Curriculum Development Committee

This charge from Trinity College of Arts & Sciences Dean Valerie Ashby and Provost Sally Kornbluth was delivered to the committee on March 28, 2022.
 

On February 3, Arts & Sciences Council affirmed its interest in reviewing the structure and content of the curriculum that governs much of undergraduate education at Duke, proposing changes that speak to the interests and needs of our students in the coming decades.

Curriculum 2000, as the name suggests, has been in place for more than 20 years. Discussions at recent council meetings acknowledged that we have added expertise in contemporary areas of study and that all faculty are responding to evolutions in their disciplines and innovating pedagogical practice. Meanwhile, our students expressed a desire to create intellectual community through shared experiences and to lower barriers to exploration and the pursuit of interests across varying fields.

This charge is the next step in initiating the committee’s work, and through it, we grant you permission to think big. There is no limit to what you can ask or explore, and purposeful dreaming, curiosity and creativity are strongly encouraged. We ask that you start your listening sessions and committee discussions by thinking deeply about what you want to achieve through this effort and why. To that end, please consider:

Our Mission

In this exercise and every day – our mission is to deliver a world-class liberal arts and sciences education in a research environment, and to assess how we might design a curriculum that matches the unique abilities and aspirations of Duke and its students.

Within Duke, we have strength attained through deep disciplinarity as well as a rich tradition of broad interdisciplinarity. Can a new curriculum leverage both? How can we create an educational experience that is intellectually deep, integrated and accessible – a combination of intensive collaborative work and self-paced discovery? Are there tensions between being an R1 institution and a liberal arts college, and if so, how do we resolve them? How might our curriculum prepare students to meet challenges unique to this moment in history and to Duke’s particular place in the world?

Our Students

Our students have changed over the last 20 years. So has the world they inhabit. Students today have been shaped by a period of increasing political strife, war, economic crises and a global pandemic – all sources of uncertainty, which they now seek to avoid. By and large, they are developmentally younger than those from previous generations, and few have comfort or experience engaging with adults in unmediated spaces.

Furthermore, in order to gain admission to Duke, many of our students have never failed. They have followed all the guideposts and checked every box. They are not only brilliant academically but have excelled in their extracurricular engagements. We can expect many to arrive with a well-considered four-year plan and an aversion to risk that stems from both a lifetime of immediate access to and dissemination of information and the threat of an error or misstep echoing online for the rest of their lives.

We have no choice but to meet our students where they are as we seek to instill in them fundamental and transferable habits of mind as well as the essential skills needed to create a good life. If we want to encourage exploration and resilience, we must be intentional about helping students confront fears, promoting meaningful engagements with faculty, and offering empathy for the ways our students differ from ourselves.

What is our responsibility to these students? How does our curriculum ensure exploration in a way that allows all students to find an intellectual home at Duke? And how does the curriculum speak to the needs and interests of the diverse set of students we aspire to attract and educate?  Do our existing learning experiences introduce unnecessary complexity and friction into a student’s journey? How do we move from an ad hoc collection of experiences into a powerful and coherent set of learning opportunities?

What will those who will graduate over the next decade need in order to live a full and complete life – one where they can act effectively in service to society?

Our Faculty

Our faculty are among the best in the world. Their ingenuity and innovative spirit brought us to this point – to the robust curriculum we still lean on today and the ways our courses and co-curricular offerings have expanded and evolved over time. We want to create conditions that allow our faculty to flourish – an environment where they can be energized by participating in our curriculum and experiencing all that can be achieved through it.

What transformative offerings and experiences have already been created by our faculty that should be preserved or expanded? What have our faculty learned in the last 20 years? In the last two? How does the curriculum enable and encourage the innovative pedagogy and high-touch teaching and mentoring that our faculty value?

As we embark on this process, a broad swath of faculty and the many departments they represent must be engaged. We ask that you commit yourselves to transparency, open communication and frequent updates. Be open to feedback and to considering diverse perspectives beyond those present on the committee.

Once the questions above have been considered, you can turn toward the structure and framing that will achieve the needs and opportunities you have identified. You may choose to contemplate individual components of the curriculum, if you wish, such as what requirements it might include and what is retained from our current model vs. what is reinvented or created from scratch. However, we are neither compelling you to do this nor limiting what is possible. Bear in mind that simplicity is often an underrated quality in the systems we create within higher education.

We have complete confidence in the committee we have assembled to accomplish this effort. Throughout the process, you will have access to the two of us and to the Arts & Sciences Council – as well as our full support – to ensure the work can proceed smoothly and expeditiously. Thank you for your commitment to this most vital effort as well as to Duke students and our future!

Members of the 2022 Curriculum Development Committee

 

  • Scott Huettel, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Curriculum Development Committee Chair
  • Edna Andrews, Professor of Linguistics and Director of the FOCUS Program
  • Owen Astrachan, Professor of the Practice, Computer Science
  • David Berger, Associate Professor, Economics
  • Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel, Professor of the Practice, Statistical Science
  • Denise Comer, Professor of the Practice, Thompson Writing Program
  • Stephen Craig, Professor, Chemistry
  • Michaeline Crichlow, Professor, African & African American Studies
  • Gustavo Furtado, Associate Professor, Romance Studies
  • Christina Gibson-Davis, Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Hae-Young Kim, Professor of the Practice, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
  • David Malone, Professor of the Practice, Education
  • Jarvis McInnis, Assistant Professor, English
  • Lillian Pierce, Professor, Mathematics
  • Deborah Reisinger, Professor of the Practice, Romance Studies
  • Sophia Santillan, Associate Professor of the Practice, Pratt School of Engineering
  • Tom Schultz, Assistant Professor of the Practice, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Josh Sosin, Associate Professor, Classical Studies
  • Sarah Wilbur, Associate Professor of the Practice, Dance
  • Chris Wildeman, Professor, Sociology
  • John Willis, Professor, Biology
     
  • Gary Bennett, Vice President for Undergraduate Education, Ex-Officio
  • Josh Socolar, Chair of Arts & Sciences Council, Ex-Officio