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Chapter 3 - Duke's Enduring Themes

  • We must overcome continuing obstacles for cross-school hiring and teaching, and develop procedures for recruiting and promoting faculty who will contribute to both schools and signature institutes and centers.
  • We must improve mechanisms for identifying and delivering resources to interdisciplinary, cross-school activities.

Knowledge in the service of society

The founding indenture of Duke University directed the members of the University to "develop our resources, increase our wisdom, and promote human happiness." Indeed, we have gone far in achieving James B. Duke's dream to establish a place of outstanding intellectual eminence, "a place of real leadership." But in Mr. Duke's vision, such leadership also involved harnessing the power of higher learning for the larger social good to meet the world's great needs: for intellectual understanding; for bodily care and healing and for spiritual inspiration; for justice; for economic productivity; and for understanding and caring for the natural world. At Duke, we have taken this charge seriously, and our work - both research and education - does not enclose itself tightly within the confines of ivory towers. Our work forms an arc, spanning from inquiry through discovery on the one end and translation into practice on the other. For example, Duke Medicine advances significant medical discoveries and tests them for their value for human care. Faculty from the Schools of Divinity, Medicine and Nursing collaborate to address the multiple faces of care at the end of life, a fundamental human need. Students in the Law School and the Fuqua School of Business volunteer their time in clinics, giving legal advice to local non-profits or advice to small business owners. Students in Public Policy's Hart Leadership Program collaborate with Duke faculty and community partners to pursue field-based projects in over 35 countries on complex social issues such as HIV/AIDS, economic development, gun violence, and youth empowerment. Scholars in the humanities study language and culture to help students and the wider public understand the nature of human interaction in a contemporary world that brings people of very different backgrounds together on a daily basis.

At Duke, civic engagement and public service are not extraneous to the work of the university; rather, they are outgrowths and extensions of inquiry and discovery - in short, "learning to make a difference." The culture of societal engagement is strong across this campus because it grows directly from our scholarly activities. Initiatives such as the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership flourish because working for the common good is rooted our self-definition. Indeed, we believe, as an institution, that we should share the expert knowledge faculty and students bring to bear on pressing societal issues, whether in the schools, health, and legal aid clinics in Durham or in universities and hospitals halfway across the globe. What we get in return, beside the satisfaction of citizenship, is the education that flows back to theory from practice: the learning that arises when theoretical intelligence is tested in the arena of real human needs.

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