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Build bridges at home

President Richard Brodhead should find creative ways to build community among various groups on campus.

Tomorrow the University will officially install its ninth president, Richard Brodhead. At the ceremony in the Chapel, Brodhead will outline his vision for the University and set his priorities for the coming years. Although the inaugural theme of “globalization” has been prominent throughout the week’s festivities and will likely be a keystone of the president’s address, Brodhead should remember that at this critical juncture, any success Duke has building its global reputation will be meaningless unless Duke’s primary energy is focused at home.

In order to become a global presence, the University must strive for excellence in every single arena—but before we forge ties with other nations, we must build the necessary bridges to connect the dots at Duke. Faculty, undergraduates and graduate students currently occupy the same space but interact very little, and the Duke University Medical Center seems to be a world apart from the rest of campus.

Undergraduates do not currently share any unified experience, academically, residentially or socially. Administrators are working on developing a comprehensive residential model that will foster a community of scholars, but that model is far from perfect. Brodhead should recognize that undergraduates need a community of their own, but they also need the complementary faculty and graduate student communities if Duke is to become a place where we live and learn together.

To bolster the University’s academics, Brodhead must concentrate on developing the faculty. That means hiring professors who are renowned both as researchers and as teachers, and most importantly, seeking out scholars who want to engage with the rest of the community, involve undergraduates and graduate students in their research and then carry that interaction outside of the lab or classroom.

For graduate students, the challenge is a bit different. Our graduate and professional students may find the academics satisfactory, but what is lacking for them right now is their on-campus experience. Graduate students deserve the same attention to student life that undergraduates have received of late, as they are equally important members of the campus community and are potentially the most important link in the ideal of intellectual discourse and interaction among faculty, graduate students and undergraduates.

In order to truly bridge all of the divides on Duke’s campus, Brodhead must lead the University and Medical Center to forge stronger ties as well. The two sides of Duke have the potential for excellent collaboration in teaching and research, which would benefit faculty, undergraduates and graduate students—now they just have to take advantage of the opportunity.

As community develops in these individual areas, Duke also needs to create experiences common to all the different levels of scholarship. There is too little interaction among undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and administrators. As Duke forges connections within each subset, it needs to develop opportunities for interaction beyond the classroom and dormitory experiences. If the University can create common ground that is appealing to different age groups, then it will begin to have the contiguous community to which it aspires.

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