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The Price of the future

On Sunday, the Editorial Board held an hour-long interview with President Price. Over the last two days, we have utilized his responses as a lens to examine certain topics pertinent to the University: institutional accountability, and financial sustainability. Today, we end this series by turning our discussion to analyzing Price’s future vision for Duke. 

We started the conversation on the future of Duke by asking President Price about his environmental vision for the University. Broadly speaking, Price emphasized that he would “like to see us be a leader that propagates environmentally responsible behavior in our own community and around the state of North Carolina.” Emphasizing the University’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2024, Price expressed a commitment to reducing Duke’s ecological impact, but nonetheless noted that it will be difficult to accomplish. Additionally, the conversation included a brief mention of the controversial Combined Heat and Power Plant, which has recently been delayed due to environmental concerns. Another plank of his vision for reducing Duke’s environmental impact includes a desire for increased bicycle usage or other non-motorized forms of transportation on campus and in Durham—a suggestion that is likely a carryover from his many years spent in Philadelphia.

President Price also spoke potently about the future of the University when he addressed the role of technology in education, particularly in regards to online courses. He optimistically noted, “I think Duke is well positioned to a leader in these areas [related to online learning].” Having played an important role in implementing Coursera at Penn, he feels actively that online courses have the ability to fundamentally impact the way faculty members can teach at Duke. Price strongly emphasized a need to think about technology and the ways it can open access to modules that support our teaching. That being said, he expressed skepticism that online courses or open course-ware would ever be able to completely replace the current university model. He ultimately envisions this technology as a way of augmenting knowledge transfers within the University structure, but not as a wholesale replacement for the campus community. 

In defining his long-term academic vision for Duke, President Price spoke fondly of the academic guilds of the past and how he values the diverse, close communities of scholars that they once created. Echoing this traditional intellectual structure, Price explained that “I’d like to think that when a student graduates from Duke, they’re not graduating from Duke, they’re graduating into the school of Duke alumni.” While he noted his appreciation for the social aspects of post-graduation events and class reunions, Price also explained that he desires more alumni development in terms academic and professional engagement. Through the development of this new Duke community—in his words “a continuously developing, growing human development cooperative”—Price hopes to redefine the role of the University among students and alumni alike moving into the 21st century. 

All in all, President Price expressed a great sense of enthusiasm in his work, which many Board members felt was akin to seeing a first-year student come alive at Duke with fresh, optimistic eyes. When explaining what main role he sees himself as occupying at Duke, President Price spoke of himself primarily as being someone to help channel the University’s collective ambitions. We wish him well as he completes the first year of what is to be a noteworthy tenure, and look forward to seeing what progress Duke can accomplish under his continued leadership.

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