Duke Magazine
by Robert J. Bliwise
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.
Illustration by James Yang
James Yang

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.

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.”

L. Gregory Jones
L. Gregory Jones
Chris Hildreth

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.”

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.

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.”

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