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President Price talks long-term goals for Duke at latest Academic Council meeting

President Vincent Price reflected on his hopes for the future of Duke at the Annual Faculty Meeting and monthly Academic Council meeting last Thursday.

Price centered his reflections for the evening around two overarching questions—what do we believe the Duke of tomorrow will be and what steps do we need to take to get there? Furthermore, he divided his thinking on these two areas among five key areas—the people at Duke, the school’s educational innovation, its campus environment, its regional partnerships and the Duke global network. 

To achieve his goals for the people at Duke, Price said the University plans to invest in recruiting and supporting select world-class teams of faculty with a particular emphasis on strengthening the discovery science and technology areas. He said he further hopes Duke will double down on its commitment to recruiting the brightest students from all over the world by supporting them with necessary financial aid and by exploring new options for “bending the cost curve” for middle-income students.

Price also noted that the University’s academic strategic plan has laid out several new ideas for rethinking Duke’s undergraduate, graduate and pre-professional education strategies. He added that he hopes the University can find ways to better fuse its dual research and educational missions to create more team-based curricula.

He also outlined his goals for Duke to become an even more diverse and stimulating campus that promotes personal growth among students, faculty, staff and visitors. Price added that Duke plans to invest in improved residential experiences for students, bolster the reputations of Duke Athletics and its recent Arts initiatives, redevelop Central Campus and improve the general well-being for all community members. 

"We will find new ways to use our educational and research resources to deepen and strengthen partnerships across the Carolinas, with a particular focus on our relationship with Durham," Price said. "And through these partnerships, we can advance not just economic development, but also community health, housing, public education and transportation."

Price explained that he envisions the Duke of Tomorrow as one that will continue to heed James B. Duke’s call to promote regional welfare. He added that he expects the University to find new ways of channeling its educational and research resources into deepening partnerships across the Carolinas, with a particular focus on Duke’s relationship with Durham. Through these partnerships with the Triangle’s “thriving research ecosystem” and others, Price said that he hopes Duke will be able to build a new research commercialization strategy and offer new innovative learning opportunities for students.

Finally, Price outlined his plans for developing next-generation engagement platform—one which will offer Duke alumni new opportunities for continuing their educations in return for the value of talent, drive and professional experience that the University can then draw upon to advance its own missions.

When asked whether Price envisions the alumni learning program becoming a potential revenue stream for Duke down the road, Price explained that money-making is not priority one.

“There is an opportunity here to develop continuing education programs [for our alums] that I think probably does have some revenue potential," Price said. "But the initial move is not to generate revenues, it’s to generate a more vibrant network of intellectually engaged alums."

He encouraged council members to realize that while investments in Duke’s physical infrastructure will surely prove necessary in the coming years, he believes the most significant investments in the University's future will be in its “human infrastructure.” 

Furthermore, Price asserted that these investments do not represent a redirection of Duke’s history nor of the University’s vision at all—but rather the opposite.

“Duke’s great strength has been that we’ve always been resolute in our purpose while remaining open to change,” he said.

When asked how Price plans on addressing the challenges of skepticism toward the sciences, skills and values being practiced and imparted on university campuses like Duke’s today, Price responded by stressing the importance of being proactive as an institution.

Specifically, he reflected on the double-edged sword of being dubbed an “elite” university, explaining that just as the term can be delivered positively in reference to institutional excellence, so can it be negatively associated with disconnectedness and a general lack of concern for the local and global communities beyond the confines of campus.

“My biggest fear is that we will be viewed as a source of money…rather than as an intellectual resource…And as long as we are not proactive enough, we’re going to be viewed more and more as this place that just has too much money and is not doing enough research,” Price said.

He added that he would like to take an approach which starts locally in Durham and radiates outward to global communities in order to realize his goals for silencing this skepticism from the broader U.S. population about the societally beneficial value of University activities.

In closing his reflections during the Annual Faculty Meeting portion of the meeting, President Price reflected on his appreciation for his time at Duke so far and how that time has flown by. 

“It seems like just yesterday Annette and I were moving boxes into the Hart House, and what a first year it has been," he said.

In other business

Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president of administration, and Executive Vice President Tallman Trask presented key changes to Duke’s 403-B Retirement Plan—notably introducing the New Core Lineup and the Investment Advisory Committee’s pending reduction from four service providers—currently Fidelity, TIAA, Vanguard, and VALIC—to just Fidelity as the only service provider, which is planned to be implemented in May.

Cavanaugh first provided background, explaining that in 2009, the IRS began enforcing several new rules upon 403(b) retirement plans, among those which would require more elaborate coordination among all of a particular retirement plan’s service providers in order to guarantee full compliance with all IRS rules and regulations.

In response to this, several colleges and universities have already rolled back the number of retirement service providers administering their retirement plans—to the extent that Duke now leads all of its peer institutions with four service providers still on board. 

Cavanaugh went on to explain that the decision to reduce the number of service providers administering Duke’s retirement plan to just one provider was a product of these additional IRS regulations as well as the reality that as the number of service providers increases, so too do the collective fees associated with the administration of the University’s Retirement plan. 

Moreover, it was determined by the IAC that switching to Fidelity would improve the enrollment experience for Duke employees, simplify management of their accounts and enhance the customer experience by allowing for more targeted campaigns to encourage Duke employees to save more for retirement.

Trask explained that after initially notifying Duke employees about the imminent Plan changes in mid-February and organizing several information sessions in March, the IAC plans to implement the New Core Lineup and Brokerage Account at Fidelity in May and begin taking steps to provide Plan participants with options for transferring their preexisting accounts at VALIC, Vanguard and TIAA to Fidelity by Jan. 2019.

The council also approved the February meeting minutes and a proposal to create a master’s degree in Critical Asian Humanities passed by a unanimous vote. 


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