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Keohane speaks to N.C. State faculty

Speaking at a meeting of North Carolina State University's Faculty Senate Tuesday, Duke President Nan Keohane called for more intense collaboration between Duke and its Raleigh neighbor during the next decade.

With North Carolina's currently poor economic climate, Keohane said, it is essential for universities in the Triangle to forge ahead with strategic partnerships in science and technology to keep the state at the forefront of national research.

"During this time in our history, in terms of the triadic partnership of government, business and academia, it's up to us to take the lead and show the way," she said. "It's not that any of us are flush with money, but we are rich in ideas, in people, in technologies and in dreams that are only a step or two away from realization."

In her address, Keohane spoke of the numerous ongoing collaborations between Duke and N.C. State, including the development of the Research Triangle Park, shared grants among faculty and numerous interdisciplinary institutes and centers.

Keohane also outlined three specific areas where the two universities could take "bold new steps" in research.

Most prominent among the three is genomics, which Keohane said could combine Duke's strengths in law, business, public policy, clinical research and the basic sciences with State's strengths in plant genomics, genome technology and bioinformatics. She added that both schools' engineering programs, State's veterinary medicine and agricultural departments, and Duke's new Center for Human Disease Models could also be brought into play.

Keohane's two other suggestions for major collaborative efforts between the schools were research and development related to homeland security, and research in the marine sciences.

She stressed that Duke and State should strongly pursue funds available in the new federal homeland security bill that are intended for universities with expertise in agents of biological warfare, emergency medical service, educational outreach, technical assistance, interdisciplinary public policy research and engineering.

"Does that description sound familiar?" Keohane asked the almost 100 State faculty members. "There's a rumor that Texas A&M is first in line to get all this. Why should the Aggies beat us to the punch?"

N.C. State Chancellor Marye Anne Fox agreed that collaboration was essential, and said she was amazed when she looked over the current list of joint efforts.

"The list is impressive and inspiring. These kinds of [programs] enrich students and enliven us [faculty]," Fox said.

Keohane added that the schools need to strengthen their current ties.

"We can improve our financial condition and management practices by taking advantage of opportunities to consolidate services and programs," Keohane said. "We can enhance academic quality for both of us by using the attractions of the Triangle to lure the best and brightest, and we can think strategically about matched hires and partnerships."

State faculty said they were impressed with Keohane's speech, particularly her call for the universities to think on a long-term basis.

"It was great to see that she really did know the importance of our collaboration," said Kathy Hamilton-Brown, an instructor in parks, recreation and tourism management. "It wasn't a discussion about public versus private. It was about the serious issues, and I hope we can take her up on the challenge."