Thank you, Erika—and thank you for your truly exceptional leadership these past two years. It has been a great pleasure to work with you, and while I am certain you are more than ready to hand over the reins, you will be missed.
I also want to recognize the outgoing members of ECAC for your leadership and counsel—thank you, all of you.
And let me also say congratulations to Trina, our incoming chair. I am grateful for the many ways you have already offered your leadership to Duke, and I look forward to working closely with you in the months to come.
It is perhaps fitting that my annual reflections to this council fall after spring break, now that we’ve had some time to look back before we begin the final sprint to the end of the year. And what a wonderful year it has been.
We’ve launched QuadEx and the Duke Climate Commitment, initiatives that are transforming the student experience and our campus sustainability efforts.
We have added extraordinary new deans of the Graduate School, Suzanne Barbour; and Trinity College, Gary Bennett.
We celebrated two Rhodes Scholars, a Mitchell Scholar, and two Schwarzman Scholars.
And this has been an exceptional year for our faculty.
Ingrid Daubechies received the Wolf Prize for her tremendous contributions to the mathematical foundations of image processing, remote sensing, and digital photography.
Kafui Dzirasa of the School of Medicine and Amanda Randles of Pratt received the prestigious NIH Pioneer Award for championing creative solutions to pressing medical challenges.
Susan Alberts received the International Frontiers of Knowledge Award for her groundbreaking work in Ecology and Conservation Biology.
Leela Prasad of Religious Studies was elected to the American Academy of Religion’s executive leadership—she will serve as president next year.
The Anti-Defamation League honored Abdullah Antepli of Sanford with the Daniel Pearl Award in recognition of his advocacy for peace and reconciliation.
Priya Kishnani of the School of Medicine received the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor, for her lifesaving research on pediatric rare diseases.
Three faculty members—Lawrence David, Chantell Evans, and Gustavo Silva—were among 25 awardees of the Science Diversity Leadership Awards from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
And we’ve celebrated five new members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.
These reflect just a few of the tremendous accolades received by our faculty over the course of this year—I really could go on all afternoon. So let me say congratulations to all of you. You are doing extraordinary work in your teaching and scholarship, and I am proud to call you colleagues.
This year is also extraordinary as it marks the 60th anniversary of the academic council—a remarkable testament to Duke’s commitment to shared governance. For six decades, this body has given faculty a strong and vital voice in shaping the university’s strategy and direction.
The existence of the council has unquestionably been to the great benefit of Duke, so it may surprise you that it arose out of difficult circumstances: the so-called Edens-Gross Affair.
The received history of this affair—as a conflict between the then-president’s commitment to Duke’s identity as a regional institution and the vice-president for education’s vision for transforming it into a global university—is untrue.
What did happen was a series of administrative squabbles that penetrated the university board of trustees and the Duke Endowment board and drove divisions between them, precipitating the president’s resignation, the vice-president’s dismissal, and widespread unhappiness among the faculty. As any veteran of institutional quarrels will tell you, this conflict was perhaps as much about personalities as it was about a difference in vision. But we remember it because it reflected a moment of profound change—a transition from the Duke we were to the Duke we have become. Within a few years, it prompted the creation of the office of the provost and also this body—and with it much of our contemporary and far more functional practice of shared governance.
Today, Duke sits in a position of real leadership. We also sit at the confluence of strong societal and economic currents—of financial challenges and the disruptions of a post-pandemic labor market; of political tensions and questions of open inquiry and respectful discourse; of the continued promulgation of disinformation; of the opportunities and threats posed by technology; and of the fraught mental health and wellness landscape of our student population.
Taken together, I believe this is a moment of transition just as profound as that of the 1960s. And we are rightfully asking ourselves again some challenging questions. What should change, and how quickly should we change it? What is our shared vision for the future, and how should we arrive there? How can we position ourselves to not only lead but to thrive in the century to come?
The most visible manifestation of this moment of transition is in our leadership. It is a very good thing when the world looks to Duke for great leaders—as in the case of Valerie Ashby, now the president of UMBC, and Sally Kornbluth, now the president of MIT.
We have also recently announced that Gene Washington will be stepping down as Chancellor this summer after eight years of transformative leadership and the historic creation of our new Duke Health Integrated Practice.
These transitions leave roles to fill—but Duke will be going from strength to strength.
As I mentioned before, we’re so thrilled that Gary Bennett is already several months into his tenure as Trinity Dean, having taken the baton from Mohamed Noor, who was a fantastic interim and is serving in a new capacity as vice provost for academic affairs.
Likewise, Jennifer Francis has been a truly outstanding leader in her current role as interim provost—working directly with me and other senior leaders to move Duke forward. And Chris Simmons has been equally terrific as our interim Vice President for Communications, helping us position Duke’s internal and external identity amidst a complex landscape for higher ed.
Both the Vice President for Communications and Provost searches are nearing completion and have attracted exceptional talent. We have engaged faculty leadership from across Duke’s schools in these important searches—thank you to those committee members who are with us today.
The second area of continued transition is in significant new strategic programming.
Since my last presentation to this council, we have made extraordinary progress on campus-wide initiatives under the five focus areas of the strategic vision that I first articulated in 2018: empowering the boldest thinkers, transforming teaching and learning, strengthening our campus community, partnering with purpose in our region, and engaging our global network of alumni and friends.
I want to provide just a few brief updates.
Under the leadership of Vice President for Research and Innovation Jenny Lodge, Duke Science and Technology continues to move forward in extraordinary ways. With a focus on three primary areas—materials science; computing; and biologic resilience—we have raised more than $300 million to hire 26 faculty members, retain others, and make significant investments in our research capacity.
I am thrilled that we’ve also launched two DST seed grant programs, which this year supported research by 29 additional faculty members.
What’s particularly exciting about Duke Science and Technology is that it coincides with a renewed emphasis on research translation and commercialization, led by Robin Rasor. Last year, we launched 14 new startups and generated $450 million in investment in Duke-launched companies. Taken together, these efforts will help us ensure that the discoveries that drive our future begin here, at Duke.
As I mentioned earlier, we launched QuadEx this fall thanks to the leadership of Mary Pat McMahon, Gary Bennett, Candis Watts-Smith, and many hands from across student affairs and the faculty. This reimagined approach to living and learning will equip all Duke students to navigate complex issues in the world ranging from building inclusive communities, encouraging diversity of thought, promoting wellness and purpose, and supporting civil discourse.
For the first time, every incoming undergraduate was able to participate in themed pre-orientation programs, and sophomore spark is guiding our second-year students through the transition to West Campus.
Seven faculty fellows are helping to lead the way—forming meaningful bonds with students outside of the classroom.
Already this is bearing fruit: a survey of members of the Class of 2026 showed that 94 percent felt they belonged at Duke, an extraordinary number among our peer institutions. Only about one and half percent of our rising sophomores requested a different quad.
We’re also turning our attention to creating stronger community ties in the graduate and professional student population. Implementation of the Reimagining Doctoral Education initiative, which was launched under the Together Duke academic plan, is transforming the experience of PhD students, and there are significant opportunities for improvement and greater coordination across all our programs.
This fall, we also announced the Duke Climate Commitment—our campus-wide effort to seek climate change solutions and advance climate education—and it’s well underway.
In January, we announced the Climate Research Innovation Seed Program, or CRISP—which is funding transformational research on sustainability and the environment. Funds were provided by the Nicholas Institute, the Provost’s Office, the Nicholas School, and five additional schools across campus.
41 teams including faculty from 8 schools submitted proposals; funding will be split between research awards focused on energy transformation and ideation awards focused on energy transformation, climate and community resilience, climate and environmental justice, and climate and data.
We’re defining the concept of climate literacy across the disciplines, as perhaps best demonstrated by the new university course on climate, which has been immensely popular. We’re also piloting efforts to expand the Campus as Lab initiative in partnership with our campus sustainability work—which has achieved a 43% reduction in greenhouse gases and continues to move forward.
We are deepening our commitments to racial and social equity, and I am very grateful for the continued work of the Racial Equity Advisory Council and the Offices of Institutional Equity and Faculty Advancement, which are driving this important initiative into its third year.
Duke is changing at the unit and local level, and we are making real progress toward fostering a more inclusive campus community. In January, over three hundred campus leaders participated in a day-long retreat focused on racial equity. It was a terrific program—led by Kim Hewitt, Abbas Benmamoun, and Sherrilyn Black, with contributors from dozens of units. Looking ahead, we are working toward the release of the “Duke Annual Report on Racial Equity” or the DARRE, which will help units track and measure their progress.
In the past two years, we’ve funded 35 faculty research projects supporting efforts to understand and address systemic racism, including 17 projects related to race, racism and the history of the American South and 18 projects related to racial inequality.
Our faculty is also changing in meaningful ways. In the past few years, we’ve hired over two dozen faculty members whose scholarship focuses on racial and social equity. And from 2017 to 2022, we made significant gains in demographic diversity, including a 51 percent increase in our number of Black-identifying faculty, a 30 percent increase in our Hispanic faculty, and a 17 percent increase in our Asian and Asian American faculty. These hiring efforts will continue apace.
In addition to transitions in leadership and ongoing initiatives, we’re also breaking new ground in our goal of transforming teaching and learning for the next century.
Last year, we completed a forward-looking strategic thinking process, Strategy Team 2030, which focused on the goals and opportunities that will carry us through the remainder of this decade and beyond.
As Sally outlined to this council last year, the 2030 report recommended focusing on fostering a more cohesive and research-inflected undergraduate experience, building richer campus connections for graduate and professional students, and renewing support systems for research and scholarship. We are in the early stages of exploring how to implement these recommendations—but this work will remain an important focus for many years to come.
Likewise, there are significant curricular changes underway. One major transition will be the adoption of a new curriculum for Trinity, which I anticipate will include significant opportunities for collaboration and partnership with the other schools. And as I mentioned in my remarks here last year, the upcoming fundraising campaign—launching publicly in 2025—will support faculty and research across the disciplines. Already, we have raised amounts approaching the Duke Forward total, and we fully anticipate that this will be the largest campaign in Duke’s history.
Exciting transitions are underway—with more to come.
As we mark this 60th anniversary of the academic council—and look ahead to Duke’s centennial celebration next year—we have an opportunity to celebrate all of the many transitions that Duke has made.
Our transition from a small regional college to a global university. Our transition from a closed campus for the few to an open campus for all. Our transition from an institution hemmed in by disciplinary divisions to a community that champions collaboration.
We’ll also be celebrating the things that haven’t changed: our values of integrity, service, and shared governance, our ambitions, and—above all—our exceptional students, staff, alumni, and faculty.
With that in mind, let me end by saying thank you for your support of the Duke we have always been, and the ever more extraordinary Duke we are destined to become.