic lectures in the classroom have been almost entirely eliminated; encounters between faculty members and students occur largely in small-group discussions, labs, and other highly interactive learning sessions. “That team-based learning is a very concrete example of a different kind of application of our curriculum,” Merson says. “It’s now being test-driven, and it will find its way back here.”

Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is in its own global testing phase, but its global ventures trace back to 1989, when it began offering training to business managers in the then-Soviet Union. Fuqua’s Cross Continent M.B.A. program is two decades old. Working professionals in the program take an intensive, sixteen-month curriculum in locations around the world, as well as through a distance-learning option. Its Global Executive M.B.A., launched in 1996, is an eighteen-month program for senior executives from diverse locations and industries.

In the fall of 2008, Fuqua dean Blair Sheppard announced plans to develop a network of five partner campuses. The first will be with the Graduate School of Management at Russia’s St. Petersburg University. The other partner programs will be located in London; Shanghai; New Delhi; and Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Each of the campuses will support the full range of Duke M.B.A. programs. Each also will include a Duke Corporate Education tie-in, research centers, a Fuqua faculty presence, and service-learning activities linked with local needs—for example, a program that integrates business and public-policy training in Dubai, where private enterprise tends to be closely aligned with government, and a hospital management program in Russia, where many hospitals are poorly run.

Negotiating with the U.A.E. has been “illustrative of unanticipated issues,” says Sheppard. He was asked to write a formal note stating that Fuqua had no intention of attempting to convert its locally based students to Christianity. Early August brought another unanticipated issue: The U.A.E., citing security concerns, said it would start blocking BlackBerry mobile services like e-mail and text messaging. A month later, BlackBerry’s owner and the U.A.E. were reportedly making “good progress” toward a compromise.

On its website, Fuqua refers to itself as “the world’s first legitimately global business school.” Sheppard says, “That’s an aspiration, not an accomplishment.” He adds, “The world is multidimensional and interdependent. You can’t understand the world or prepare people for it by being in just one part of it. You have to be really present, embedded, in a way that allows you to become, say, Chinese in your perspective or Indian in your perspective.”

One consequence of a globally embedded Fuqua, in Sheppard’s view, is the inherent challenge to conventional, parochial thinking. Consider the assumption that doing any large-scale infrastructure project will take decades and entail huge inefficiencies and monumental political struggles. Yet, in just a couple of years, China conceived and largely built a Beijing-to-Shanghai high-speed rail line.

Fuqua should never run a program in a country that it could do better in Durham, Sheppard says. “There has to be a quality standard. If you don’t have that quality standard, the risks to the brand are huge.” NYU Abu Dhabi, in trying to replicate a New York-centered undergraduate experience, is “an admirable, ambitious, and audacious strategy,” he says. “But to do an undergraduate program of real quality requires phenomenal resources. The number of ways they can fail in that strategy is huge.

“You don’t do these things because there is a market someplace or because there is money someplace. As soon as you do that, you’re working against the core premise.”

It might seem counterintuitive that an American business school would be teaching lessons to the Chinese. As The New York Times’ Devin Leonard observed in a June column, “The world blames the United States—as it should—for hatching and exporting the 2008 financial crisis. And as the global economy finally recovers, guess which nation is leading the way? Not America, but China—where the economy is still tightly controlled by the Communist Party.”

Sheppard says business schools in the U.S. have plenty to atone for—notably, turning out students who were dismissive of regulatory authority and who devalued rigorous adherence to ethics. Still, in areas like marketing, accounting, and entrepreneurship, U.S. business schools remain the best in the world, he says. “We understand those core areas better, we teach them better.

“One of the requirements of a global strategy is a certain amount of humility. China has accepted that markets are the right way to go. They’re just not doing it the way we do. It’s an alternative that we can’t ignore, and it might highlight the liabilities of the model that we have. It doesn’t mean we should stop being the U.S. It does mean we could step back, ask questions about what we do, and end up being a better version of ourselves. Know what you have to offer, but be humble about it. If you don’t start there, the intellectual change you hope for won’t happen. If you go someplace believing you should teach and not learn, don’t go.”

Sheppard says he expects the global character of Fuqua’s core program, the daytime M.B.A. program, to keep deepening. That means not just a more international student body, but more globally aware American students as well. Faculty members will be conducting research around the world and looking globally for case examples in the classroom. And graduates will be placed in positions with global responsibilities. Fuqua’s application numbers have gone up, Sheppard says, and its students are attuned to the school’s global strategy—to the point that student leaders are pressing for a semester of study in Kunshan.

Greg Jones, just back from Kunshan, which he was visiting along with Sheppard, Kuniholm, and other deans, says he’s hesitant to try to replicate the Duke undergraduate experience elsewhere. “There’s something that’s intrinsic about the physical campus here, from the gardens to the chapel to Cameron Indoor Stadium. That is part of what the overall Duke experience involves. At least as long as I can anticipate, that’s going to be central to how we understand Duke University.”

Over time, Jones says, there will be a broader notion of that overall Duke experience. “If, over the next decade, our programs globally don’t have much impact locally—on campus—we’ll be making a serious mistake.” One indication of that impact: the Winter Forum, organized by DGHI, running for two days before classes start this January, and designed to steep 100 students in a simulation of a worldwide disease outbreak.

Duke will have to develop new capacities or sharpen existing capacities, he says, in administrative areas including human resources, legal affairs, finances, information technology, and communications. (This summer, Duke HR officials announced a new policy, aimed at faculty and staff members deployed on long-term international assignments, that will help cover expenses “necessary for their children to obtain adequate educational services in the host country.”) In broader terms, Jones sees a “psychological shift,” as Duke evolves from “a U.S. university that has some international relationships” to an institution “doing work that’s not just occasionally but regularly international.”

As he considers the global trajectory for Duke, Jones talks about the mirror-image concerns of the “too big” and the “too small.” “My worry is that we’ll do too much too quickly,” he says, “and not be able to maintain quality and deliver what we anticipate wanting to do.

“But the mirror image is that we could easily think too small and miss opportunities where we could actually provide significant leadership. Calibrating what is the appropriate strategy that is ambitious enough to really stretch us but not so ambitious as to break us or impede quality—that’s what will always keep me up at night.”