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Duke works to admit students to new dance, materials science graduate programs

Duke is debuting new additions to its existing array of graduate programs. 

At its last meeting earlier this month, the Board of Trustees approved a new Master of Fine Arts in Dance degree, as well as a new graduate program in materials science and engineering, which will offer both Ph.D. and Master of Science tracks.

The MFA is Duke’s first graduate offering in dance. The new degree is an offshoot of the undergraduate dance program and its major, which debuted in 2006 and has grown to enroll more than 300 students in its courses per semester. It is a two-year degree, including studies during both summers, and seeks to matriculate seven students per cohort. 

Recruitment will begin in January, with students expected to apply throughout summer and fall to receive acceptance letters by Spring 2019. The program anticipates applications from both fresh graduates and former professional dancers, from a variety of styles. The degree is not tailored to a specific style of dance, but rather looks to attract dancers of all backgrounds who are interested in the artistic, aesthetic, social and therapeutic applications of dance.

“The curriculum is designed to suit a very broad interdisciplinary research in dance,” said Purnima Shah, associate professor of the practice of dance and director of the program of dance. “It's not just interpreting dance the way it traditionally has been understood. It includes a much deeper study on human movement.”

A research component catered to each student’s interests is also a part of the program. Potential projects range from designing dance therapy for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients to investigating the role of dance in modern feminism. 

The program is also collaborating with American Dance Festival, an independent institute housed at Duke. Its annual six-and-a-half-week summer intensive draws dance students and professionals from around the nation and abroad.

“Students will work with ADF faculty and students to devise projects and come up with a symposium,” Shah said. “It will culminate every summer in some sort of a presentation or symposium that ADF will do. The collaboration will hopefully give the students real-life, practical experience.”

The new graduate program in materials science is also an interdisciplinary venture. It traverses all four departments of the Pratt School of Engineering, as well as the biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics departments of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.

“The idea is that faculty doing materials research in all of these departments collaborate in offering courses, research and project opportunities for students pursuing these degrees,” said Adrienne Stiff-Roberts, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “A group of faculty worked on this for about three years to bring it to fruition.”

Beginning in Fall 2018, the materials science program expects to enroll about five students in both the two-year master track and the five-year to six-year Ph.D. track. Stiff-Roberts emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the program as its major point of attraction, highlighting the freedom that students in the program will have to contribute to materials science research across the participating departments.

“We expect that the program will be an influential component of raising the profile and visibility of materials research campus-wide,” Stiff-Roberts said. “The graduate program, in addition to providing, of course, quality education and research experiences for the students, will serve this broader function of providing a cohesive environment for materials research across campus.”


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