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BOT reflects on higher education

The Board of Trustees assessed current trends in higher education to gain a better understanding of Duke in the long term at its meeting this weekend.

The bulk of the meeting served as a retreat for the Trustees to consider issues in higher education, such as the impact of globalization, business models of universities and various learning systems. In its regular meeting Friday, the Board reaffirmed Duke’s commitment to sustainability by approving the construction of Duke Environment Hall and a water reclamation pond.

During the retreat, the Trustees and administrators participated in discussion sessions and heard presentations from higher education experts.

“The purpose of the conversation is to step back and look at the industry we’re in—higher education,” said Board Chair Richard Wagoner, Trinity ’75. “We need to ask ourselves where we’re going, what’s going to affect higher ed, how to enhance student learning.”

The Board engages in a retreat-style meeting every few years to gain a broader understanding of Duke’s role within higher education, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. The meeting helps the Board plan for the future.

“Duke tomorrow is not going to feel radically different than Duke today,” Wagoner said. “But if in 10 years, Duke feels like today, we probably aren’t doing our job. If in 20 years, Duke feels like today, we could be in trouble.”

The Board heard presentations from two guest speakers—Wayne Clough, former president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and current secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and Clayton Christensen, Kim B. Clark professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School. Clough highlighted the importance of the humanities in education, and Christensen challenged the Trustees to think creatively and broadly as higher education changes, Wagoner said.

Junior Adam Cue spoke on a panel about the role of technology in education alongside Caroline Bruzelius, Anne M. Cogan professor of art, art history and visual studies and Italian, and Stephen Craig, professor of chemistry. Cue is one of the creators of the Cachalot iPad application, a digital textbook designed for students enrolled in Duke’s marine megafauna class.

“It was useful [for the Board] to have input from students, who are more tech savvy and grew up with technology as part of their lives,” Cue said.

The board also discussed potential threats or challenges to higher education in the coming years, President Richard Brodhead said, citing disruptive technologies and business models as examples.

“There are threats but also opportunities,” Provost Peter Lange said. “Technology might affect both the delivery of courses and development of curriculum… [which] could affect how we deliver education over the longer term.”

Prior to the retreat, the Board voted on several action items. The Board approved Duke Environment Hall, which will conjoin all Durham-based departments of the Nicholas School of the Environment in one location. Construction of the 70,000 sq.-ft., five-story building is expected to begin this semester and finish by summer 2013. The building will be the first large-scale building on campus to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s Platinum certification, the highest level for environmental design, Nicholas School Dean Bill Chameides said.

Duke Environment Hall will be built along the “A” wing of the Levine Science Research Center—the Nicholas School’s current location—and connect via a glass walkway. It will cost the University approximately $35 million.

The building will support the growing Nicholas School by providing much needed space and consolidation of departments, a long-time goal of the University, Chameides said. The Nicholas School has grown significantly in the past five years, seeing about a 50 percent increase in matriculation in master’s programs and a 20 percent increase in faculty members.

“We do have very strong environmental programs, but we don’t have that iconic environmental building,” Chameides said. “Some students didn’t even know we exist. This building will put us on the map a little more and allow us to better do our work.”

The new hall represents the University’s dedication to sustainability, Brodhead said.

“The building represents the fulfillment of a long-standing commitment and aspiration,” Brodhead said. “It will be extraordinarily imaginative and is itself an example of how you solve environmental issues.”

Brodhead added that the building uses less than half of the energy of Duke’s more efficient buildings. Key features include a green roof, natural lighting and a thermal corridor that will reduce the need for air conditioning and heating.

The Board also approved the creation of a six-acre water reclamation pond to give the University another source of potable water. The $9 million pond will be located between Erwin Road and Circuit Drive off West Campus. Construction is slated to begin Spring 2013 and will likely finish by Spring 2014. Once completed, the site will also be home to a park, which will include a boardwalk, walking paths and an amphitheater.

In conjunction with Duke’s nearby chilled water plants, the pond will conserve approximately 100 million gallons of water per year, which amounts to about $400,000 in savings per year for Duke, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask said. The pond will also provide a reliable water supply during times of drought.

In other business:

The Board approved a 4 percent increase in undergraduate tuition, bringing tuition to $42,308 for the 2012-2013 academic year. The total cost of attendance, which includes room, board and tuition, will be $56,056—a 3.9 percent increase from last year. The Trustees also set tuition rates for the graduate and professional schools, ranging from a 3 percent increase for the Nicholas School to a 5.2 percent increase for the Fuqua School of Business.

The Board has also identified a preferred architect for the West Union Building renovations but must complete due diligence and negotiate a contract before publicly announcing the name, Trask said.

Brodhead added that the architect selection process may finish before the Board’s next meeting in May.

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