Vincent Price named Duke president
In an afternoon ceremony at Penn Pavilion on December 2, Vincent Price, provost of the University of Pennsylvania since 2009, was introduced to the Duke community as its tenth president.
It was a loose, joyous event, the kind in which every joke lands. Price talked about now understanding the importance in distinguishing shades of blue, his appropriately hued tie accentuating the message. Trustee chair David Rubenstein ’70 noted that Duke—relative to, say, America— tends to have a smooth presidential transition. And current President Richard H. Brodhead, ever the intricate wordsmith, gushed to his successor about his hopes for having a “ludicrously unproblematic relationship with one another.”
The Penn Pavilion event was one of many for Price during a whirlwind Friday. He bounced all over West Campus, meeting separately with editors of The Chronicle, student leaders, faculty leaders, and the health chancellor, among others. But between these official encounters, a few students, those handling social-media accounts and shadowing the president-elect throughout the day, found Price in a more natural mode.
“He’s a really personable guy. He asked me where I’m from; he’s asked about my life in the few moments I’ve had to talk to him,” said Jackson Steger, a junior who handles the university’s Snapchat account (@dukestudents).
The idea of being welcoming and out-andabout as president is one that Price touched upon in his various remarks, highlighting both his affinity for walks and his need for them. (He and his wife, Annette, have two dogs that they will be bringing to Durham.)
“I really do believe him when he says that he wants to be approachable, and he wants to walk around and interact with students,” said Thamina Stoll, a senior who runs the corresponding Instagram account (@dukeuniversity). “Even though I only spent maybe five minutes talking to him, he does seem like the kind of person who would do that.”
As provost at Penn, Price oversees the university’s twelve schools and colleges, centers and institutes, student affairs, athletics, and the arts. He has advanced initiatives to diversify the faculty, develop new forms of teaching and learning, enhance arts and culture on campus, and promote interdisciplinary research and teaching.
Price, like Brodhead, has been the catalyst for a global strategy. At Penn, he hired the university’s first vice provost for global initiatives and spearheaded the creation of the Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing, which opened in 2015. Price also led Penn’s role as one of the first partners in Coursera, the online open-learning platform, and served as founding chair of Coursera’s University Advisory Board. He’s a trustee of the Wistar Institute, a nonprofit biomedical research institute, and is on the executive planning group for University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Price received his Ph.D. and master’s degrees from Stanford University and did his undergraduate studies at Santa Clara University. In addition to being the chief academic officer at Penn, he is the Steven H. Chaffee Professor of communication in the Annenberg School for Communication and professor of political science in UPenn’s School of Arts and Sciences. He’s an expert on public opinion, social influence, and political communication; his book, Public Opinion, has been published in six languages and taught in courses around the world.
It’s worth noting that he looks nothing like the mustachioed actor of the same name, which is perhaps fortunate for his social-media future. “I think he’s super-photogenic. All of the pictures I’ve seen so far, he looks really good. And again, those glasses—people have been referring to them as ‘Harry Potter glasses,’ ” said Stoll.
Duke’s archives hold a guide to choosing the perfect president
In a Penn Pavilion room with glass walls that let in a wash of afternoon sunlight, Jack Bovender ’67, M.H.A. ’69, vice chair of Duke’s board of trustees, spoke about “the most important job for a board: choosing the chief executive.” He had just managed the job as chair of the presidential search committee that chose as Duke’s tenth president University of Pennsylvania provost Vincent Price. Bovender shared with the crowd of several hundred his initial feelings from more than a year before, which he expressed succinctly:
“I’d better not screw this up.”
In Price, he chose “a person of great integrity and steadfastness,” Bovender said. “A person who listens as he leads.”
When Price took the dais and spoke of joining Duke’s community of “entrepreneurs and artists, scientists, dreamers, and doers,” of taking his place at the head of “a place dedicated to improving our lives,” it was easy to perceive the influence of something Bovender did not mention: advice from as far back as 1948.
Duke has in its archives a document prepared during the presidential search of 1948 that distills a university president down to his or her essential “elements of value.” The “Killian Report” came into existence in 1948, when Duke undertook its first planned change of leadership. Robert Flowers, Duke’s second president, had taken over suddenly in 1940 when William Few unexpectedly died, and the only other twentieth-century change of leadership had occurred in 1910, when John Kilgo had resigned as president of Trinity College.
With no precedent for a search for a new president, the board of trustees turned for advice to James Killian, a one-time Trinity student who was vice president of MIT. Killian, recognizing that he was a candidate for the Duke job, created a list of characteristics the board should seek.
According to the Killian Report, a university president must have:
1. Administrative ability: A university contains an odd collection of “students, staff, trustees, and alumni” who need “a common enthusiasm,” and the president must treat faculty “as a company of scholars rather than managing them through a line organization.”
2. Comfort with public relations and the ability to express the university’s goals
3. The capacity to become a symbol of the university’s ideals and standards
4. The willingness to be “courageous in maintaining high standards”
5. An understanding of the mutually supportive partnership between research and teaching
6. A willingness to render service to community, state, and nation, because that service was essential to the university
7. The ability to manage financial affairs–keeping the resource pool growing was then, as now, fundamental to any enterprise 8. Strength and stamina.
For Duke (and similar institutions), Killian added four more characteristics. The president must:
1. Understand that private universities could, and therefore must, be leaders
2. Understand and take advantage of the university’s regional characteristics
3. Maintain connections with national professional and scholarly societies
4. Recognize the importance of “combining an education designed to help one earn a living with an education to help one become a well-rounded person.”
Killian soon removed himself from consideration when MIT asked him to become its president. Duke then chose A. Hollis Edens, who served until 1960.
Bovender never mentioned the Killian Report. But Killian likely would have reassured him that he’d done just fine.
Former president Keith Brodie dies at 77
On the same day Duke announced its newest president, Vincent Price, the university also mourned the passing of one of Price’s predecessors.
H. Keith H. Brodie, a professor emeritus of psychiatry and the seventh president of Duke, died on December 2 at the age of seventy-seven. Current president Richard H. Brodhead wrote in a letter to the Duke community, “Keith Brodie’s term as president of Duke from 1985 to 1993 saw the beginning of Duke’s rise to national recognition and reputation.”
Brodie’s time included the construction of the Levine Science Research Center and the Sanford Institute (now school) of Public Policy; he also oversaw the launch of an environmental school. Applications to both undergraduate and graduate schools increased throughout his presidency. The Black Faculty Initiative led to more African- American hires at the university, and the Program for Preparing Minorities with Academic Careers assisted minority undergraduate students looking to become professors.
In a Duke Magazine article from 2000, former vice provost and English professor Judith Ruderman Ph.D. ’76 noted Brodie’s focus on improving diversity. “He made Duke even more inclusive,” Ruderman said. “It was in Keith Brodie’s era when you could really see the complexion of the student body changing, literally and figuratively.” From the start of Brodie’s presidency to the end of it, the percentage of undergraduates on need-based financial aid doubled.
His impact extended to the athletic fields as well. Men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski referred to Brodie as “the best man I’ve known at Duke.” During Brodie’s era, the Krzyzewski-coached basketball teams in 1991 and 1992, in addition to the 1986 men’s soccer team, claimed Duke’s first national championships.
Brodie arrived at Duke in 1974, working as professor and chair of the department of psychiatry and director of psychiatric services at Duke University Medical Center. After becoming the James B. Duke Professor of psychiatry, he served as Duke’s chancellor from 1982 to 1985.
During a 2004 interview, Brodie acknowledged he didn’t quite have the ideal background for a university president. “As a chemist I was not really equipped,” he said. “But I learned. It worked out, but it was quite challenging.”
It was a challenge he rose to. In February 1992, when Brodie announced that he would be stepping down and returning to research and teaching, then-trustee chair P.J. Baugh ’54 spoke unequivocally about the improvements the seventh president would leave behind. “By every index—academic, financial, quality of students and faculty, research productivity, and growth of the endowment—Duke is a stronger place today than it was when he assumed the presidency in 1985.”
Speakers & Stage
Amidst the fervor of election season, Duke was swarming with both political titans and celebrity cameos straight from the campaign trail. Here are some of the big names to step on campus:
The deputy chiefs of staff for the two most recent presidents, KARL ROVER (George W. Bush) and JIM MESSINA (Barack Obama) had a discussion in Page Auditorium about the 2016 election—and how America will move on from the election—that was moderated by political science professor Peter Feaver. DONNA SHALALA, the president and chief executive officer of the Clinton Foundation, visited campus in October to speak about the power of philanthropy in creating social change. THOMAS W. ROSS, the former president of the UNC system, presented “Divided We Fall: Restoring Trust in Our Democracy” in the Fleishman Commons at the Sanford School. It was part of his fellowship; Ross is the first Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecturer. ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, the current president and chief executive officer of New America, a public-policy think tank, spoke on campus about “Global Hot Spots and Blind Spots,” analyzing current events in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East as well as the factors behind these events that are being ignored. Athletes such as former NBA player JASON COLLINS and Olympic figure skater MICHELLE KWAN came to Duke to canvass for Hillary Clinton; actresses and activists, including Girls’ LENA DUNHAM and Fresh Off the Boat’s CONSTANCE WU, held a panel discussion in late October. The three-day 2016 CARTOON AND SATIRE FESTIVAL, held in late September, brought together faculty, students, and Pulitzer-winning cartoonists to share and highlight political satire, both local (related to North Carolina’s House Bill 2) and national (this unprecedented presidential election).
A place of honor
Oscar Dantzler must have a very tidy house.
“If you can’t keep the house of God clean, you can’t keep your own house clean,” Dantzler has often recalled being taught by his mother. And as the custodian—and unofficial host—of Duke Chapel, Dantzler has kept the iconic space white-glove clean for almost two decades.
Bruce Karsh ’77 graduated from Duke, spent years as a trustee, and, as a financial manager, has helped bolster the university’s endowment. He and his wife also have donated more than $100 million to make sure worthy students can afford to make a home at Duke. Dantzler and Karsh sat together on the Duke Chapel altar during the September 29 Founders’ Day Convocation, this year’s recipients of the University Medal, Duke’s highest honor for distinguished service.
Karsh came to Duke in 1974 a man in a hurry, graduating summa cum laude in three years. When a promising legal career proved not quite to his liking, he cofounded Oaktree Capital Management, which now manages some $100 billion in assets. In 2002, Karsh joined the board of directors of DUMAC, the organization that manages the university’s investments. He remained there until 2014, serving as director starting in 2005, keeping the university’s assets stable during the recession. As donors, he and his wife, Martha, support a single enterprise: endowment for financial aid. Creating special endowments for international students and students with parents who have never attended college, the Karsh family has made such profound contributions that Duke has named its financial aid office the Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support. Karsh says his commitment to Duke has been, outside of his business, “the single most gratifying and rewarding activity that I’ve engaged in.”
Karsh probably has helped support many of the students who attended the convocation; Dantzler likely knows them all. One of the few people to actually hold keys to the chapel, Dantzler calls it “my heart and soul”—and constantly reaches out to the students he calls his “babies,” offering sensible guidance and the comfort of an experienced ear. Becoming chapel custodian after a career in construction, Dantzler has an orderly decency and sense of values that quickly made him a favorite of the students who came to the chapel to get their bearings. As a child he earned a nickel by cleaning his church, so the job—and the respect—seemed to come naturally.
The 2009 documentary film The Philosopher Kings, which interviewed Dantzler during its exploration of housekeeping staff at eight universities, shared with the world what Duke students already knew. In fact, his on-campus influence is such that few prospective students visiting the campus are not introduced to Dantzler, who reassures nervous parents, saying, “I’m gonna get my input in ’em before their four years is up.” Dantzler’s importance also extends beyond the present generation: The university recently included him on the small committee it created to find a way to honor chapel architect Julian Abele.
Founding, said President Richard H. Brodhead at what would be his final Founders’ Day as president, is an ongoing process: Passive attendees aren’t founders. “But if you come and participate, if you come and pitch in, if you help make this place what it could be, you yourself are taking on the founder’s role along with the rest of us,” he said, “the role of creating the reality of this university.” In Karsh and Dantzler, Duke is constantly re-founded.
Study shows drastic gains in life expectancy but can’t explain the male-female gap
“The male disadvantage,” says Duke biology professor Susan Alberts, “has deep evolutionary roots.”
Skip whatever joke you’re about to make. Alberts is talking about lifespan, and she explains it all in her most recent paper, published in November in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. With a team of researchers from Germany, Denmark, Kenya, and Canada, Alberts gathered birth and death records of more than a million people all over the world, covering more than two centuries. The team thus could compare people from the most-advanced modern societies with those born before the Industrial Revolution and those who live in hunter-gatherer cultures now.
It’s no surprise that people in modern societies now live longer and healthier lives than ever. Yet, comparing human data with those gathered on six other primate species (Verreaux’s sifaka lemurs, muriqui monkeys, capuchins, baboons, chimpanzees, and gorillas) indicated that modern hunter- gatherers live only a decade or so longer than the ancestors from whom we and our primate cousins diverged. And our recent gains in life expectancy have been astonishing: “We’ve made a bigger journey in lengthening our lifespan over the last few hundred years than we did over millions of years of evolutionary history,” says Alberts.
What’s more, these benefits have been widespread. For the population to gain in longevity, everyone has to live longer, not just certain populations lasting while others die young. Still, that equality isn’t complete. The woman who would have lived three or four years longer than her male friend in Sweden back when their expected lifespan was in the thirties will still outlive her male friend by three or four years now, even if she’ll do it forty-some years later. “If we can make life last so long,” Alberts asks, “why can’t we shrink the male-female gap?”
Make your own inappropriate joke. We’re staying quiet.
Something to chew on
Kale is a superfood, nutritionists constantly remind us. It absolutely bathes in calcium and vitamins A and K, to say nothing of cooked kale outperforming even beef in iron per ounce.
It’s also beautiful. Fairly radiating color, kale of a green so luminous it almost vibrates absorbs the afternoon sun in five rows at the Duke Campus Farm, alongside broccoli, cabbage, and collard greens. “Feel free to take some if you like,” says Luke Howerter, production manager of the farm and one of three people it employs. “I haven’t been able to move as much of it in West Union as I’d like.” For an enterprise first conceived seven years ago by students in an environmental science course, outproducing your market is an impressive problem to have.
The Campus Farm sets as its goals not only to produce food for the Duke community, but to pay its operating expenses and to educate by getting students, faculty, staff, and the Durham community involved in more than just eating their food. Yet eating is still central, which is why Howerter wishes he could get students to see kale as more than just garnish, especially in the fall, when kale is one of the few things the farm can easily provide. He notes the irony of a farm at a place whose entire calendar was designed to allow students to be at home when farms were producing crops. So all summer, when the farm is turning out crops by the bushel basket, “no one’s here. So we’re going to try and be creative on how to be more productive when people are around,” he says.
One way to do that is with a high tunnel—an unheated greenhouse space where things like tomatoes, which like heat, can still grow later into the fall. Farm and program manager Saskia Cornes takes a look at one he’s plucked, a Big Dena, which he described as red slicer. “Not bad,” Cornes shrugs, “for an October tomato.”
The very issues the farm helps raise—What grows locally? With what assistance? Why? When?—were brought to life in November, when famed chef Mario Batali came to cook in the West Union Chef ’s Kitchen and wanted to make “some Mexican dish with limes and avocados,” Cornes says, laughing. Hardly in the eat-local tradition. “The only thing we could supply was garlic.” Plenty else was still available, she notes. “We have a vegetable that’s interesting. It’s called a Jerusalem artichoke, but it’s not from Jerusalem, and it’s not an artichoke.” It’s a tuber, which tastes a bit like artichoke and is from the sunflower family. Blue potatoes are still growing on the farm, and sweet potatoes, too, “about 200 pounds going to the freshman campus for their Thanksgiving event.”
But with winter approaching, much of the farm’s acreage supports cover crops. “The soil organisms are probably what’s eating best right now,” Cornes says. Not so fast. Jerusalem artichokes? Blue potatoes? You may trust us on this: A little olive oil, a little thyme, a little garlic salt. Fling those bad boys in the oven at 375 for a half hour or so. You can serve them on kale if you like, or you can just eat the kale.
It is to die for.
Lying is a slippery slope, and that’s the truth
In some ways, lying is like weightlifting: The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Do it often enough, and you can stretch stories farther and farther without guilt. Researchers from Duke and University College London have shown that our brains adapt to increasing lies over time. Observing brain scans of patients, the researchers could see the amygdala’s strong response on an initial lie, signaling a heavy emotional reaction. On subsequent scans the amygdala was less active, even as the intensity of the lie increased, which suggests an acceptance and capacity for larger falsehoods down the road. Given how the 2016 campaign season has gone, this explains a lot.
The Mural Durham festival focused on giving the Arts Annex a brighter look
To instantly get a sense of the Mural Durham festival, you need to know only that the mural artists were already at work days ahead of the October festival and that doughnuts for the crowd to decorate ran out within the first hour.
Mural Durham, a three-hour festival of mural painting, arts instigation, and activities, including everything from the Poetry Fox to doughnut decorating, drew a crowd to the Arts Annex. Though outwardly appearing like an industrial space, the Annex is filled with artistic activity. The front had been painted, but the rest needed help. Students on the duARTS and Duke Union VisArts committees and on the Arts Annex Student Advisory Board decided that getting local artists to paint murals on the outside of the building would spruce things up. “They started talking a year ago,” says Ali Shumar, assistant director for Arts & Media, Student Involvement, in Duke University Center Activities & Events. “They love getting local artists involved.”
Local artists were only the smallest group of people involved: Some 600 students, community members, and others showed up between 1 and 4 on a brilliant Saturday afternoon. Outside, practicing Durham artists painted wall-scale murals. On a side wall Josh McBride, a Durham graffiti artist who goes by the name Woem, rode a bright-green cherry picker up and down in the sun as he spray-painted finishing touches on a piece on the east wall that included his tag. In the shade on the north side, Brenda Miller Holmes climbed up and down a ladder, using a four-foot level to sketch straight lines over individual wall panels covered with vertical trails dripping of pink, blue, and yellow paint. “We just duct-taped a sponge to the end of a paint pole and watered down the paint a lot,” she said of the technique.
Inside, the Arts Annex hopped. A black wall in one hallway offered a place for visitors to sign their names or draw anything they wished with metallic markers. In another room, visitors used paint and markers to decorate little square wooden panels, after which helpers stuck the panels onto a wall grid with magnets. “We are trying to create a mosaic wall,” says Divya Kacholia, a master’s in engineering management student who, wearing a Mural Durham T-shirt, helped kids, parents, and students get what they needed. Kacholia was surprised but delighted by the enormous turnout.
Their enthusiasm filled the building. Dance workshops took up one space; in another the Poetry Fox—Durham poet Chris Vitiello, in a fox costume—tapped out poems on a manual typewriter, rubber stamped them, and gave them away. There were food trucks, ceramics, screen printing stations, two murals on inside walls to which anyone could contribute, a photo booth to keep the social-media streams running, and, finally, doughnuts to be decorated with everything from cake frosting in cans to sprinkles and bacon.
The collaborations by the outside muralists mirrored the surprises you get when you mix together students, the people of Durham, and muralists, and urge them to get crazy. The black wall was a last-minute idea somebody had; outside, people used cans of spray paint to decorate banners. The paint was donated a month before, and the old banners were dug up by someone trying to think of something to do with them. The decorated banners eventually will hang on the lampposts leading up to the Arts Annex.
At the east wall, McBride looked at his almost-completed mural, with enormous bugs added by abstract artist Andrew Masullo, appreciating the unexpected juxtaposition. “That’s why we added those in. You have a natural organism, the bold colors,” McBride says. “Everything is there.”
Everyone, too. Which is why they ran out of doughnuts.
Closing the gender gap
This fall, the Duke Women’s Center began an initiative catering to a perhaps surprising constituency: men. The Duke Men’s Project, a nine-week project that started in late September and is based on a similar project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, describes itself as “an initiative to call men in to conversations about feminism and gender oppression.”
While the response from outside sources has occasionally been apoplectic—indeed, Rush Limbaugh had some thoughts on the project—on campus it has been received relatively well. The main portion is a two-hour weekly learning group, consisting of fourteen men who signed up for the program, that explores male privilege and patriarchy in a wider lens; the conversation reimagines “current narratives of masculinity for a healthier alternative.” Rather than being a proverbial safe space, it is, as current senior and project founder Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi wrote in an op-ed for The Chronicle, designed “to radically challenge, decenter, and destabilize what we might consider normal.”
Additionally, the project organizes monthly events open to all genders; an October event featured James Madison Professor Matt Ezzell discussing the potential interplay between pornography and sexual violence.
“We have been excited at how our first Learning Community has taken shape in its inaugural semester—both the enthusiasm of our participants and the quality of our discussions have been sources of joy for our leadership team,” says senior Conor Smith, one of the project’s leaders. “We are looking forward to continuing to grow, to listen, and to learn how to do better in this work as we look toward expanding our programming in future semesters.”
Duke researchers configure a new way to control sonic waves
Invisibility wasn’t enough for Steve Cummer.
The famous 2006 work out of the Pratt School of Engineering, which yielded a metamaterial that could deflect microwave beams around an object and effectively render it “invisible,” got Cummer, professor of electrical and computer engineering, thinking: What about sound?
So, in 2014, he published results of another metamaterial—in this case, a sort of plastic pyramid with holes in it— that made sound bounce back, making a pyramid sonically nonexistent.
Still not enough. There had to be more to do with sound. “What is the universe of interesting things we could do if we had the right materials for controlling sound?” he asked. “Abel was the one”—Abel Xie, a doctoral student in Cummer’s lab—“who said we should make an acoustic hologram.”
So they did.
In a paper published by Nature in an October Scientific Reports, Cummer and his coauthors wrote about metamaterials, which have properties not found in nature. The metamaterial that creates the acoustic hologram looks a bit like a wall of Legos. Each “block” has vents on two sides, for sound to enter and exit, and spirals of various designs inside. The shapes inside bend the sound wave—think of talking through a paper-towel tube, only, you know, complicated. Cummer and Xie, working with a researcher and grad student at North Carolina State University, calculated the effect of each of twelve different spirals on changing the speed and volume of sound. Though any single block cannot change sonic direction, different blocks can slow a sound wave down in different amounts, and specific arrays of block walls could make the sound seemingly originate from various angles. Cummer and Xie performed two experiments: one in which their wall created sound in the shape of an “A,” and another in which their wall created three “hot spots” in which sound was far louder than it was inches away.
Complex multi-speaker environments can create dimension in reproduced sound, but they’re expensive and require multiple sources. The device by Cummer and Xie manipulates sound not at its source but in its propagation, meaning it may be able to create effects far more cheaply. “In the future, you can maybe make reconfigurable speakers,” Xie says, which would enable sound manipulation that today is almost unfathomable. Cummer and Xie imagine metamaterials might improve ultrasound machines, too, although ultrasound’s much smaller wavelengths require even more complex metamaterials. In any case, as Cummer says, “this is one piece of a fairly big research project.”
So listen for more.
What’s in a gut feeling?
A team of Duke researchers, led by Alejandro Aballay, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology, has discovered an intricate connection between the brain and the gut: Research conducted on the nervous system of the nematode worm C. Elegans shows that the two sectors can signal each other. Hyperactivation and inhibition of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a key chemical in reward-motivated behavior, were shown to affect the body’s innate inflammatory response. Inhibition made the worms more resistant to infection, while treating the worms with dopamine increased the infection risk. Essentially, it appears that nervous-system treatments can help control the immune system. While the authors acknowledge it’s “a big leap from worms to humans,” the proof of concept is exciting.
Students play in the Innovation Co-Lab’s new space and end up learning STEM skills
Beneath a circle of blue LED lights lending a little party atmosphere to the Innovation Co-Lab Commons in the renovated Telcom Building on West Campus, senior mechanical engineering major Judy Zhu responds to the new space.
“It’s awesome,” she says of the makerspace open to students, faculty, and staff. “It’s really magnificent. When we started it was like a dingy little hallway.” She’s referring to where the Co-Lab Studio used to live—in a 400-square-foot room with a few 3D printers.
“Yes, we could do anything we wanted to,” Zhu goes on. “But it didn’t feel like we could.”
Now it feels like you could design, build, and 3D print an entire new civilization. The studio is part of the Technology Engagement Center, which stretches over the entire ground floor of the Telcom Building. There are carpets and couches, a small project room, and a boardroom-sized classroom, both stuffed with computing and display power available to anyone who cares to use it.
And the studio itself? Think a dozen or so project tables, a bank of lockers, and tools, which is nice. But then turn to face a wall covered by a bank of forty-five 3D printers of various sizes, and you’ll really get the idea. In every printer the extruders zip back and forth almost silently, slowly building up tops and pyramids, logos and chess pieces, and the occasional cookie cutter in the shape of a cat.
With a few other printers hither and yon, the center boasts more than sixty 3D printers, the largest collection of 3D printers in higher education. Available 24/7 to students, faculty, and staff. For free. Support staff monitor the center during the day, but the center is always open.
Talk about doing anything you want to.
That’s the point, says Michael Faber, innovation program manager. “Yes, a lot of people come and they make a cat cookie cutter,” he says of the number of students using the makerspace for high-tech fooling around. “But then they think, ‘Now I understand how this rapid prototyping process can be useful’ ”—and then maybe they use it in their next project. It’s a kind of sneaky teaching, reminding them that tools like these, 3D printers, video production, more complex computer-controlled tools, can help them in not purely technological enterprises. A communicator, for example, printed out pieces then used them in a stop-motion video.
“Creating a play space empowers people not in the traditional STEM disciplines,” says Julian Lombardi, assistant vice president with Duke’s Office of Information Technology. The center has started offering roots courses in programming, and the courses fill up instantly.
Lombardi remembers the time the university’s chief information officer asked how much it would cost to develop a particular app. Fifty thousand dollars, Lombardi said, “but I said, ‘Just give me that $50,000; let’s make it prize money.’ Michael ran with that, and made this whole thing out of that.”
At first the Co-Lab created competitions and offered prize money, but that meant students spent too much time working on their own and entered apps that were mostly in the proof-of-concept stage. The Co-Lab has since changed to a grant model, in which students apply for and receive smaller grants—in the hundreds of dollars—and then the Co-Lab staff supports them as they work. One successful applicant was Zhu, whose resulting social-networking app, Walla, enables users in a particular area to find each other to hang out, play, or work. In September, after a year of development supported by Faber and his staff, Walla won the $50,000 grand prize at the seventeenth Duke Startup Challenge.
“IT is no longer extractable from the core values of the institution,” says Lombardi. “We need to think about IT at universities as partners in the academic enterprise.”
Identity politics explains the world
If you’re just emerging from beneath a sizeable outcropping, know that 2016 was an election year. A timely new model from Duke political researchers addresses the complex interplay between social identity—what a vote means for self-image—and policy positions—how a candidate aligns with a voter’s beliefs. The importance of identity can help explain the difficulty Bernie Sanders supporters had embracing Hillary Clinton, despite the candidates’ policy similarities. It also was evident in the midsummer “Brexit” referendum vote in Britain. Identity was a crucial predictor in voting behavior, more so than policy: Of individuals identifying as “British,” only 40 percent voted to leave the European Union; of “English” individuals, 60 percent voted to leave.