Officials tweak DukeEngage site offerings

With a revised list of offerings, DukeEngage officials are hoping more undergraduates will take heed of their slogan-"Challenge yourself. Change your world."

More than 300 spots are open in group programs-accommodating a greater number of students compared to the 275 who participated in group projects last summer. Several students said this year's list of programs and sites reflects undergraduates' interests in service, academics and even travel.

"[DukeEngage has] recognized a greater interest in programs in Africa. You can see that they're trying to cater more to students [through] the places in the world they want to go to and places in the U.S. they want to visit," sophomore Dana Oppermann said.

She added that the high number of programs focusing on economic development and health show that officials may have taken students' academic interests more into consideration.

Eric Mlyn, director of DukeEngage and director of the Duke Center for Civic Engagement, said that as a result of the popularity of the Women's Institute for Secondary Education and Research, DukeEngage has offered another program in Kenya in addition to WISER for students interested in serving that community. DukeEngage planned to offer the WISER program last summer, but it was cancelled during the application process when turmoil broke out in Kenya.

The landscape of programs also has changed slightly this year as group projects in India, Bangladesh, Uganda and Turkey have been put on hold.

Mlyn said the seven programs that are no longer part of this year's list were temporarily discontinued because faculty mentors were unable to organize them for this year.

He added that none of those programs are off-limits, and DukeEngage hopes to bring some back in Summer 2010.

Several students said they were surprised that DukeEngage will not continue the two group programs they previously offered in India, despite the University's recent efforts to expand graduate programs there. President Richard Brodhead announced last month that the Fuqua School of Business will establish outposts in New Delhi, St. Petersburg, London, Shanghai and Dubai. Mlyn said DukeEngage also plans to offer programs at those five sites in the near future.

He added that DukeEngage officials aim to compensate for a loss of presence in communities where programs are nixed, though sometimes they are unable to do so.

"The short answer is yes, we want to balance geographically, but we're not always able to achieve that," Mlyn said. Calls for new programs were sent to faculty and staff in June and were due mid-September, he said.

Some students said that although the list is quite comprehensive with sites around the world, they would have liked to see a greater number of domestic programs. Five domestic programs were offered among the 26 group projects last summer.

"They should have offered more [domestic projects]. There are only seven domestic programs, and everyone has to apply to at least one of those-it will be extremely competitive," sophomore Laura Hart said.

Another factor for competitiveness may be the language requirement for some programs-Oppermann said projects that do not require language proficiency may be more selective because many students may not apply to the programs that do have a prerequisite.

But DukeEngage's Director of Communications Eric Van Danen noted that the Beijing program, which requires knowledge of Mandarin, was one of the programs that drew the highest number of applicants last year.

"We don't anticipate that language requirements for specific programs will dissuade students from applying to DukeEngage," he wrote in an e-mail.

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