The brilliance of Duke’s professors extends far beyond what they can squeeze into their syllabi. Programs like FINvite give students an opportunity to absorb more of that brilliance and see a side of their professors that they rarely see.
In the classroom, students and professors are constantly performing for each other—students are seeking a grade and professors are working to maintain an appearance of professionalism and authority. Engaging with professors outside of the rigid structures and hidden pressures of the classroom, however, exposes a new set of possibilities, creating opportunities for greater honesty and freer thinking.
Programs like FINvite set Duke apart from its peers, especially those in the Ivy League, whose professors lead in their respective fields but often have little time or energy for undergraduates. This program also illustrates the value of an on-campus college experience. Education encompasses much more than the transmission of data from one brain to another, and opportunities for unstructured faculty interaction keep Duke relevant in the increasingly digitized world of higher education.
Based on the success of the FLUNCH program—which allows students to eat meals with professors on Duke’s dime—we expect FINvite to attract considerable attention and interest from undergraduates. The program will only flourish, however, if students in residential houses use it frequently and creatively.
But students are only half of the equation. If we want the program to succeed, faculty will have to take part as well. We commend the 70 professors already signed up for the program and encourage more to join. Although we often imagine learning to proceed unidirectionally—from professor to student—it is important to recognize that knowledge production is a multi-directional process. Professors can, and often do, learn as much from their students as their students learn from them, and we hope faculty members will see FINvite as a chance to stumble on new ideas and ways of thinking about the world.
We think FINvite has the potential to strengthen the nascent house model. However, students not in residential houses—including first-year students and seniors living off campus—could also benefit from the program. We propose keeping FINvite in its current form, but modifying the FLUNCH program to allow groups of students to pool their FLUNCH funds and use them to do other activities with professors. Although we should always be aware of cost, we believe the value of FINvite significantly outweighs its relatively small price tag.
We strongly support FINvite and have only two recommendations. First, if the University wants FINvite to become as popular as FLUNCH, it should better publicize the program. Second, the University should drop the capitalized “IN” from the name and simply call the program “Finvite.” It makes more sense.