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Puppies and Presidential March Madness: Spring Breakthrough now open to all undergraduates

Spring Breakthrough has broken through to upperclassmen. 

Previously restricted to first-years and sophomores, the four-day seminar courses offered during spring break will now be open to juniors and seniors for the first time. The courses—covering topics ranging from puppies to screen printing—allow students to learn without the pressure of grades or exams. 

"Our initial thinking was that first and second-year students would be most open to exploring different intellectual interests," wrote Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education, in an email. "However, based on requests from students and professors, we decided that this year we would give all students the option to participate. First years and sophomores are still given preference for selecting their favorite mini-seminars."

One class, "Presidential March Madness," allows students to use brackets to evaluate presidents for their successes and failures. Another, entitled "Hack Your Education: Design Sprint," lets students develop and pitch ideas on how to change the Duke undergraduate experience to university leaders. 

According to the Office of Undergraduate Education website, the purpose of Spring Breakthrough is to encourage students to explore an intellectual interest for the fun of it. This semester's rendition will mark the third year of the program. Bennett said that the first two years had about 100 participants each and that the number has increased this year.

The idea for Spring Breakthrough came from Provost Sally Kornbluth, who participated in a similar program as an undergraduate interested in political science at Williams College that sparked her interest in biology.

"The majority of students will be first years and sophomores," Bennett explained. "We know, though, from other programs that are open to all classes, such as Winter Forum, that students often really enjoy interacting with peers from (different) class years."

Participating students stay in their residence halls during the program and all costs—including meals—are covered. There are no prerequisites to any of the courses and students do not receive grades or credit. Participation is indicated on students' transcripts. 

Students can apply online until the application closes Friday. 

"Personally, it will be my first year participating and I’m very excited to see firsthand how it goes (last year I got giddy watching the videos and was eager to sneak into a few classes)," Bennett wrote.


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