Let Transformative Ideas Shape Your Second Year at Duke

A new program for Duke sophomores will offer students the opportunity to participate in courses that promote open and civil cross-disciplinary dialogue about “Transformative Ideas” – those enduring questions and big ideas that change lives, link cultures, and shape societies around the world.

Launching in Spring 2022, the Transformative Ideas program will equip students to complete their general education requirements and prepare for their majors while exploring the deep questions of meaning, value, purpose, and spirit that confront us as human beings and citizens. It welcomes students from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints into an intellectual community where they can learn and grow together as they tackle the questions they will continue to ask throughout the rest of their personal and professional lives.

Building on opportunities like Focus and the What’s Now Network that are available for Duke first-year students, this program serves as a strategic next step for undergraduates who would like to continue thematically-based studies through their second year at Duke.

Courses will also provide avenues for pre-professional students to incorporate humanities thought and questioning into their lines of study.

Spring 2022 Courses:

Ambition and Politics (POLSCI 270) 

M/W 1:45-3PM

An examination of the role of great ambition for good and for ill in politics. Readings include Homer’s Iliad, Plutarch’s Life of Alexander the Great, Machiavelli’s The Prince, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Rosenbaum’s Hitler: The Origin of His Evil, and Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. Taught by Michael Gillespie of Political Science.

The Good Life: Religion, Philosophy, and Life's Ultimate Concerns (CLST 210; PUBPOL 229; RELIGION 210; PHIL 214; ETHICS 210)

T/Th 1:45-3PM

What does it look like for a human life to go well? What leads to human flourishing or “happiness” or “success?” How do our beliefs (or lack thereof) about God or the gods shape our answers to life's big questions? We examine how the following philosophical or religious traditions around the globe have answered these questions, beginning with their founders: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Stoicism. Taught by instructors from Classical Studies, Philosophy, Religious Studies, the Sanford School of Public Policy, and Duke Divinity.

Medicine and Human Flourishing (CLST 214; ETHICS 214; GLHTH 238)

M/W 1:45-3PM

This course examines the nature, ends, and practice of medicine as it relates to the human condition. How can medicine foster human flourishing and well-being -- individual and social -- against the experience of injury, pain, and suffering? Students will explore answers to this question within a variety of historical and contemporary contexts. Taught by instructors from African & African American Studies, Biology, Classical Studies, Family Medicine, Global Health, and the Trent Center.

In addition to these courses, the Transformative Ideas program plans to incorporate a learning community structure that will encourage co-curricular events to draw faculty and students together in more exploratory, relaxed settings. Students may choose to take one or more of the three pilot courses. Students in each course will enjoy opportunities to engage with guest speakers inside the classroom and outside over meals. Select talks, a field trip, and co-curricular activities will be open to students in all courses. All courses will count towards distribution, minor, and major requirements. To participate, just register for one of the courses; there is not need to apply separately to the program. For more information on this program, contact Jed Atkins (jed.atkins@duke.edu).