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Planning for a better Duke

Administrators recently released a blueprint for the university’s new strategic plan, titled “Together Duke: Advancing Excellence Through Community.” The new plan emphasizes three major focal points: building up the natural sciences, opening doors for graduate students and improving global engagement. As with the previous 2006 strategic plan from the early Brodhead era, it is likely that the new strategic plan will heavily influence the direction of Duke for the next ten or so years. Consequently, it is important that the student community understands exactly what these long-term theoretical goals will actually entail for the greater Duke community, and voice our collective opinions and concerns. 

One of the major goals of the new strategic plan calls for the strengthening of the natural science departments at Duke. Although the strategic plan includes provisions to allocate large amounts of funds ($132 million) into faculty research, hires and infrastructural improvements, a true commitment to innovation entails more than simply pumping large amounts of capital into specific departments. In considering our move towards improving the natural sciences at Duke, we must also revolutionize the ways we go about teaching them. 

Additionally, Provost Kornbluth has specifically vowed that in the face of these improvements, other departments will not be neglected. As Duke progresses with said plans, administrators should stay true to such a holistic approach and continue to strengthen other departments outside of the sciences with similar levels of commitment.

The plan also includes an emphasis on “opening doors for graduate students at the university” to ensure that every student, and not just undergraduates, benefit fully from the Duke experience. As of now, the proposal seems to focus on expanding integrated research involving interdisciplinary collaborations between faculty members, undergraduates and graduate students. In doing so, the university needs to open its mind to labor issues often expressed by graduate students. Incorporation needs to be more meaningful than simply using graduate students as cheap instruments of faculty augmentation. Administrators, when implementing the plan, should endeavor to integrate them as purposeful members of the community in their own right and not just elements of the undergraduate experience. 

Finally, similarly to the last strategic plan, the last major goal of the new plan underlines the continued commitment of the University to engage with the world in its role as a global research institution. In this renewed commitment to global engagement, Duke should actively seek to reform and make structural improvements to its signature global service initiatives, such as DukeEngage. If Duke is to truly “become a leader globally” through this plan, such global-minded institutions within the University structure need to be better adapted to truly benefit the world at large instead of merely representing civic education opportunities for elite Duke students. 

The new strategic plan represents an important blueprint for Duke that will likely influence the University for the duration of President Price’s tenure. Importantly, the university has only just unveiled the blueprint upon which real programming and change will begin. As students—members of the Duke community who will likely be most affected by the anticipated reforms within the University structure—we should voice our concerns and opinions as the administration moves forward with implementing the plan over the next few years.  

Consequently, as the strategic plan progresses, the administration should maintain a spirit of transparent communication with the University at large. True to the title of the plan, “Together Duke,” this new vision should represent a future in which all members of the Duke community remain actively involved. 

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