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President Vincent Price discusses Duke's priorities, plans in moment of transition at Arts & Sciences Council meeting

<p>President Vincent Price in 2017.&nbsp;</p>

President Vincent Price in 2017. 

President Vincent Price addressed the Arts & Sciences Council about Duke in a moment of transition during its Thursday meeting, echoing his sentiments from an Academic Council meeting in March. 

Price said that the University is going through transition in three key ways: out of the COVID-19 pandemic, through changes in the University’s leadership structure and towards the end of Duke’s first century and into its second. 

He walked faculty on the Council through the specific aims and projects of the University’s high-level strategic framework, which is meant to guide Duke through its centennial and into its next 100 years. The framework has five key areas: empowering bold thinkers, transforming discovery and teaching, building a renewed campus community, forging meaningful relationships beyond Duke and engaging the University’s global network.

Price also said that after the University celebrates its centennial in December 2025, it will launch a fundraising campaign to “resource the academic mission of the institution” in its second century. The campaign is a vehicle to accomplish the strategic framework’s goals. 

Christina Williams, professor of psychology and neuroscience, asked Price about the University's current finances. 

“We're not in terrible shape. Our budgets are not looking great. But we're not hemorrhaging,” Price said. “We’re basically operating pretty close to balanced operating budgets on the University side. The Health System has me concerned. In other respects, I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

Price added that even though the University is currently financially stable, he acknowledges that members of the Duke community may not feel the same way.

Investing in students and faculty is how Duke plans to empower bold thinkers. Particularly, the University plans to increase the number of endowed faculty chairs and financial aid for students. This will be achieved through the post-centennial celebration fundraising campaign, Price said.

“We are grossly underendowed relative to our peer institutions, especially with faculty chairs,” Price said. He added that many of Duke’s faculty chairs are endowed in name only and are unable to support a research fund for the chair’s holder. 

Alex Rosenberg, R. Taylor Cole professor of philosophy, asked Price about demographic changes of the Duke’s student body during Price’s term.

The proportion of Black students has been “hovering around 12%” recently, which is high relative to peer institutions, according to Price. He said that the University aims to increase the representation of students from Hispanic or Latino backgrounds, as well as the proportion that are Pell Grant-eligible. 

Rosenberg also asked about how well the University has recruited and retained the most research-active faculty.

Price said that Duke is in the top 10 in metrics used by the Association of American Universities to measure research excellence, including citation counts and membership in prestigious academies. Price also said that the University now produces knowledge in other ways, including faculty who form companies. Fifteen to 20 new companies are spun out of the University each year, with around 80% staying within North Carolina, according to Price. 

Price added that Duke wants to expand financial aid not just at the undergraduate level, but also for graduate and professional students. He said that this will be a major driver for the recruitment of a diverse graduate student population.

“If you look at where we fall, most short, relative to our peers, it's not at the undergraduate level,” Price said. “It's actually at the graduate and professional level … This is one of our highest priorities.”

Price pointed to existing undergraduate programs like Data+ and Bass Connections as opportunities that work to transform research and teaching and are “fitting for a research-one university.”

“If we can bring our students into direct contact with high level research from day one on our campus, that's the proposition they cannot find at smaller liberal arts colleges,” he said.

The new curriculum for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, which is currently under development, and QuadEx work to enhance undergraduate education, according to Price. 

Yue Jiang, assistant professor of the practice of statistical science, asked Price about more concrete initiatives to facilitate teaching and learning, including capital improvements and more modernized classrooms.

“When I walk around West Campus, but it's true of East Campus as well, the sort of academic splendor of the buildings dissipates rapidly when you walk through the front door,” Price said. “We need to renovate and modernize those facilities.”

He added that in the past 15 years, Duke has not built a lot of academic facilities and aims to do so with funds raised from the post-centennial campaign. The lack of academic space has become a “limiting factor” for new hires in science and technology, according to Price, and one of the campaign’s priorities will be a new multidisciplinary science facility. 

Duke’s approach to community affairs has also changed, according to Price. The Office of Durham and Community Affairs has been merged with Duke Health’s community affairs office. Price said that the University has developed a strategic plan to address problems that Durham residents have asked Duke to assist with, including housing, transportation, early childhood development and health. 

The University wants to engage more deeply with its alumni to expand its global network, Price said.

“Our own alumni are hungry to reconnect with things that might have bounced off their forehead when they were 20 years old,” he said. He said that the continuing education office has moved outside of the domain of Trinity College and under the arm of the provost’s office to bring more virtual engagement opportunities to Duke alumni.

Professor of Physics Joshua Socolar, who is also chair of the Council, asked about global considerations pertaining to Duke Kunshan University. He said that the initial agreement for DKU expires in 2027 and asked what the next steps are. 

Price said that DKU has been a “study in contrasts.” He said that DKU has had “extraordinary students” and has been able to recruit strong faculty, but that the geopolitical circumstances have become worse in recent years. He added that because of this, Duke has become a “lifeboat” for DKU students.

“We are looking at that [2027] renewal and just we've got to be clear-eyed,” Price said. “The world is conspiring to make that kind of a project really hard these days.”

Price also pointed to the success that the School of Medicine has had in its partnership with the National University of Singapore.

In other business

Socolar updated the Council on his progress with revising its bylaws, which he has said in the past are very inconsistent. He said that a major point of concern is that the bylaws, last revised in 2003, refer to a “faculty of arts and sciences,” which doesn’t exist. 

Socolar also told the Council about progress in implementing the student feedback forms for course evaluations. An incentive to allow students to see their final grades three days earlier if they completed course evaluations had been approved, but the registrar’s office has had trouble implementing that within DukeHub, he said. 


Adway S. Wadekar | University News Editor

Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume. He has also contributed to the sports section.

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