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Remarks to the Academic Council

Thank you, Kerry, for the kind introduction. I’m so grateful for your leadership in this extraordinary moment for our university.

Let me also say thank you to every member of our faculty for your commitment to our students and colleagues over the course of the past year. I know that teaching , conducting research, and providing clinical care in this pandemic has required a great deal of flexibility. And I know well the sacrifices you have all made, and continue to make.

At the outset of the academic year, when I addressed our new undergraduate Class of 2024 at our first-ever virtual convocation from an empty Duke Chapel, I noted that our academic community had in fact faced, and had overcome, similar challenges before.

A century ago, Spanish flu raged through 1918 and 1919, and was still a presence when Trinity College welcomed the incoming class of 1924.  The flu pandemic, then as now, brought with it masking, business closures and quarantine, even in those earlier days of public health understanding. But life at Trinity College went on. Classes met. Research was conducted. And yes, faculty meetings were held. 

Perhaps most remarkably, in the midst of the flu pandemic, Trinity faculty members and administrators were actively engaged in articulating a new vision for the future—and indeed, just few years later, in 1924, their small liberal arts college was transformed into our research university, one that would go on to win the world’s respect.

Today we are again engaged in the same ongoing process of institutional transformation and evolution, one that has truly never ceased. And since I last addressed this Council, we have made remarkable progress.

To be sure, we are not yet out of the grips of COVID.  The recent and very concerning growth of positive cases among our undergraduates, which has necessitated the restrictions put into place this week, reminds us that our work is by no means done.  But by working hand-in-glove with our medical leadership, faculty, staff, public health experts and local leaders, we have successfully carried out our core missions for more than a year.  And we can now see our path out of the pandemic and look forward to a brighter future. 

In a few short years, as we mark the 100-year anniversary of the creation of Duke University in 2024, like our Trinity College forebears, we will together guide our institution into a new century.

Looking ahead, we remain focused on the tenets of the strategic framework, Toward our Second Century, developed over my first year in consultation with faculty, trustees, administrators, students, alumni, staff, and members of the Durham community. As you may recall from our previous conversations, this framework is organized around five fundamental foci:

First, Empowering People, investing more decisively in our extraordinary faculty, students, and staff, recognizing that their accomplishments comprise the true measure of our institutional excellence;
 

  • Second, Innovating in Teaching and Learning, better fusing our research and educational missions and leveraging new technological and pedagogical approaches that meet the evolving needs of a new generation of students;
     
  • Third, Renewing our Campus Community, ensuring that all who call Duke home share a lived experience that is increasingly inclusive, equitable, engaging, healthy and vibrant;
     
  • Fourth, Partnering with Purpose, strengthening relationships in Durham and serving as a collaborative catalyst in our region to advance innovative economic development while improving community health, housing, and education; and
     
  • Fifth, Engaging our Global Network, better supporting and harnessing the talents of our alumni and friends, throughout the full arc of their lives, in a Duke without walls that invests continuously in developing ourselves and each other to reach our full potential.

I’ve often noted that the framework begins and ends with Duke’s people and is centered around community.  It’s rooted in the understanding that our university is only as strong, as healthy, as collectively capable and accomplished as our faculty, students, staff, clinicians, and alumni throughout the world.  It represents a “people-first” shift of emphasis in our investments: less emphasis on investing in buildings—the physical infrastructure—and more emphasis on investing in the people who work and teach and study and live in those buildings—our human infrastructure.

So, let me highlight for you today our work and progress in each of these five areas.

First, we must invest in exceptional scholars—and we are. A major driver of Duke’s rapid ascent among global universities were strategic faculty recruitments in the 1970s and 1980s, many focused on the humanities and social sciences. Today, with the leadership of Provost Kornbluth, Chancellor Washington and our deans, we’re increasing that upward trajectory. 

Of Duke’s faculty members who are also members of the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine, or Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fully 20 percent have been either named or hired in the past three years.

And we’re seeking this excellence through diversity. Across all schools, the percentage of women on our regular-rank faculties also now stands at an all-time high, of 37 percent. The percentage of faculty from underrepresented groups is also at an all-time high. With the creation of the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Development three years ago, the number of regular-rank Black faculty at Duke has increased from 67 to over 80—a 19 percent increase across the university.

We’ll build on this modest success, energized by our institutional commitments to social equity and anti-racism, with an emphasis on strategic cluster-hiring in areas where underrepresented faculty are lacking; with support from a newly awarded gift of $10.5 million from The Duke Endowment; and by directing resources for our science and technology initiative to diversify our STEM faculties.

As you know, strengthening Duke science and technology is a key element of our strategy. We’re driving our initial faculty recruitment efforts around signature areas identified by the faculty and trustees who served, two years ago, on our Advancing Duke Science and Technology Task Force—furthering data science and machine learning, advancing materials science, and unlocking biologic resilience. 

To these ends, we secured $100 million in new funding, half from the Duke Endowment and half from our Health System, and we expect similar investments to follow.  We assembled review panels with university and Duke Health science leaders, who have defined selection criteria and consider prospective candidates from schools and departments for targeted funds. These efforts have already seen success—16 extraordinary new hires in Trinity, Pratt, and the School of Medicine. Two of the new faculty are members of national academies, one is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and the remainder are judged to have high potential for election to the national academies. And importantly, we’re investing in faculty already at Duke, and have been able to retain several of our top faculty who had strong offers from other leading research universities. 

Our initiative in science and technology is paired with a broader effort to seek support for faculty across the disciplines. Newly endowed faculty chairs, with gifts now targeted at $3M apiece, will be a cornerstone of our forthcoming centennial fundraising campaign, planned for launch in early 2024. This year we secured our first two $5M Presidential Distinguished Faculty Chairs, and there will be more to come.  Our effort will support not only science and technology but all of our faculties, as presently our faculty endowments lag considerably behind our peers.

Let me say here that, in a year when all of us have made sacrifices financially in this moment of budgetary pressure, I know it strikes some as difficult to square our present context of austerity with investment in our faculty.  But our strategic cuts this year have been undertaken precisely because we need to emerge from COVID as well-positioned as possible to maintain or extend our market-competitiveness.  And we will.  Our pruning is undertaken to vitalize Duke, to enable new, vigorous, and strategic growth when conditions are conducive.

Likewise, empowering people will require making new investments in supporting our extraordinary students. This year, applications to most of our programs reached historical highs, including 50 thousand undergraduate applications, and our acceptance rates will as a result likely be at historical lows.  Again, we seek excellence through diversity, with our undergraduate student body now 45 percent white; 29 percent Asian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander; 12 percent Black or African-American; 12 percent Hispanic or Latinx; and 2 percent Native American.

We now provide financial aid to half of our undergraduates, remaining need-blind in admissions and steadfast in our commitment to meeting the estimated financial need of every admitted student. Student access and affordability remain core priorities, as well as very deep challenges, across all of our educational programs. 

Turning again to undergraduates by way of example, the cost of attending Duke as a percent of median family income has grown by fully one-half over the past 15 years, although it has leveled off and declined somewhat over the past three.  Because of disproportionate family income growth during this period, among wealthier families—those who do not qualify for financial aid—the actual cost of attendance as a proportion of family income appears to be relatively constant on average during this 15-year period.  And because of our generous financial-aid commitments, the median aided family has in fact seen the net cost of attending Duke, as a percent of family income, decline modestly. 

Still, these overall patterns obscure increased financial pressure on families in middle and upper-middle tiers of the income distribution.  They are also costly, achievable only with a financial-aid budget that has been growing extraordinarily rapidly—projected to increase by 10 percent next year alone—and will need to be addressed to ensure that the provost’s funds earmarked for strategic investments are not unduly impinged. 

For all of these reasons, student financial aid is another top fundraising priority. Last year, the provost and I made available $50 million of the funds recently received from the sale of the Lord Corporation for a financial-aid challenge, with the goal of raising $100 million toward undergraduate financial-aid endowments.  Our School of Medicine is in the process of securing a record gift to support student financial aid, and this will be a core priority of every school in the upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign.

Empowering people also means investing in our talented staff members, across Duke University and DUHS, who are vital to our missions of teaching, research, and patient care.  Our staff have been magnificent this year in helping us navigate COVID, both on campus and across the Health System. 

Shortly after my arrival in 2017, we announced our commitment to increase the minimum wage for all Duke and DUHS employees and full-time contract workers to $15 per hour. Last year we overhauled and improved our parental leave policy for staff and faculty, the first time in more than 15 years. And in our work to rein in costs this past year, we purposely distributed cuts in a progressive fashion to insulate our least advantaged employees from as much harm as much as possible, providing pay increases to those earning below $50 thousand annually and working to keep our staff in regular full-pay status throughout the year.

The second focus of the framework, transforming teaching and discovery, especially by leveraging technology, has taken on new urgency in the context of the pandemic. Duke’s Office of Learning Innovation, announced in 2017, has been working in close collaboration with the Office of Information Technology to help Duke take tremendous strides, by partnering with faculty to promote student-centered teaching, conducting research on the effectiveness of new instructional techniques, developing online courses and programs, and exploring new learning and teaching technologies. Learning Innovation is not only helping us navigate COVID, but also advancing a variety of initiatives, including digital citizenship modules with OIT’s Innovation Co-Lab; a flipped-learning model for a master’s program on basic science research in the School of Medicine; and workshops on course design and online learning for Divinity School faculty.

And we are reimagining doctoral education. The Office of the Provost has been working with the schools to implement recommendations of the 2018 RIDE Committee report, announcing that all Ph.D. students who are in their five-year guaranteed funding period would receive 12-month stipends beginning in fall 2022.  And last fall, the Association of American Universities (AAU) chose Duke as one of eight participants in the pilot cohort for their national Ph.D. Education Initiative.

Our third strategic focus, fostering community on campus, has without doubt been challenged by COVID and the social distancing it has necessitated.  But here again, we continue to see progress in making the campus a healthier, more vibrant place to live, learn and work. This past summer, after several years of work through our Healthy Duke initiative, we successfully made the entire campus tobacco-free. We’re making new investments in student and employee mental and physical health and wellness, recognizing that the life we are living outside of the classroom or lab has everything to do with our success.

To that end, we are working to revitalize the residential experience for our students. Two years ago, our university task force on the Next Generation Living and Learning Experience explored innovative strategies for optimizing Duke’s residential educational experience for the 21st century. Since then, with the leadership of Vice President and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Gary Bennett, we have turned our attention toward implementation. We’re designing a “Duke 101” series of co-curricular courses to support life skills, career development, and well-being; organizing houses on West Campus into diverse communities (or “quads”) and linking them to East Campus residence halls in ways that deepen connections across class years with faculty and alumni; we are also delaying rush into selective living communities so that sophomores are assigned to housing independently of any rush process.

In light of the growing urgency to address climate change, we’ve intensified our efforts to make Duke more environmentally sustainable. We entered into an historic agreement this year to supply more than half of our energy needs from solar power in the coming years. We also launched a strategic task force, again with trustees, faculty and student representatives, on Climate and Sustainability at Duke. The task force, together with additional faculty working groups, will help articulate our next-level sustainability vision for our educational mission, our campus operations, and our research—through investments in strategic areas of scholarly focus that build on our distinctive strengths across the university.

And we continue to build our campus community through the arts.  Provost Kornbluth and I formed an Arts Planning Group in 2018 to revisit the last strategic plan for the arts, completed more than a decade earlier, and develop a new comprehensive strategy for the arts at the university.  Duke Arts, now under the leadership of our first full-time Vice Provost for the Arts, John Brown, has continued to expand the range and scope of DukeCreate workshops, is elevating our engagement with the arts community off campus, and is implementing other recommendations of the Arts Planning Group.

A critical aspect of fostering community is reaffirming and communicating Duke’s core values.  We’ve sought to incorporate these values into our strategic work at every level, including a reanimation of our Presidential Awards program to align with our values.  We’ve launched initiatives to assess and improve the work environment across campus for women and minority populations, and have strengthened our research integrity programs. 

Perhaps the most salient initiative is our work around anti-racism and equity.  This past summer, I charged the provost, executive vice president, and chancellor for health affairs with identifying specific anti-racist actions and implementation plans, in keeping with and across all five areas highlighted by our strategic framework. We’ve sought to move decisively and without delay to mobilize every part of our enterprise by redoubling existing efforts and by initiating significant new programs.

I want to thank our faculty and staff for the way they have embraced this mission.  People have stepped up.  We’ve seen numerous and thoughtful antiracism programs developed, and I know discussions are taking place across the campus around how to live out our commitments.  But we have to ensure that anti-racism and equity remain long-term priorities for Duke, woven carefully into every aspect of our institutional strategy and culture. To that end, the Offices of Institutional Equity and Faculty Advancement are collaborating closely with the deans on a new, comprehensive campus climate survey for faculty, students and staff, which will guide our work and assess help assess our progress. We will be launching the survey later this month.

The fourth area of focus in our strategic framework is forging purposeful partnerships in our region. Strengthening ties with Durham will be a vitally important priority in the years ahead, because our relationship with the city is richly reciprocal—Duke wouldn’t be Duke without Durham, and Durham wouldn’t be Durham without Duke.

I am fully committed to deepening our productive collaborations, engaging more openly with partners and critics alike, and strategically aligning our core institutional missions of education, research and patient care with the needs and aspirations of our surrounding communities. 

Duke’s Office of Durham and Community Affairs, under the leadership of Vice President Stelfanie Williams, is working to better coordinate community-support programs across Duke Health and Duke University.  The Durham and Community Affairs team is also seeking to partner in stronger coordination of academic and civic engagement across the schools, and—most importantly—bringing a stronger strategic focus, more pronounced community-needs orientation, and measurable impact to our initiatives.

This year’s strategic task force on Duke and Durham Today and Tomorrow is taking stock of current engagement initiatives and advising on ways the university can best advance in the five areas of focus Vice President Williams and her team have identified: affordable housing and infrastructure; food security and nutrition; early childhood and school readiness; college and career readiness for workforce development; and nonprofit capacity in Durham and the Triangle. In recent years, we have provided $12M to support affordable housing, $8M in grants to Self-Help to support community investment; and $5M for pandemic relief through the Duke-Durham Fund.  All of this work is in keeping with our newly articulated commitments to anti-racism and greater social equity.

Looking ahead, I also see great opportunities for regional partnership in research translation and commercialization. The Board of Trustees spent last year learning about this topic and exploring opportunities, again with our faculty and administrative leadership, to expand our efforts in partnership with industry and other institutions of higher education.

Duke’s programs to promote research commercialization have become progressively stronger over the past three years, thanks to leaders such as Robin Rasor, Executive Director of the Office of Licensing and Ventures. Since 2017, Duke has launched 49 startups, 90% of them located in North Carolina, and generated nearly $175 million in licensing revenue from 339 agreements.

From our year-long study, we emerged with a compelling vision to better attract companies to the region; build on regional strengths in biotech manufacturing to attract corporate R&D; facilitate coordination with area research universities around a major and shared focus of research—for example, climate change, or artificial intelligence and health; and attract more venture capital to the region. 

Under the leadership of Sandy Williams, our Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation, we are moving forward with planning to help realize these ambitious goals. Our portfolio of sponsored research remains incredibly robust at over $1 billion annually and growing.  We rank highly among the very best research institutions national.  And our regional opportunities are even more substantial, with Triangle universities and research nonprofits, including Duke, bringing $4 billion annually in research to our region. 

Fifth and finally, our strategic framework commits to a distinctive vision for lifelong engagement. Our people-first strategy is rooted in the understanding that preparing our students for lives of purpose, fulfillment, discovery and accomplishment cannot end at commencement—certainly not in such a rapidly changing world where the half-life of information and skills is so brief, and where the premium on continuous professional adaptation has never been higher. As we work to promote student-centered teaching and learning, we will do well to harness the extraordinary knowledge and expertise of our global network of alumni and friends, to call on them to more fully engage with current students as mentors, with our faculty, and with other alumni throughout their lives.

Along these lines, our 2018-19 strategic task force on Activating the Global Network proposed a long-term, distinctive vision for the future: where Duke alumni, students, faculty and staff are part of a cross-cutting, ever-evolving network; where on-ramps for engagement are simplified and streamlined, and where the university is a partner in continuous career support and education, before and long after graduation. 

Efforts to realize that vision are now underway.  Duke Alumni is closely coordinating with our new Assistant Vice President and Career Center Director, Greg Victory.  In support of building a more robust and unified infrastructure for lifelong learning, Duke Continuing Studies is moving from Trinity College to the Office of the Provost. And the Forever Learning Institute, launched this year, is an interdisciplinary, virtual educational program exclusively for Duke alumni. Participants can choose from one of four tracks—The Human Experience, Social Movements & Change Agents, America Today, and Advancing Health & Wellness—or feed their curiosity and enroll in multiple themes.

This outline highlights only some of the many ways Duke is moving forward, guided by our strategic framework and supported by the efforts of an extraordinarily diverse and skillful community of students, faculty, staff and alumni.  I am grateful to the countless numbers of people who have been engaged, yes, even through this pandemic.

We do this at a challenging moment, with current and likely continuing financial pressures, but we do this with confidence.  We will need to be efficient, thoughtful, and strategic in our expenditures, and at the same time creative and equally strategic in our search for new revenues.  Notwithstanding the operational and financial headwinds, we are on a trajectory to recover from the pandemic and enter a post-COVID environment better equipped than ever to lead in global higher education.

Philanthropy is a very important part of our strategy. Thanks to the work of our deans, development officers, and so many others—most importantly our generous donors—we have raised well over $500 million each year over the past three years.  Taking into account revisions in the way we now tally gifts, this easily meets or exceeds our fundraising during our last campaign, Duke Forward.  Indeed, fiscal years 2018 and 2020, at $517 million and $519 million respectively, were the third- and second-highest fundraising years in Duke’s history—eclipsed only by the final year of our last campaign, and this in spite of more conservative counting and the pandemic affecting much of last year.

Importantly, funds raised for faculty have increased by 73 percent over the past three years. Similar philanthropic successes—and even better to come—will be critical to our future: Last year, we created 120 new endowments, including 7 new endowed professorships and 53 newly endowed funds for scholarships and fellowships. 

The issues that we face today—systemic racism, climate change, the financial and social headwinds of a changing, post-pandemic world—will not be addressed in one year, or ten years, or even a quarter century. They will define the course of the next hundred years to come. But I hope that when some future Duke president a century from now goes digging through the archives, the story of this extraordinary moment will be that we rose, all of us together, to meet the challenges of our day, and prepared well to seize the opportunities of the coming decades.

Thank you for your ongoing leadership, and your partnership, to that end. I would be delighted to take your questions.

Statement Condemning Violence against Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders

March 5, 2021

To the Duke Community,

I am outraged at the recent and ongoing violence against Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders in communities across the country. I resoundingly condemn this horrific activity—and the terrible hate and xenophobia behind it.

Our first concern, as always, is for the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors. To that end, Duke has robust counseling and support services available through Student Affairs and Human Resources. Likewise, if you have experienced discrimination, harassment, or bias, please contact the Office for Institutional Equity to consider the various ways in which the university can respond. I urge you to take advantage of these resources if you are in need of help.

As I reflect on the past few years, I find it deeply troubling to have cause to send these messages so frequently—whether in response to incidents of hatred around the world or in our own backyard. At the same time, I have faith in our ability as a Duke community to realize a more inclusive and equitable campus and world, one that reflects our missions of service, discovery, and mutual respect.

Today, as we stand together with our Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander colleagues, classmates, friends, and neighbors, we do so as members of a Duke family that is more united than ever before. Let us condemn together this violence and hatred in all its forms, and renew our commitments to work together toward justice and inclusion for our nation and the world.

Very best wishes,

Vince

An Update on Commencement

To the Duke Community,

After consultation with faculty, students, and administrative leadership, I’d like to provide an update on commencement for this spring.

In assessing plans and possibilities, our primary goal is to offer students the opportunity to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event safely—and to host an in-person ceremony, if possible, under appropriate public health guidance and legal directives from the State of North Carolina and City of Durham.

With that in mind, we hope to offer an in-person event in Wallace Wade Stadium for members of the undergraduate Class of 2021 who have been regular participants in our COVID testing surveillance program. This ceremony would take place after the conclusion of final examinations, on Sunday, May 2, 2021 from 9—11 a.m. Safety protocols for masking and appropriate distancing would be strictly enforced. We anticipate that only graduating students would be permitted to attend, with the ceremony broadcast to family and friends around the world.

With the pandemic still very much in flux, we will continue to monitor our circumstances and public health guidelines and adjust our plans accordingly.  Should conditions improve, we may consider expanding the scope of the ceremony.  On the other hand, should the situation worsen, we may be forced to make the entire event virtual.

While travel and state guidelines currently prevent us from inviting back members of the undergraduate Class of 2020 for this ceremony, we are exploring possibilities for celebrating them sometime after the spring. We will be in touch in the coming days with additional information and to obtain the Class of 2020’s feedback on possible options.

Our graduate and professional programs—several of which do not complete the semester until after the undergraduate ceremony on May 2—will receive guidance and support to safely host their own events. We anticipate that some may also offer limited in-person celebrations should circumstances allow. Additional information is forthcoming from your deans.

As has been the case throughout the past year, our overarching concern this spring is for the health and safety of our campus community. To that end, I appreciate your flexibility as this situation continues to evolve.

Very best wishes,

Vince

An Election Update

To the Duke Community,

With the results of yesterday’s election still unclear, I want to start by reassuring you that the uncertainty we are seeing in our political system will not disrupt our vital missions of teaching, research, and patient care.

The presidential race is still too close to call, and it is possible that we may not know the outcome for some days as several states, including North Carolina, fulfill their legal obligations to count all the ballots. Like you, we are following this situation closely. Our primary concern in these tumultuous times will always be the safety and well-being of all of our students, faculty, and staff.

Whatever the eventual outcome, we know that many members of our broad and diverse Duke community will be pleased with the results, even as others will find them deeply disappointing and even upsetting. So, while the work of campaigning may have ended on election day, the work of supporting and understanding each other—our fellow students, faculty, and staff, friends, families and neighbors—is indeed more important than ever.

Though we may sometimes disagree, we do so at Duke in the spirit of our shared values of respect, trust, inclusion, discovery and excellence. Open and meaningful conversations about the opportunities and challenges ahead may lead us to see beyond our differences to discover that we have more in common than we thought.  To that end, I encourage you to take advantage of these resources for information, conversation, collaboration and support.

Even in these uncertain times, I believe that we at Duke can forge a path toward an ever more extraordinary future. We’ve been through much together over the past year. I am confident that we will continue to meet our challenges with the same wisdom and strength that the Duke community has been demonstrating every day. I am proud to be with you.

Sincerely,

Vince

Looking Ahead to Election Day

To the Duke Community, 

We are now a week away from election day, but early voting at Duke, in Durham, and across the state is well underway. Over a third of registered voters have already cast their ballots in North Carolina—I dropped mine off at the Board of Elections more than a month ago—but you can still register and vote in-person or drop off absentee ballots at any eligible polling place in your county of residence through this Saturday, October 31st.

In this unusual year, amidst concerns about safety during the pandemic, unfounded claims of widespread election fraud, and even some efforts to dissuade voters from exercising their voting rights, it is critically important that you make your voice heard. To that end, I’m proud of the Duke community’s leadership in this election season. You may have seen students waving signs encouraging drivers and pedestrians to vote—a reminder that seems to be working, as more early ballots have been cast at the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center than any other polling place in the county. In addition to these visible expressions of the political process, many of us have engaged in honest—and occasionally difficult—conversations with family members, classmates, friends, and neighbors about the issues that matter to us most.

Despite this head start, many members of the Duke community have not yet voted. So today I again urge you to do so if you are eligible. Early voting and same-day registration will be open weekdays this week from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center (2080 Duke University Road) and other polling places throughout the county. Note that residents of North Carolina can register and early vote at any polling place in your county of residence, but you can only vote in your precinct on election day. Click here for more information about registration.

We’re fortunate to be part of such an engaged university community, one that benefits from open dialogue and from some of the leading minds in political science and policy research. If you are interested in learning more about the presidential election process, I encourage you to have a look at this excellent list of resources prepared by POLIS at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Thank you for your participation in the political process and for your support of our community.

Cheers,

Vince

An Update on Duke’s Anti-Racism Efforts

To the Duke Community, 

In the months since my Juneteenth message regarding the university’s commitments to anti-racism, we have witnessed continued, vivid reminders of ongoing daily violence against our Black neighbors and of justice delayed or undone. At the same time, the pandemic has persisted as a vital threat around the globe and across our nation, most of all to those communities already suffering the cumulative effects of enduring economic and health disparities.

While our nation has been engaged with these dual pandemics—ongoing, systemic racism and COVID-19—our university community has faced challenging questions of our own. For instance, how can we appreciate Duke’s history of innovation, service, and leadership while acknowledging the entwinement of that history with slavery, segregation, and white supremacy? How can we celebrate the progress we’ve made toward inclusion over the past century while recognizing that the work remains far from complete and did not come soon enough for countless applicants, students, faculty, and staff who were discriminated against in ways both overt and insidious? How can we find a way forward—together, as a community—within a wider social and political context that stokes division and discord? And perhaps most pressingly, how can we undertake meaningful action now and also ensure that this is only a starting point for a sustained effort to fully embrace equity? 

These are challenging questions because they offer no easy answers. But I believe that at Duke we have both the opportunity and responsibility to produce real and lasting change in our community and beyond. 

As we look ahead toward a more hopeful future, a key goal has been to move decisively and without delay to mobilize every part of our enterprise to address systemic racism and advance racial equity, both by redoubling existing efforts and by initiating significant new programs.  A second key goal has been to ensure that anti-racism and equity remain long-term priorities for Duke, woven carefully into every aspect of our institutional strategy and culture. This summer, I tasked Provost Sally Kornbluth, Chancellor for Health Affairs Eugene Washington, and Executive Vice President Tallman Trask with designing specific implementation plans for Duke’s students and faculty, health care providers, and staff. 

These plans, which I have reviewed and discussed with our senior leadership and which have the full support of the Board of Trustees, can now be found at anti-racism.duke.edu, which also includes links to the various plans promulgated by our schools and other units.  As I noted in my June message, righting the wrongs of history will take time; and so our efforts will need to be focused and sustained, with clear goals and transparency as we work toward them.  Going forward with this in mind, anti-racism.duke.edu will be a central source of information about our anti-racism work, including data regularly collected and publicized to monitor our progress, details of new and ongoing programs, research highlights, and educational and training materials for wider use across the Duke community. 

Let me highlight our initiatives already underway or soon to be launched.

Recognizing that faculty who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color must have equitable opportunities for hiring and advancement, we have initiated programs to FURTHER THE EXCELLENCE OF OUR FACULTY. 

  • The Provost has expanded the diversity hiring program initiated over the past two years, with the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement offering workshops for unit leaders and for search committees to promote inclusive and equitable hiring and incentive funding for hiring diverse faculty.
  • This effort, expanded initially as part of a just-funded $16 million grant from The Duke Endowment, will be tracked through a new dashboard of faculty diversity data, which will be available to the entire Duke community. The effort will be multifaceted and will include both individual hires and cluster hires focused on specific themes to build critical mass and expertise. 
  • The Office for Faculty Advancement will devote additional resources to faculty development and community building programs and resources to support faculty success and retention. 
  • The Provost will continue to review and update our policies and guidelines on promotion and tenure to ensure that they are equitable and attentive to the biases that disadvantage underrepresented faculty and research on underrepresented communities. 

Recognizing that the student experience must be equitable, we are STRENGTHENING OUR STUDENT COMMUNITY.

  • We are continuing efforts to further diversify our campus, with renewed focus on recruiting students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
  • We will also continue our efforts to recruit and support first-generation students and those from low-income backgrounds. 
  • These diversification efforts have been designated a key priority for university fundraising.  
  • A new Low-Income First-Generation Engagement (LIFE) Steering Committee has been established to coordinate programmatic efforts to improve the university experience of these students.
  • The Office of Student Affairs and Office of Undergraduate Education have begun implementing newly revised recommendations of an undergraduate Hate and Bias Working Group to make that work more transparent, concrete, and responsive; graduate and professional students are undertaking similar work.
  • Based on recommendations of this working group, a dedicated Student Ombuds office is being created to help undergraduate and graduate/professional students navigate resources starting in the Spring 2021 semester. 

Recognizing that all employees must have access to equal opportunities for growth and pay equity, we are initiating programs SUPPORTING OUR STAFF.  

  • Duke will significantly expand internship, training, and apprenticeship programs to make Duke career pathways more accessible.
  • Duke is launching new professional-development opportunities for our staff at all levels, with a focus on reaching historically underserved populations.
  • Human Resources will track promotions and new hires and offer pay-equity analyses on a regular, ongoing basis. These data will be available to any member of the Duke community beginning in January.
  • Duke will launch a comprehensive climate assessment in the spring of 2021, and we will build on these research efforts to address longstanding concerns about faculty and staff relations. 
  • Equity and anti-racism will be included in the ongoing annual review process for direct reports to the president in order to ensure that university leadership continues to consider this a priority for the future. 

Recognizing that the work of anti-racism begins with education, we are ADVANCING TRAINING AND EDUCATION FOR ALL.  

  • This fall, we offered a new “Foundations of Equity” orientation program for incoming undergraduate students, which will be a part of first-year orientation in all future years.  
  • The Office of the Provost and the Office for Institutional Equity are collaborating with faculty on designing new curricula for faculty, students and staff that will be informed by history and empower them to promote anti-racism, equity and inclusion on campus and in the academy. Implementation, which will also be supported by the Duke Endowment grant, will be underway by the spring semester.
  • To ensure every unit on campus has the resources required for education and training, a library of anti-racist educational assets is being made available through anti-racism.duke.edu, including a video series that can serve as a primer on anti-racism as we work to develop more comprehensive resources.
  • Along with the Board of Trustees, deans, officers, vice presidents, and vice provosts, last month I engaged in an anti-racism and equity workshop. Our senior university leadership is committed to continuing this training on an annual basis in the years ahead. 

Recognizing that socioeconomic and racial disparities often result in significant disparities in healthcare, we are striving to PROMOTE HEALTH EQUITY.  

  • Duke Health’s comprehensive anti-racism plan, Moments to Movement, commits to health equity as a mission-critical element of clinical care, with systems to define and measure access, treatments, clinical outcomes and the patient experience through the lens of health equity to eradicate identified inequities.
  • Duke Health will also aggressively address socioeconomic determinants of health for our patients through population health management. 

 
Recognizing that diversity at the senior leadership level is critical, we are INVESTING IN LEADERSHIP. 

  • A Presidential Fellowship program to provide diverse leadership opportunities for mid-career faculty has been launched, with the first appointment soon to be announced.  
  • The Provost’s faculty-leadership program will incorporate approaches that are more consistently equitable and effective in addressing racism, expand current workshops to support units in producing systemic change, and work with partners inside and outside of Duke to offer programs and resources for leaders on topics related to diversity and equity.   
  • The Executive Vice President and Chancellor for Health Affairs will also expand and monitor diverse leadership opportunities and ensure that systems, policies and procedures are in place to promote racial equity at all organizational levels.  


Recognizing our institutional mandate to generate knowledge in service of improving society, we are seeking new modes of FOSTERING RESEARCH. 

  • The Provost will soon announce a new funding mechanism to provide support for scholarly work on slavery and the history of the South, on social and racial equity, and racism.  
  • We will be seeking ways of foregrounding this research through university communications and leveraging it in our own institutional planning and decision-making. 
  • We are committing as well to a dedicated program of ongoing institutional research, including regular surveys of Duke students, faculty and staff, to better understand and monitor our organizational culture and climate.  Results of this research will be made public and used to assess both overall institutional progress and to evaluate leadership across the university and health system.
  • Duke’s University-Wide Interdisciplinary Institutes, Initiatives & Centers (UICs) have developed comprehensive proposals to expand education and research that engages with the multi-faceted dimensions of structural racism and anti-racism. 


Recognizing that many of our graduates have and will continue to encounter racism, we are ENGAGING OUR ALUMNI.

  • The Duke Alumni Association (DAA) is currently conducting a survey of Black alumni to gather feedback on their experiences at Duke and to help chart a course toward a more inclusive community. The results of this survey will be shared publicly on the anti-racism initiative website
  • DAA is also designing ongoing programming to address systemic racism, including the Black in 2020 lecture series—co-facilitated by Duke Black Alumni and the Department of African and African-American Studies—and further opportunities for continuing education and networking. 


Recognizing our university’s historic connections to systems of racism and inequity, we are focused on REVISITING DUKE’S INSTITUTIONAL HISTORY.

  • The Board of Trustees, on my recommendation and with the support of the President’s Advisory Committee on Institutional History, has approved the removal of the name of Thomas Jordan Jarvis—a North Carolina Governor and Trinity College trustee who was an avowed white supremacist implicated in the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898—from the residence hall on East Campus bearing his name. A plaque describing this decision will be installed at the entrance of the building, which will again be known by its original name, West Residence Hall. 
  • Last month, we named the Reuben-Cooke Building on West Campus in honor of Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, a member of Duke’s first integrated class of undergraduates, and we honored a more inclusive group of university founders. A permanent exhibit honoring the first five Black undergraduates will be installed in the Reuben-Cooke Building, and we will seek opportunities for additional exhibits and recognitions per the recommendations of the President’s Advisory Committee on Institutional History.
  • Board of Trustees task forces on our forthcoming 2024 centennial and on Duke and Durham will explore ways of better engaging our community in Duke’s complex institutional history with respect to racial and social equity, in collaboration with the President’s Advisory Committee on Institutional History.  


Recognizing the complex socioeconomic challenges facing our city and region, we are ENGAGING WITH AND SUPPORTING OUR DURHAM AND REGIONAL COMMUNITIES.

  • We are deepening support for educational equity through a lead contribution to the Durham Public Schools Foundation’s campaign for digital equity for Durham students, partnerships on internet connectivity with the city, and broadening connections between Durham students and Duke students.
  • We are collaborating with community-based organizations and local government to address community health disparities as measured by social indicators such as housing, early childhood development, and nutrition. We have also committed $5 million to the community for COVID-19 relief and sustained engagement through our Duke-Durham Fund. 
  • We will coordinate and expand work-based learning opportunities for high school and college students through programs such as the Summer Internship Program with North Carolina Central University, the Summer Enrichment Program for the National Institute for Diversity and Health Equity, the Made in Durham internship program, and other partnerships with the city and local nonprofits. 
  • We will also significantly expand efforts to recruit from HBCUs and community colleges for our undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, as well as for staff positions at Duke.
  • We will offer new apprenticeship programs in partnership with community colleges including Durham Tech, as well as expand Duke’s supplier diversity program, and provide training for departments to encourage diverse sourcing. 

These are only first steps as we chart our anti-racist course at Duke. Our work will take time, and it is far more important to do this right than to do it quickly. 

Institutional transformation begins at the personal level. We are all approaching this issue with different perspectives and at different points in our lives—from first-year students to campus staff to health care providers to faculty and to alumni around the world—and we all have work to do to build a better Duke. In that spirit, I call on the entire Duke community to come together with the humanity to recognize that we are all people with diverse stories, perspectives, talents and aspirations; with the humility to recognize that we know a lot less than we’d like to admit and we must learn from one another to investigate the hard truths; with the honesty to recognize that unequal life chances shape who we are and often limit who we can become; and perhaps most importantly, with the collective hope in our capacity for change.

We won’t always get this right—and we will make mistakes along the way. But we are committed today and throughout the future of Duke to addressing systemic racism on our campus and setting an example for our nation and the world. 

Thank you, all of you, for your efforts to that end.


Sincerely,

Vince

Thank You and Looking Ahead

To the Duke Community, 

We are now halfway through the fall semester. This may seem surprising, both because we started earlier than usual this year and because it feels like the first day of classes was a decade ago. 

There are still challenges ahead, but we have much to be proud of at Duke. Thanks to the cooperation of the Duke community, our comprehensive testing program, and generally good adherence to our health and safety protocols, we have so far kept the rate of coronavirus infections relatively low.  This has enabled us to continue our semester as planned.

A tremendous amount of planning, flexibility, and frankly, luck, has gone into this initial success. But the real reason we are where we are is that Duke has come together, person by person, to keep our community safe. That includes all of you— students, faculty and staff.  So, let me take this opportunity to say thank you

We must continue to be vigilant, however, and recognize that COVID-19 is extremely contagious.  This pandemic remains a serious threat to the health and safety of our community and will be for a considerable time to come.  Experience has shown that changes can be rapid, and singular lapses in behavior can have far-reaching negative effects and quickly lead to outbreaks that jeopardize every member of our community.  We cannot lose focus now. 

As we enter the second half of the semester and look ahead to the spring, we must redouble our commitment to the protocols and community guidelines that are keeping us all safe. I encourage you to visit the Duke United site to take a fresh look at our guidance. Please pay particular attention to limits on social gatherings and the ongoing need for surveillance testing.  And as always, remember our four core expectations: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, and monitor any symptoms. 

The cooperation of the Duke community these past few weeks has demonstrated that ours is a campus of people first and foremost, people who are making extraordinary contributions today and helping to define the boldest aspirations for our future. Again, thank you for all that you are doing to stay a Duke united in this unprecedented moment.

Cheers,

Vince

Announcing the Reuben-Cooke Building

To the Duke Community,

I am very pleased to report that this morning, the Duke University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the Sociology-Psychology Building on West Campus after Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, ’67.

This historic decision reflects Professor Reuben-Cooke’s leadership as one of the first five Black undergraduates at Duke, her extraordinary career as an attorney, law professor, and university administrator, and her long service as a trustee of both Duke University and The Duke Endowment. For her many contributions to the Duke community, Professor Reuben-Cooke received the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Duke Alumni Association’s highest honor, in 2011.

The Reuben-Cooke Building is a fitting tribute for one of the most distinguished members of the Duke community. This iconic building—which predates our campus’s integration by three decades—has stood on Davison Quad as our university has evolved to more fully realize its inclusive values, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke and her classmates.

When the building that now bears Professor Reuben-Cooke’s name first opened, she would not have been allowed to enter it as a student; from this day forward, anyone who passes through its doors will carry on her legacy of accomplishment, engagement and lasting impact.

Cheers,
Vincent E. Price

President

Message from President Price about Fall Sports at Duke

Dear Duke Students and Colleagues,   

Early September is typically a time of great energy and excitement at Duke, as students and faculty challenge each other in the classroom, the campus is active with events and programs, and visitors come from all over the world to take part in our academic and cultural life.  Fall is also, of course, a very active time for our student-athletes, as well as for their fans and supporters on campus, in the community and around the world.   

Over the past several months, the Atlantic Coast Conference, of which Duke is a founding member, has carefully assessed the prospects to continue intercollegiate sports in this most complicated of years.  An ACC Medical Advisory Group – which included physicians from Duke and other universities in the conference – worked over the summer to advise the member institutions on the risks and options for fall activity, and to develop comprehensive standards for testing, hygiene, medical monitoring and other practices that are essential for students to compete safely in team and individual sports.  After careful review, the ACC adopted those guidelines and committed to begin the season in all six fall sports (football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, field hockey and cross country).   

After consultation with our own medical faculty experts, Duke has decided to take further steps to mitigate the risk to the health and safety of our student-athletes, our communities, and the continuity of our educational and research missions.  In advance of the start of competition this week, and knowing that many have questions about intercollegiate athletics in these challenging times, I want to take a moment to inform you about the safety protocols that we have now put in put in place:   

  • All student-athletes, related staff and coaches participating in football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and field hockey, which have been identified as higher risk by the ACC Medical Advisory Group, will have daily COVID-19 testing for the duration of their seasons.   
  • To protect against potential spread of COVID-19 in our residence halls and the broader population, student-athletes competing in those five sports will be required to temporarily sequester to designated residential areas following each home or away game until testing and medical monitoring confirms that they are cleared to return to the community.  Student-athletes will receive all academic, wellness and mental health support services, as well as access to Student Affairs staff.   
  • All teams will travel by charter bus or plane and, to the extent possible, will depart and return to campus on the same day.  Only student athletes and essential coaches and staff will be permitted to travel to the games and, once on-site, Duke student-athletes, coaches and staff must strictly comply with distancing requirements, stay in areas separated from others, and not interact socially with members of the opposing team, spectators, or fans except for immediate family members.   
  • As announced earlier, spectators will not be permitted at any Duke games.  Attendance from the visiting team will be limited to essential personnel as determined by the ACC.   

We are immensely proud of our student-athletes and celebrate their dedication to academic and athletic success.  But we never lose sight of the fact that they are, first and foremost, Duke students.  Thus, student-athletes who choose for any reason not to participate in competition this year will continue to receive their scholarships, financial aid and other services, and they will maintain their academic and residential standing as well as their eligibility to participate in future athletic seasons.   

I want to stress that these are our initial plans.  As with every other aspect of this global pandemic, we will remain vigilant and flexible, monitor outcomes, and prepare to make changes as we learn from our experiences and others around the country.  Our experience with fall sports will help inform planning for winter and spring sports as well.  If conditions warrant further restrictions, a pause or even suspension of activities, then we will not hesitate to take that action.  Every decision we make will be based, first and foremost, on safeguarding the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the Duke community.   

This has been and will continue to be a difficult semester in many respects; but in just as many ways it has been wonderfully inspiring.  I’ve been inspired by our dedicated faculty and staff, including those many who have been supporting Duke Athletics through these complicated times, in meeting successfully the numerous challenges posed by the pandemic.  And I have been inspired by the way our Duke students, including our student-athletes, have stepped up to support and protect each other and our community so responsibly by adapting to the public-health demands of the moment. We are, on and off the field, a Duke united. For that, and for all you do, I am deeply grateful.

Sincerely,

Vincent E. Price
President

Remarks at Undergraduate Convocation

Good afternoon. As President, I am thrilled to welcome you as the newest members of the Duke University community.

Though I am coming to you today from Duke Chapel on the heart of our campus, you are part of the most global incoming class in our university’s history. Many of you are watching this opening ceremony from your new dorm rooms; some of you are connected to us virtually from places around the world. A few of you are even starting your Duke careers on our sister campus at Duke Kunshan University—a truly unprecedented feat.

As members of the graduating class of 2020 and the incoming Duke class of 2024, I suspect that you’re getting tired of that word, unprecedented. You will be glad to hear, then, that today is a moment with a great many precedents. 

We have been gathering for an opening ceremony since long before Duke was a university—all the way back in 1906, the Chronicle reported that the forty-eighth academic year of what was then Trinity College began formally with the President, in academic regalia, hoisting the American flag above East Campus while the students gave out a cheer. Things have evolved a bit since then.

This isn’t even the first opening celebration during a pandemic.  A century ago, Spanish flu raged through 1918 and 1919, and was still very much a presence when Trinity College welcomed the incoming class of 1924. It must have been an unsettling time—just as I know this is—the excitement of a new start tinged with apprehension about the world around us. 

Even then, though, students were focused on the important priorities: The Chronicle editorial board wrote with relief that in response to the epidemic, the manager of the basketball team had rearranged the scheduled contests against Carolina and State so that the Trinity team could still compete for the state championship—which, I should note, they went on to win.

For those basketball fans among you: while the state championship title exists today only in spirit, we still regularly win it over our foes at N.C. State and UNC.

Now, if you ask anyone who attended our opening celebrations between 1990 and 2014, I suspect they would tell you that what they remember is hearing from the late poet Maya Angelou, who spoke to incoming first-year students for 24 years. You may be familiar her extraordinary work, or read her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

In an interview toward the end of her life, Professor Angelou was asked what advice she might give for living fully. Her answer reflected both her humor and her generosity of spirit. 

“Every day I awaken, I am grateful,” she said. “My intent is to be totally present in that day. And to laugh as much as possible.”

To be grateful. To be present. And to laugh

It occurs to me that these three guiding principles might be helpful for all of us as we begin the next academic year at Duke.

First comes gratitude. Amidst the uncertainty and frustration that many of us have been experiencing, it can be difficult to remember that we have so much to be thankful for—and this is a vitally important starting point as we set off on this year together.

We at Duke are certainly grateful that you are here. As Dean Guttentag described just a few moments ago, yours is a tremendously accomplished class. Each of you bring something distinct to the Duke community—a unique perspective, a life-changing experience, a talent that sets you apart. 

To borrow from another poet, Walt Whitman, you have come here to contribute your verses to Duke’s powerful play, to forever change the course of our university’s history for the better. We are so thankful for that.

But as remarkable as you all are individually, we know that none of you arrived here on your own. The support, love, and guidance of the people in your life—your parents, families, friends, and teachers, many who may be watching today—has fostered your extraordinary talents, has allowed you to grow into the accomplished people assembled here today. 

I hope that you will take a moment in the coming days to thank them—to let them know that you are truly grateful for all of the ways that have helped bring you to this moment.

In that spirit, let us awaken each day of this new academic year with gratitude. 

Next comes Angelou’s charge to be present. This has perhaps taken on new meaning in the age of social distancing. But what I think she was getting at was not so much physical presence, but rather being present in the mind and spirit. 

In a world filled with distractions, it takes conscious effort to remind ourselves to pause and pay attention. To slow down and really appreciate the opportunities and experiences before us. You have likely come to Duke, at least in part, to prepare for the lifetime that comes after graduation. But I can assure you, those days are coming soon enough. While you’re here, I hope you will take the time to be really present—in your friendships and in the Duke community.

Some of the most remarkable things that you will learn at Duke will be from one another, not in the classroom or lab but in conversations among friends on Zoom and in explorations in your free time.  It may be harder in the age of COVID, but you’ll have the rare opportunity to connect with classmates and colleagues from many different backgrounds and perspectives. 

We at Duke have made new commitments to equity, inclusion, and racial justice for all students—efforts that you will be hearing more about in the coming weeks. We invite you to join in building this richer, more inclusive Duke community. If you are willing to connect with your classmates, they will have a great deal to teach you about how to live in and experience the world.

Also, all of us—you, me, indeed every member of the Duke community—must be present to our obligations to do frankly unnatural things we must all do in this pandemic to keep each other and our Durham community safe and healthy.  We can’t let down our guard or give in to those understandable temptations to get back to our “normal” lives.  You and all of your classmates will have to steel yourselves against the inclinations to get on with typical Duke traditions and Duke social life.  

Not now.  Eventually, but not now. 

Instead you will build this semester new traditions

Those connections we make will have to be made from at least six feet away.  We’ll have to learn to back away if we are crowded; we’ll have to simply say no to misguided party invitations; we’ll have to make our face masks badges of Duke pride and wear them everywhere we go. 

To do this for an entire day can be trying; for a week, truly challenging; for an entire semester, achievable only if we maintain our focus and help each other through.  Only if we remain fully present to each other. 

And at the same time, be present to your own needs. The transition to college can be jarring under any circumstances—and you may find it particularly so today. That’s okay—in fact, it’s to be expected. This moment will require great flexibility and resilience, and Duke has robust advisory and mental health resources to support you both as your get your footing here, and as you continue throughout your Duke career. I encourage you to take full advantage.  

And get some sleep.  Without it, none of us can be at our best.  A sleepy brain is not fully present.

So, with a good night’s rest behind us, let us next awake to this new academic year with presence. 

Finally, there is Angelou’s last piece of advice—to awake each day with laughter. 

One of Angelou’s great friends, the writer and theologian Frederick Buechner (BEEKner), told a story that they were both at a very formal ceremony in a cathedral in New York—a place at moment not unlike this one. Buechner noted that the assembled dignitaries were wearing “robes and tassels” and looking very serious.

Angelou smiled and explained to Buechner that enslaved people were not allowed to laugh, as their masters feared it was directed toward them. So they kept an empty barrel—and if any of them felt an urge to laugh, they would act like they were getting something from the barrel and let forth a laugh into it.

When Angelou saw all of these men in robes marching somberly into the cathedral that day, she said, her impulse was to run and find an empty barrel or an empty room and burst into laughter.

The point of the story is that laughter is a critical part of our humanity. And a healthy aspect of our lives: It can be a tremendously powerful antidote to uncertainty and tension. I encourage you, especially in these complicated times, to look for the daily moments of humor and joy that will offer themselves to you in your time here. 

You will undoubtedly experience stress at Duke—it’s a fact of life, and I’ll bet it’s been stressful already just to get here.  But you’ll also have a chance to watch a classmate do stand up in the Bryan Center, to laugh with friends on a suitably distanced walk in Duke Gardens, or to watch with awe as the sun comes up over this Duke Chapel. Such moments of joy are everywhere at Duke, and I hope you will take the time to find them.

In that spirit, let us also awake to this new academic year with laughter and joy. 

Class of 2024, once again, welcome to Duke. You have arrived at a time when things look very different than they ever have before. But in this unprecedented moment, there are great opportunities to be a Duke united in building an even brighter future for our university, the nation, and the world.

In that spirit, and with the words of Maya Angelou echoing in this Chapel where she spoke so many times, I encourage you to awake to this moment of profound opportunity. 

Awake each day with gratitude.

Awake and be present. 

And above all, awake to find the joy in your life as part of this academic community.

Cheers and congratulations.

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