The Board of Trustees will convene this weekend for what is slated to be a routine set of updates with few major approvals.
The Trustees will hear presentations on the state of the faculty, the School of Nursing, athletics and other campus initiatives. The meeting will also include a tribute to Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, James B. Duke professor of medicine and professor of biochemistry and immunology, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry earlier this Fall.
“We have a number of important issues on the agenda, but they’re generally briefing and updating the board,” said Board Chair Richard Wagoner, Trinity ’75. “There’s not as many action items as other meetings. In that sense, it will be a bit more routine.”
The Board will hear a strategic review of athletics delivered by Kevin White, director of athletics. This will be a comprehensive overview of athletics, including finances, academic performance of athletes and the evolution of the conference structure in the ACC, Wagoner said. The segment will also include discussion of physical education and intramural sports.
Each Board meeting includes a presentation from a dean of one of Duke’s schools, and this meeting will feature Catherine Gilliss, dean of the School of Nursing and Helene Fuld Health Trust professor of nursing. The nursing school has risen to national prominence in recent years, breaking the top 10 schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health this year and jumping in the U.S. News and World Reports rankings from 32nd in 1998 to seventh this year.
The Board will be interested to hear not just what the members of the school have accomplished, but how they have done it and what they plan to do next, Wagoner said.
“Its been a fairly short time and a big run,” Wagoner said. “It’s a good example of Duke responding to a real need in society—a tremendous under-supply of nurses in the country.”
Gilliss will touch on the recent growth, but she plans to focus on current operations and plans for the future, said Michael Evans, director of communications for the nursing school, who has been working with Gilliss on her presentation.
“We’re seeing it as a chance for Dean Gilliss to engage the Board of Trustees to share a little bit about who we are, where we’ve been and where we want to go,” Evans said. “A lot is rooted in examples of research being done now.”
One idea Gilliss is pursuing is greater partnership between the School of Nursing and other schools at Duke. This would allow nursing faculty and students to team up with other Duke researchers with specialties in other subjects, like engineering or information management, Evans said.
“We have expertise in certain areas, other schools have other expertise. What happens if we partner together and create new areas of learning?” Evans said.
Provost Peter Lange will address the state of the faculty and the challenges and opportunities of the current educational era.
Lange said he will pay specific attention to demographic shifts in the faculty over the last decade, such as changes in the size of the faculty, age distribution, percentage of tenured versus non-tenured faculty, research productivity and teaching engagement.
“Basically, the faculty got substantially bigger across most of the schools across the last 10 or 12 years,” he said, deferring further comment until after the presentation.
The Trustees will also discuss the University’s recent forays into online education, using the massively open online course platform Coursera and the smaller, for-credit 2U platform. One Duke course on Coursera has finished, another is well underway and two more started this week, Lange said.
One of the recently started courses has the largest enrollment of any Coursera class. “Think Again: How to Reason and Argue” by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman professor of practical ethics, and Ram Neta, associate professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—has the largest Coursera enrollment to date at 168,000, although the number of active users may be lower than that, Lynne O’Brien, director of academic technology and instructional services for Perkins Library, wrote in an email Thursday.
Wagoner said the administration has been prudent in entering into online education ventures in a timely but also thoughtful manner.
“We really see the value of getting in early without taking on massive risk to your basic mission and being among the leaders of figuring out how to learn and make it better,” Wagoner said. “It’s not time to bet the ranch on this technology, but I think it would be a mistake to lie back.”