Duke family members,
Working in higher education with the amazing students at Duke is an absolute pleasure. From the energy, creativity, and predictable rhythms of the academic school year, to the unexpected moments and achievements that keep everyone on their toes, there is nothing remotely like life on a university campus.
Each year begins with the excitement of an incoming class celebrated through convocation, from the fun of meeting new people and making new and unexpected connections, to the inevitable challenges connected to managing coursework and navigating a new environment, and concluding with year’s end and the mixed emotions of May baccalaureate and graduation ceremonies. Typically, once we near the Last Day of Classes (LDOC), our focus begins to shift towards reflection on the passing of another academic year. For all of the predictability associated with an academic schedule, one truism remains: no academic year is like any other.
Our current academic year has been highlighted in numerous ways by our student engagement and dedication inside and outside of the classroom. Student activism at Duke and around the country urged faculty and staff to review numerous policies and reflect on changes needed to best support those we serve. Duke football won their first bowl game in 50 years, defeating the University of Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl. Additionally, two Duke seniors, Laura Roberts and Jay Ruckelshaus, were selected as Rhodes Scholars; others were selected for the Truman, Mitchell, and other numerous prestigious scholarships. Moreover, our students constantly surprise us by their connections bringing leading musicians, community leaders, and lecturers to Duke. Sue and I met Andy Grammer (singer, songwriter, pictured above) who just happened to host a concert for our undergraduates prior to a football game.
Highlights among our faculty included Paul Modrich, professor of biochemistry, being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, after spending decades researching how mistakes in the DNA code are repaired. Additionally, faculty representing interdisciplinary academic perspectives hosted Winter Forum 2016: Madagascar 2030; Sustainable Development Innovation Challenge, which encouraged students to examine and develop realistic solutions to “turn a struggling state into a success.” Faculty-In-Residence (FIR) enriched the academic climate in the residence halls, and hundreds of students took advantage of our FLUNCH program designed to encourage students to share a meal with faculty members.
Parents have continued to support Duke University through their time, talents, and resources. Members of this community donate generously to the Duke Annual Fund, which provides numerous undergraduate student benefits. Approximately 25 families serve as advisors to the Vice President of Student Affairs via the Duke Parents Advisory Council, and thousands have responded to the Provost parent survey. Parent and family feedback influences our programming, communication, and outreach as we move into the next academic year.
Appreciation for the passing of another academic year brings a melancholy, as we will say goodbye to another class of students who will join our alumni ranks, and our interactions will be less frequent. However, this feeling is tempered with the excitement of an upcoming academic year, a new class of students we’re excited to meet, and a few other highlights coming in the new year. This summer, the West Union will continue a phased opening in preparation for the fall, when the entire Duke community will celebrate its benefits. For those families with returning students, we will be welcoming you to campus for Family Weekend programming, and opportunities to spend time with your students (November 4-6, 2016). Additionally, the spring of 2017 will mark the opening of the student health and wellness building, which will bring a holistic approach supporting all of our student’s health and wellness needs.
Certainly, our plans for the future are exciting, but it will be the surprises along the way that will define and highlight the year ahead. We look forward to sharing those times with you and your students.
Wishing you a great summer! Go Duke!
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Associate Dean of Students and Director of Parent and Family Programs