Today, students will crisscross campus, braving the cold, on their way to their first classes of the semester. For those returning to Duke from study abroad programs or study away opportunities in the U.S., today marks the first day of Duke classes in over a semester. These students will encounter a campus brimming with changes. The major construction projects dotting the campus, and impeding access to certain areas, are only the most obvious of these transformations. Shifts in policy, programming, and campus culture have swept Duke, initiating changes both minor and profound.

Construction projects underway on the West Union and Perkins library promise to deliver major infrastructure improvements in the coming years. Although restrictions to the Bryan Center plaza have proven inconvenient—and current students are unlikely to reap the rewards—the long-term benefits of the projects will help improve campus life and foster community for future generations. Students should continue to monitor the progress of these construction projects to ensure that they proceed smoothly and with the best interests of students in mind.

Construction has also proceeded at Duke Kunshan University. Although DKU has been riddled with delays, complications and concerns about academic freedom, the University is currently accepting applications from interested Chinese students hoping to form its first cohort. DKU will remain a focal point of Duke’s attempts to expand globally, and Duke community members should continue to scrutinize its academic offerings as students begin to flow into its looming steel-and-glass classrooms.

This semester will, in all likelihood, also bring an announcement of the new Provost. Provost Peter Lange is retiring after this year, and a search committee has spent the last few months vetting possible applicants, hoping to make a recommendation to President Brodhead this year. The Provost position is an extremely important one for the University, and the new Provost will help shape the University’s academic priorities for years to come.

Students should continue to monitor Duke’s new academic programs and initiatives. This year marks the second semester of Bass Connections—the University’s new interdisciplinary learning initiative—and the first cohort of Global Health majors will graduate in May. New academic programs, like the Language Arts and Media Program, will take shape, and online courses will continue to be debated and tested by faculty and administrators.

The Spring semester also signals the beginning of Greek and Selective Living Group rush. With the addition of one new sorority and fraternity, and the proliferation of independent houses, first years will enjoy a range of new living options for next year. As usual, Duke Student Government and Young Trustee elections will unfold in the early part of the semester, giving students an opportnty to select new student leadership.

Furthermore, Duke has elevated its athletic programs to a new level. Duke finished the summer with a National Championship in Lacrosse and then fortified our standing as a two-sport school with a near-win in the Chick-fil-A bowl just a few days ago. These successes hold important implications for Duke’s future and our ongoing debate about our place as both an academic and athletic institution.