Duke has received a $50 million gift to support the launch of an interdisciplinary collaboration program, the University announced Tuesday.
Bass Connections—originally named Duke IDEAS—is named after its donors, Anne and Robert Bass. The program aims to enhance students’ educational experience by connecting them with other students and faculty for academic and extracurricular programming across a variety of disciplines. After two years of planning, Bass Connections will begin Fall 2013 under the leadership of Susan Roth, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies.
The gift contributes to Duke’s ongoing $3.25 billion capital campaign, Duke Forward. Anne Bass is a co-chair of the campaign and a member of the Board of Trustees. Half of the $50 million gift will be included in a “matching program” to promote others to give additional donations, according to a Duke news release.
The idea for Bass Connections came about when a group of faculty were brainstorming academic initiatives that could include each of Duke’s ten schools, said Andrew Janiak, Creed C. Black associate professor of philosophy, who has been involved with the project since the beginning. He added that his colleagues were looking to create a program that would provide students with skills they could not get just from sitting in a classroom.
“It was a very deep intellectual conversation—well, what’s the point of liberal arts, why do we have majors, what should students know in the 21st century?” Janiak said. “We allowed ourselves to ponder these very big questions.”
The process moved from a theoretical discussion to a feasible reality when the University learned it had received a donation large enough to fund the project, he noted.
Bass Connections participants will join project teams, pair with mentors, research and gain experience in their areas of study both in and outside the classroom through internships and off-campus projects. A potential team could bring together economists and energy experts to create a hub for learning about energy policy, with a coinciding academic plan and extracurricular opportunities, according to the release.
Some students noted that the program will allow students of varying interests to collaborate and communicate their thoughts in innovative ways because it does not focus on one specific area of study.
“It will enable people to learn how to express their ideas and their research and share their knowledge better,” freshman Emma Welch said. “It’s good in the long run because if someone has to lead a business, they’ll need to know how to talk to different kinds of people.”
Provost Peter Lange noted the program’s emphasis on not only educating students for the present but also educating them for their future.
“The new program embodies core educational and strategic principles which have become a central part of Duke’s identity and our commitment to providing an education that prepares students at all levels for success in the 21st century,” Lange wrote in an email Monday.
Janiak said he hopes the uniqueness of the program will separate Duke from its peer institutions and attract prospective applicants.
“I’ve talked to colleagues at several of our peer institutions. I’ve described the program in just a tiny bit of detail and they all say the same thing—that could never happen here,” Janiak said. “We think you basically can’t get this anywhere else.”