published March 1, 2007

SENCER E-Newsletter, March 2007, Volume 6, Issue 6

Duke Launches Initiative to Make Civic Engagement Integral Part of Undergraduate Education

Sherryl Broverman, Former SENCER Visiting Scientist, named Vice Chair of Faculty Advisory Board

In one of the most ambitious efforts of its kind in U.S. higher education, Duke University will make civic engagement an integral part of its undergraduate experience beginning in 2008, university president Richard H. Brodhead announced. Duke's new program, DukeEngage, will provide full funding and faculty and administrative support to all undergraduates who want to stretch beyond the classroom by tackling societal issues at home and abroad, and, in turn, learning from those real-world experiences. Projects could range from learning about African education challenges while helping a rural school to gaining insights into natural disasters while working with Gulf Coast flood victims. The program will provide Duke students with opportunities to collaborate with nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that address poverty, housing, education, AIDS or other social issues; with a financial institution to explore how investment affects life in third-world countries; or an art museum to increase outreach to low-income children, among other things.

David Burns and Group

The Duke Endowment of Charlotte and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of Seattle are providing $15 million each to endow DukeEngage. The program's national advisory committee will be chaired by David Gergen, a Duke trustee and former White House adviser who is professor of public service at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of its Center for Public Leadership. James Joseph, former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and director of the U.S.-Southern African Center for Leadership and Public Values at Duke, will lead the faculty advisory board. The board's vice chair is biologist Sherryl Broverman, who has helped lead a student-learning project in Kenya in which Duke students are helping to build a boarding school for girls in Muhuru Bay, a project initiated in connection with her SENCER work.

The initiative also includes the creation of a Duke Center for Civic Engagement, which will serve as a university-wide clearinghouse for civic-engagement and service-learning projects.

"The lasting products of a university education are the qualities of mind and character that students carry forth into their adult lives," Brodhead said. "We give our students superb academic training, but we also want them to become active citizens and creative problem-solvers, using their education to make a real-world difference. Duke has always placed a special emphasis on using knowledge for the greater social good. Today we're committing ourselves to making this opportunity a part of every Duke undergraduate's experience."

Beginning in the summer of 2008, any Duke undergraduate who has completed at least two semesters of classes will be eligible to participate in an immersive summer- or semester-long service project with Duke support. Duke funding will include travel expenses and a cost-of-living stipend to cover the full experience. To ensure that students receiving financial aid are able to participate, Duke will assume responsibility for their "summer earnings" requirements, as well as cover the costs of their service experience. Forty percent of Duke undergraduates receive financial aid. The university also will provide stipends to faculty and staff who serve as mentors to the students. The initial funding, which Duke will augment, comes from two sources: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the endowment of James Buchanan Duke.

"DukeEngage reflects the reason James B. Duke directed so much of his giving to Duke University," said Russell M. Robinson, chairman of The Duke Endowment. "He valued education with a higher purpose, education that produced people of character and integrity, who would use their learning to serve their families, their communities and the world at large. He believed education was not just a means for personal growth and advancement, but a solution to society's problems as well as a visionary concept at the time that is now fortified and advanced by programs like DukeEngage."

Students who participate in DukeEngage will work on projects that encompass a full spectrum of public-service issues, in local, national and international communities. Some may participate in a global health initiative or other programs supported through the university's new long-term strategic plan, Making a Difference. Others may join in addressing K-12 education challenges in Durham or other communities, or get involved in projects that apply their interest in science, business, the arts or other fields.

University officials estimate that over the next five years, at least 25 percent of Duke's 6,250 undergraduates will participate in DukeEngage, in addition to existing community service activities. DukeEngage has been in development for several years as part of Duke's decades-long focus on applying knowledge to address societal problems. For more information, contact: John Burness at (919) 681-3788 or The project website is Duke Engage.