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New Program Offers Unique Experiences Over Break

Wondering what to do with eight weeks of winter break? A new program, Winter Breakaway, provides students with two-weeks of learning and skill-building during the extended winter break caused by COVID-19. 

Faculty, staff, and students created Winter Breakaway as a flexible opportunity for students to learn new skills that complement their academic pursuits and help them prepare for life after Duke. Associate Provost Noah Pickus and a team from the Office of Undergraduate Education are facilitating the program. “We are very proud to be able to support this brilliant experiential effort especially since Spring Breakthrough will not take place next year due to COVID-19,” said Șeun Bello Olámosù, the Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.

There are no fees, no prerequisites, and no grades. Programs are open to all Duke students – undergraduate, graduate and professional.  For some offerings, a Practice-Oriented Experience notation will be recorded on a student’s transcript. Registration is now open and acceptance is on a rolling-basis.

“We know that some students are just looking to take a break in December and January,” Pickus says. “But we’ve also heard from many students who are already looking to try something new or add to their skill-set in bite-size ways. We designed Winter Breakaway to give them options.”

Some programs run for one hour and others run for 20 hours a week for two weeks. These virtual programs include practical skills such as web design, coding, wellness, working across cultures and building international careers, alumni mentoring, career exploration and job search strategies.

Several programs focus on the intersection of technology, ethics and policy. In “Digital Intelligence,” Professor of Law and Philosophy Nita Farahany interviews leading technology, ethics, and policy experts as they discuss relevant and timely topics such as algorithmic bias, transparency, deepfakes and misinformation, and corporate surveillance.

And in “Technology and Policy Pathways,” Matt Perault, the former director of public policy at Facebook, and Jeff Harris, the director of Duke in DC, connect students to professionals working at the intersection of technology and policy. Students will learn about career paths and explore hot topic issues from privacy to U.S.-China global competition.

Students also can practice open design skills while developing recommendations for what Duke should look like in 2030. In “Duke 2030 Design Sprint,” students will create proposals for transforming teaching and learning in higher education, based in part on the upheaval of our current moment due to the pandemic. Final projects will be delivered to the Duke 2030 Strategy group convened by president Price and Provost Kornbluth.

A team from the Global Education Office and International House is teaching “Working Across Cultures”. The program is designed for students interested in cultivating a global mindset, curious about working abroad, or preparing for a career in a multinational sector. Lessons cover cross-cultural communication and conflict resolution, global leadership, and collaborations across time zones.

“My Younger Self: Learning for Life and Career Success,” is a program designed by Duke Alum Katelyn Donnelly, the founder of Avalanche VC, and Matthew Rascoff, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Education and Innovation. The program curates self-paced Coursera Specializations from Java Programming and Roman Art to the Science of Well Being, creates student pods to work together on them, and provides virtual office hours with Duke alums at various career stages.

At this moment of national strife and global pandemic, students who want a structured way to reflect on key questions about their beliefs can register for a unique program called “Think Again”. Led by the Sanford School’s Abdullah Antepli and Eric Mlyn, this program asks students: “When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important, something really close to your heart?” It teaches listening skills, strategies to engage in difficult conversations, and the recognition that people with deep moral commitment can change.

Registration closes on December 1st, but some popular courses are already filling up fast. For more information visit,