August 6, 2020
Richard Alfonsi: All right, I think we are ready to get started. People may still be joining the Zoom, but I wanted to go ahead and kick things off. On behalf of Duke, I want to offer a very warm welcome to all the parents and family members here for our virtual town hall meeting. Thanks so much for making the time to join us here. My name is Richard Alfonsi. I'm very excited to be here with you as the moderator for this session. We have, I think, hundreds of parents and family members joining us from all over the country and probably all over the world. For my part, I'm joining from Menlo Park, California, just south of San Francisco in the heart of Silicon Valley. I'm thrilled to be here with you. Duke has been a huge part of my life and the life of my family. I graduated from Duke's Engineering School way back when in 1993. And stayed connected to the school. And just rather recently earlier this year joined Pratt's Board of Visitors. But more important than any of that, especially for this conversation, I'm also a Duke parent. My son Peter is a rising sophomore at Pratt. So we're right there with ya as we navigate all of the combination of excitement and questions, concerns, and nervousness as we get ready for the fall semester. So with that, I'm excited to introduce our real guest of honor, Pratt's Dean Ravi Bellamkonda, who's here with me. Ravi's been a tremendous leader for the Engineering School for the last four years or so, and I can say that university is extremely lucky to have him, and we're lucky to have him here with us for this town hall. So, welcome, Ravi.
Ravi Bellamkonda: Thank you, Richard.
Richard Alfonsi: I should also mention in addition to Ravi's role as dean, he's also a Pratt parent, he's also a Duke parent as well. His son is a rising senior at Trinity. So he has, I think, a pretty wide-ranging perspective on the kinds of issues we're all facing here. So before we jump in, I thought I'd just give you a little sense on what we have planned for the session here. So since we have so many people on the Zoom call, everyone's gonna be muted by default. We've got two parts planned for the meeting. The first part, Ravi and I will kick things off with a bit of a fireside chat. And then for the last 30 to 35 minutes, we'll have some time to answer a lot of the questions that parents and family members have sent us. Since we have so many participants, we're not gonna be able to do a live Q&A, but we did have nearly 70 questions submitted via email from parents in advance. So thanks so much for honoring that request. It was really helpful to us just to get a good sense of what's on your mind. So obviously, we won't be able to get into all those questions, but hopefully we'll be able to cover the major things. So assuming that all makes sense, let's get started. So, Ravi, it's great to see you as always. I hope you and your family are doing well through this rather crazy summer. We were chatting a little bit off camera. But hope you're doing well with the family.
Ravi Bellamkonda: We are, Richard. And same goes for you and Peter and your family. And we're looking forward to having Peter back.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, I know he's looking forward to being back. Well, let's just jump in. Look, I think the pandemic has certainly gripped this country in a crazy unexpected way over the last five months or so, and it's been a dominant part of life, and appropriately, probably on everyone's mind. I know health and safety has been a big part of Duke's plans for the fall. You know, to start off, what more can you share about the COVID-19 game plan and how it's gonna keep students and the broader Duke community safe?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, no, thank you for the question, and I appreciate again, a warm welcome to all the parents joining us. And I'll do my best to give you my most honest and candid answers. You know, I think I'll start off at a slightly higher level in the sense that I think I've been reflecting a lot, because all of us have been working very hard preparing for the semester to start, that this situation has challenged us all in different ways. Us as faculty and administrators. You as parents. Our students. I watched my son and our staff, our lab instructors, each of us has been challenged. And I was thinking about, you know, in some ways time will tell how we respond to this. One way we could respond is we could say, well, you should do this and I should do this and all of that. And I think what I would like to convey to you is that we have spent a lot of time thinking about taking care of our core mission of research and education to the best of our ability. And in many of these difficult decisions we've been navigating on a constant evolving landscape, I think Duke has stayed true to that mission of is it good for our students and is it good for our research mission. You know, just some clarity around that, which is informative. So at the beginning of this, there was a spectrum of possibilities. That we are completely virtual, that nothing online, or we get everybody back like normal. So those were the two ends of the possibility. And we were constantly, as you may know, we have access to all sorts of health experts here. We have our own epidemiologists, clinicians, infectious disease folks. We have a national network with the Hopkins group and Yale and a bunch of colleges. So we have in close touch with the region and the state and the city. So we have had nonstop, everyday meetings to inform our decision-making. And originally we started off with the idea that we could, if we de-densified in June when we announced, we could have everybody back. And we went to extraordinary lengths not mentioning the financial, not at all paying attention to that. We leased a couple of hotels and apartment complexes. A new one is opening called Luxury Apartments. I remember seeing it in January, and the next thing I knew, Duke had taken it over before it opened to the public. And the idea was we would have one and two in each room, and really go to extraordinary lengths to find the housing stock. Which Duke can afford to do. It's not possible in every city in the country. But then new information came to light, as you know, and we had to decide that it's just not in keeping with the risk profiles, and we had to make a very difficult call late in the process when people had bought tickets, planning to come out, juniors and seniors, to try to de-densify by about half. We will still have about 3,000 students here plus another 500, some-500 juniors and seniors who actually cannot be home for various reasons, that is not compatible with their learning. So some of those will be here, each was adjudicated case by case because of their home situations just not being compatible with safety or learning. But largely, we will have that number. And it was a very difficult call to make. And part of that was informed by our summer experience. So we had athletes come in, and we did testing. And I don't know how public it is, maybe I'll get in trouble, but something like 7% of the athletes that came in tested positive of the initial cohort initially. Maybe just five, something like that. And so we did some extrapolation to say, hey, if that was true generally, what would it look like if everybody came back and things, what's our capacity to take care of folks in the Duke way with food and housing. And we've had some experience with this, unfortunately, from May, we had 60 students from our Business School came back from a trip in Israel, all of them fell sick in March. And so we learned how to quarantine, how to deliver food, how to have community and not feel isolated. So we learned a whole bunch of things in that experience. And so we know how we want to do this should a student fall sick or one of our community members fall sick. And so essentially all of that informed our decision to be where we are. We are very comfortable with where we are, with our capacity to de-densify and prevent transmission. We will test, as you know, every single student, undergraduate and graduate student. We have surveillance testing and symptom testing now in place. We'll do pool surveillance testing and symptomatic testing. There's a COVID Compact that was released. So I'm comfortable now that we have done all we can in this challenging situation to balance safety, student wellbeing, the importance to keeping folks on graduation timeline. And I'll end this answer by this, that we learned a lot when we went online in the spring about things that are important for our student. The safest decision by far would've been to say we'll be completely virtual, right? But we heard from our parents, from our students, and I as a dad watched my son, and we just felt like the Duke experience for our students is not just classes. The community's important. Some of the experiential things we'll discuss about are important with learning experience. And being here is important to many of our students. So we're always trying to optimize for, how many can we have here that is safe? And this is where we are based on our most informed thinking.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, well, thanks for sharing additional color on the decision-making. And I know it was tough, because like you said in the last two weeks there were some pretty big decisions that came down that may have taken people by surprise. With that in mind, I think that, you know, I'm sure there's lots of excitement among students and families to get the new semester underway. But there's probably quite a bit of conflicting feelings. On one end, as you alluded to, you've got the juniors and seniors who are probably pretty disappointed that they can't be living on campus in the fall. And you've probably seen this firsthand with your son. On the other hand, you've got the freshmen and sophomores who may be a little bit nervous about coming on campus, worrying about health and safety, and what would this campus life really gonna look like. With that in mind, what advice do you give to different groups of students about how they can get the most out of the semester?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, I'll start with the juniors and seniors who are probably feeling, you know, they're different feelings as you said. They're equally intense for our first-years and sophomores as well as. I think fundamentally, there is an inescapable reality which is that it is not going to be what we had imagined for ourselves, for any of us, right? And I wish that was not the case, but here we are. Either we take a timeout for a year and we all wake up and resume our lives, or we figure out how we deal with this uncertainty and this landscape we're in. So I think if we approach any of the things we'll talk about today with the idea that, but last year it was like this and now it is like this. We are always, it is not going to be the same. And I would suggest that the Duke spirit, you know, is to figure out a way to be, and if may use some engineering speak, to figure out a way to be well, to learn, to try to make a difference, given some of the initial conditions that we cannot control in this particular case. If we can all say, if the world were this other way, it would be great and I would have done these other things. But it is not, it is this way, you know? That's one. So first of all, there is the reality of the situation we have. In some ways it cries out for the role of science in trying to why are we here, and I won't go into the politics of that. And for sure there's lots of Duke research trying to get us to a drug and trying to get us to a vaccine. We can talk about it if we have time. So that's one. That said, I am telling you that from the spring through nonstop through the summer, we have spent every possible day and hour planning for how to make the best experience possible in the virtual world for those who are not able to join us. And we can talk about that from every single class, each one with each instructor, it will not, we had to go online in 48 hours. Now we've had time. The technology is different. We have classrooms fitted up for a much better experience for the online teaching world. Labs and how we teach is much different. So we will try to do this the Duke way the best we can. It will not be the same as obviously the "normal world," quote, unquote, but that's true. For the first-years and sophomores, we are thrilled to have them with us. They will have a mix of classes. The last time I checked, at least 50% or so of their credit hours hopefully will be in person. But they may go up and down because it's still dynamic a little bit. Our EGR 101 class for our first-years, we had planned for eight in-person sections and two virtual for those who couldn't make it. We looked at housing deposits and registrations, and we felt like there were more students coming than we had planned for. So we just in the last four days scrambled to open another face-to-face section, again, socially distanced, safe, and so we planned each lab, how many people can be there at any given time. So there's a whole lot of planning. Every space was visited by our, we call it FMD, Facilities and Maintenance Division. We measured the rooms. We looked at the configuration of the spaces. So each room was assigned a capacity that it was safe. So we put a lot of thought into this. Now, some things may go wrong in the sense of, you know. But the COVID Compact we've generated. So we feel like we've carved out a plan for the conditions we have for each of our students to give them the best possible experience. It will be different from last year. It will be different next year. But that's where we are.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, so it sounds like just recognizing it's going to be different, being ready and flexible.
Ravi Bellamkonda: That's right. So we can fight it. I can fight it, right? I'm frustrated that we don't have a vaccine. I'm frustrated that we haven't figured out a way to treat this and make this innocuous. I'm frustrated by all of these. But we have to ask ourselves, what are we gonna do, right? I can spend a lot of time being frustrated or upset or angry, or I can try to figure out what am I actually trying to do with my time? I'm trying to learn. I'm trying to grow as a person. I'm trying to build community and friends. And is there a way I can do that given these circumstances? And if there's anything I can do differently or Duke can do differently, let me know. So this is a collaboration between us, parents, me, our faculty, our staff, and our students. And we are very open to ideas from our students or from faculty or from parent. Because we are focused on trying to do the right thing, right? It's not about us being right and somebody being wrong. And I'll tell you, we have not really paid attention to expense in doing this. Whether it's masks or testing or equipment, you know? We are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, literally, I'm telling you, I have the Excel spreadsheets on running our labs differently, virtualizing them. So we have not paid attention to money to provide our students the experience. We just haven't. The provost has told us that. The president has told us that. I, as dean, have told our faculty, "I will figure the money out. You do what's best for our students." Which may mean we may mail some kits to some students. Which may mean we've set up 3D printers in somebody's garage. So there's all sorts of things we can discuss later. But that's been our sort of plan.
Richard Alfonsi: That seems like the right prioritization to think about the experience rather than the money.
Ravi Bellamkonda: That's right, that's right.
Richard Alfonsi: You had mentioned design and you mentioned this Engineering 101 class. But I should step back and say, look, design has been I think a big part of what you brought to the table over the last four years and how it's infused in the engineering curriculum. And now this Engineering 101 class is something every freshman takes. And I can tell you, from my son Peter's experience, he loved it, it was great. It was a team-based effort, and they even opted to continue the project they were working on into the second semester because they were enjoying it so much. You know, you started to share a little bit about how you thought about that experience in this world, but maybe just put a final point on that. How are you gonna run the Engineering 101 design class for freshmen, for first-year students?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Sure, for the parents that are new and are not familiar with this class, it's really become a signature experience for our students, so much so that it is actually having a ripple effect through all our majors, and there's talk about design spine that continues this kind of experience. And it started with the idea that there were two motivations. One was that my experience of engineering in the real world, talking to folks like you who have graduated and left, or some of you who are engineers, you know, is different from the way I learned engineering, you know? So the engineering that I do in my research, we work on brain cancer and things like this, involves a certain creative exercise in problem-solving, using techniques that are quantitative and engineering-based, but there's that magical ability to say, "I can figure this out," you know? At the core, that's what I think of as engineering. But then when I look at our curriculum, typically everywhere in the country, the curriculum is, well, take four semesters of math, two semesters or three semesters of physics, some chemistry, some stats, and then after you learn these basic, you can learn to apply them to actually do what you want to do. This, I felt, we were losing creative individuals who didn't take my word like I did, that the good stuff will come later. And so the idea, and we're exploring, is to flip the engineering curriculum to actually give our students authentic experiences in this creative problem-solving. Authentic because I'm not as a professor making up the problem. So this year, for example, we have a problem from the Lemur Center, we have somebody building, designing a bridge for Bolivia. They're going to clean solar panels so their efficiency doesn't go down for countries where like India and others where there's a lot of dust. They're doing special things for students with disabilities. They're building a drone to deliver supplies for people stranded. So there's a range of projects supplied by real folks who want those solutions. And so you have a client, and you start interacting as a first-year student, right, with the client. And when we first proposed this, some of our faculty, our own faculty, were like, "You can't do that. You can't take this 'high-schooler' that you haven't taught anything and put them in front of real clients, not fake clients." And guess what? Our students are amazing. And you know this. Many of you parents. They've done incredible things to get into Duke to begin with. And it's been amazing. We've had patents come out of this class. They're energized. Like Peter, they want to continue the project to a second semester, so we have to make up a new class that didn't exist for them to continue this. And it has really changed people's image of what engineering is, you know? And given self-efficacy that I could do this. It is not just about being off the charts with math or being able to program. You need some ability to do those things, because it is engineering, but the real thing that makes you a great engineer is this creative problem-solving part. And that's the truth, that is true in real life. So we will do that this year.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, harnessing that in the time when not everyone can be totally hands-on, especially if it's a remote learning situation-
Ravi Bellamkonda: So there are two sections which are remote. I apologize, I didn't touch on that.
Richard Alfonsi: No, that's fine.
Ravi Bellamkonda: There are two sections which are remote taught by two of our best design instructors. And we have thought a lot about how to give them these experiences. They'll still have real clients. It's not made-up problems. So I'm confident their experience will be a little bit different from those here. But nevertheless, they will have a fantastic experience. I'm confident about that.
Richard Alfonsi: That's great.
Ravi Bellamkonda: We've spent a lot of time thinking about this.
Richard Alfonsi: The course is really cool. And like I said, I'm excited that it's gonna continue on in this environment. I guess related but a little more broadly, there were a lot of questions too from parents, about lab components of other classes, especially ones that are gonna be primarily online. How do you get those hands-on experiences, and related, are the hands-on makerspaces, like the Innovation Co-Lab, are they gonna be open as we kick off this semester?
Ravi Bellamkonda: So the makerspaces are going to be open, but they'll likely open after the two-week window ends, the first two weeks of watching how people are and things like this. So they'll all be, all labs will be reduced density, because I told you, each space at Duke, we went through Duke and not just square footage but the configuration of the furniture and things to see what an appropriate density should be. So every lab has a physical space, somebody's in charge, they have to authorize that X number of people are there, and things like that. So I'm confident about that. The labs and teaching labs, like chemistry and things, again, we've spent a lot of months trying to figure out how to virtualize that and as to the degree possible. And the labs that absolutely could not be virtualized, we have the options of trying to do it later. So we can separate some components from the credit part. So I can't speak to each lab, but there are options, there's a whole range of options. And the beauty is, the instructor gets to decide what they're trying to do in that class, what the learning objectives are, and whether they can pull it off or not. If they can pull it off, then we will do other solutions. So if a class is being offered, I think you can rest assured that the instructor has thought a lot about how to deliver the learning objectives of that, even if it's virtual. And a lot of things are virtual. If you look at it when I was in graduate school, a lot of medical school labs, we used to have, you know. So a lot of medical school labs have become virtual now that used to be unheard of in anatomy and things. So this is not unprecedented. So learning can happen if you put the right part into it. And so we'll see how it goes. But a lot of faculty have been thinking a lot about this. Because we knew it was not guaranteed that is was going to be physical.
Richard Alfonsi: Right, makes sense. Well, your research is another big part of the experience, and a number of Duke engineering students seek out opportunities to do research with faculty members, do independent study. There's a program called the Pratt Research Fellows. How will those experiences work this year?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, so we have made the conscious decision that first-years and second-years, we should talk about the wisdom of doing this. If they want to work for volunteer purposes or other purposes in faculty labs, they can do that. There's no... The catch is, that even those labs are reduced density. So my own lab has a shift system. So all my students, my PhD students are not in the lab at the same time. So the catch is, there isn't enough physical space. But interior, there's nothing forbidding. And for those of you who are first-year parents, I know many of our students do research in high school and elsewhere, I would urge you to, in general, nothing to do with COVID, the first year I would encourage our students to settle down, make friends, get used to the Duke curriculum. They'll see four classes and many of them say, "Oh, I took six in high school." Trust me, they'll be challenged with the four. So I encourage them please, I know you're interested in research. A lot of us, 65, 70% of our students do research. But I say first year don't do that. Just settle down. But those who want to, can. Some students that are actually off campus that are juniors and seniors, and if they wanted to access faculty labs or something like this for independent study, that is permissible if they are in Durham for whatever reason. They live here or they're living off campus, that's possible. And in the summer we discovered that a lot of research can be done virtually. We had a whole COVID engineering response team that designed all sorts of interesting things virtually. And if your research is computational, as increasingly lots of research is, absolutely you can take it for credit, you can do independent study and all of those things.
Richard Alfonsi: That sounds great. So let's switch gears a little bit. A lot of us having been looking forward to the opening of this new engineering building, which I know is a pretty big deal. Is that still on track given all the stuff that's been happening?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Thank you for making my day. One of the bright spots in this tough environment has been that the building has very much been on schedule. It is to the credit of Skanska, the company building it. They've been incredible keeping the health of all the people. And so I'm excited. It's on schedule to open in November. I think we'll see a little bit of pictures. There it is, it's real. Not just in my imagination. I'll tell you of all the buildings on campus, this space I can't see it, maybe, I don't know if you can see my pointer or not, these are a bunch of conference rooms if you're able to see my pointer. And those exactly. Those rooms have the best views of Duke Chapel of any building on campus, I guarantee. So I'm very excited because this building is not, you know, the whole idea is it increases our teaching spaces for our undergraduate students by 50%. And it's not just the increase in amount, the nature of spaces is fundamentally different, and actually don't exist anywhere on Duke. Don't exist anywhere on Duke. There are entrepreneurship spaces, like startup spaces. There's entire design spaces, problem-based learning spaces, active learning spaces where the professor can walk around. The picture you're looking at is a garage lab and the doors are literally like garages, so large projects can be wheeled out and there can be a demonstration area. I'm sorry if I'm getting carried away, but I'm really excited about this building. And I'll tell you one other thing, there are many new parents here, so I'm not talking to you maybe, but this building would not be possible but for the support of many, many parents and alums of Duke. We still could use some support. But it's not named, we still have some fundraising to do. But really warms my heart for the enthusiasm that the Duke community showed to make this building possible. And those of you who supported us, I'm deeply grateful to you. But I think it's going to be amazing. And in the research spaces, we're doing something different for Duke. We decided we would not allocate space to a department. So we have three teams, as you know, Richard. So we have a health environment, a computing floor, including AI health, which will be a focus area for us. And so this is another experiment. The idea is that you bring groups of people independent of their departments working together, there are graduate students mingling, mingling with the undergraduate students taking classes. Some of the best coffee in town is going to be in this building. So we've thought a lot about it, so I'm excited about it.
Richard Alfonsi: We all know that coffee fuels innovation.
Ravi Bellamkonda: Absolutely. Actually, you don't know this. Those of you who haven't seen this, we actually have a map, like the Hogwarts map of coffee available on campus that we made in Pratt because it's so important for us. So if you haven't seen this, I will email it to you, drop me a note. It's a really cool map of all the coffee places on campus.
Richard Alfonsi: So when does the building open? So when's it open, I think faculty move in first, and then students move in shortly after.
Ravi Bellamkonda: That's right. We get possession in November. We will do a big flash and next day, hopefully we'll be able to do that in person. But the research labs start moving in and classes start in the spring in the new building.
Richard Alfonsi: Great, great. Well, to change direction one more time. I think we talked about coronavirus and COVID-19, the pandemic, but that's not the only thing that's been going on these last few months. And I think clearly racial injustice, systemic racism, these are topics that have really come to the forefront nationally, globally, and I'll tell you, Duke and universities as well. What can you tell us about how Duke's responding to some of these issues?
Ravi Bellamkonda: I will tell you that other instances have happened unfortunately in this country, and we all know there's a whole history of them. It really is different this time. And at every level, from students to each department to the schools to the provost to the president, there is a deep desire to act and be different in a way that makes the world better in this dimension. And it is sincere. And I have no doubt in my mind that that is the desire. And Duke is interesting because we are an amazing success story set in the South with our own unique history.
Richard Alfonsi: Which is where I grew up, by the way. I'm from North Carolina.
Ravi Bellamkonda: Okay, then you know that some of the things in our history are not things that we could be proud of necessarily, but we have a lot to learn from. What I sense at Duke, and certainly this is true for the Engineering School, is that we have a deep desire to make, to recognize, and make the world better in this dimension, to acknowledge the history, and to do so in a way that truly makes a difference here. Not just talk about it, not just... So within Pratt, we have a diversity and inclusion officer we are hiring. We have a very engaged faculty/staff committee led by one of our associate deans. Each of our departments has a plan they're working on, they have a leadership retreat scheduled already to talk about this. But broadly, I'll give you a glimpse of the way I'm thinking about it. And if any of you have ideas, please feel free to weigh in or send me a note. I think there are three buckets of things we'd like to do. One is, you know, it still for some of us feels like it doesn't happen here, it's over there. No, it can't possibly be at Duke because all the people I meet are smart, well-informed, and fair. And I think, but it does. There are policies probably here that do reflect that. And all our student experiences are not the same. And if some of us feel a certain way, all of us are impacted by that, right? So that's one. One is what I call an experiential immersive realization of the truth and what it is, and an exploration of that scholarly. Not to preach, not to brainwash, but to truly examine for oneself, how real is this, what does it mean to be real? And so there's a set of things. The second set of things are sort of policy audit, right? Which is in the way we give AP credit, or when we admit graduate students, or the way we hire faculty. Are our policies unintentionally having a disproportionate negative effect on certain groups versus other groups, right? There's an audit and we could go through a whole set of things. And the last thing is, how can we use data to surface such things? As a matter of practice, for example, for the last three years I'm proud to say we do a culture survey, which no other school at Duke did before us, we do that. Every year we capture that. Since I've come here we've done an equity analysis on salary by gender and by rank and all of these kind... So it's just procedures that surfaces data. Because nobody here intentionally is a certain way, you know? Hopefully not. But data sometimes tells you, hey, look, you know? Right here you've never admitted a student of this color or this nature, you know, whatever. Sometimes all of us could be blind to certain things. So the idea is, accountability and data, and how do we do that? And so those will form the core of what we try to do going forward. And we have students very engaged. They're gonna do a special fundraiser, engage with our community here in Durham. So there's several things planned to try to grow in this space and try to make a difference.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. Well, there's no doubt things have been stressful for everybody these last few months. Pandemic, social justice and racism, and the economic situation is very real right now as well. How will Duke help students stay focused, stay resilient, and stay mentally healthy?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, no, you know, this is something actually interestingly, Richard, I've been, and you heard me speak about this, one of the things I'm most excited about as being dean here is a conversation we've been having about our students, and on the question of, what is success? Normally, forget the recent stressors, as serious as they are. What is success? Typically if we asked a student about success, you would get the answer of, "Well, if I get into Harvard Medical School," right? Or, "If I get into Harvard Business School," or, "If I got the McKinsey job," or you know, "If I become an investment banker with this firm," or, "If I'm a consultant with that company," right? So I would get an answer about a professional role that's prestigious, typically. And I'm thinking to myself, "Indeed, indeed that is an important part of success." But I know for my own son I would like success to evolve at a more global level being successful in life and being happy. So if I ask our students the next question, what does it take to be successful in life and what fraction of that is met by a professional success, and is there a gap there? Is this a bigger bucket, if you took a subset, is this a subset of this? And the answer students will say, "Yes." Then if I asked the follow-up question, "What's in that gap between success in life and professional success?" That's the interesting question. And so what we're very interested in in Duke Engineering, we have a collaboration with the Kenan Center for Ethics. One of our parents David Lane was very kind to support us in some of these dimensions. We have a collaboration with Greg Jones in the Divinity School. To ask this idea, we think it has to do with purpose, meaning, and ethics. And in the Lane Family program already we have courses where ethics content is embedded in our AI class or our genetics class and things like this. And the idea is not to make everybody take a ethics class, because I think it's true in everything we do. And similarly, we were asking questions of that. So we have a series of programs called THRIVE, and our advising. So we're reimagining a whole set of things to deal with this idea of student wellbeing and success in a much more global sense. Residential life, advising, curriculum, all acting together to promote this idea of success in life, blending in ethics in this. In this particular instance, so have done all sorts of things. For example, for those of our students who are remote, we vastly expanded counseling services, community things, our E-Team, our students have med teams, we have Pratt Chats which will be a new series, our alumni engage with our students. So we have elements of community and group so you're not alone, right? And combined with this philosophy of building a muscle of reflection about what's really important in life. I think the answer lies in those two things, not just one. So we're doing a lot of things, I know we could talk offline about all of those support services, but there's an overarching theme to them, and the theme is, we would like to build this muscle of reflection. So I'm not chasing something I think is success, but I have some reflection about what that might be for me, right? Again, the trick is to do this without preaching and saying one is better than the other. It's truly about self-reflection and each student coming to their own comfort zone with it.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, no, I like that a lot. Last question for this section. As we look ahead to students' futures and think about, well, internships and job opportunities, and I really like what you just said, that's not the end-all, be-all of happiness-
Ravi Bellamkonda: No, but it's important.
Richard Alfonsi: But it's important, and I think thinking where that fits in the context of overall success. This is kind of a challenging time for that. How is Duke helping with internships, with job placement, et cetera, in a time when the economy is a little bit challenged and it's probably hard to find opportunities?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, we had to scramble already in the spring because several internships were and things. So we've had some incredible things happen. We had Project Phoenix. I mean, we basically found internships that our faculty team, Steve McClelland put together a whole thing to find 200 internships on the fly, our-
Richard Alfonsi: - That's Project Phoenix?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, so it was really incredible the response we had. And so we learned a lot from how to do this. So this year in the fall we typically have something called TechConnect where we connect students to companies, we have 80, 85 companies come. Engineering runs it for Engineering and Computer Science. So that's gonna be virtual. There is still a lot of interest. All the companies that typically come have indicated an interest to do that but virtually distant. The Career Center, we have a fantastic new director, Greg Victory joined us from Tufts. He's creative, deep ties to industry. So we're gonna do the career fair and all the career-centered things also virtually. So I'm confident that, and Duke's network, as you know, as a Duke current and as a Duke alum, we've had our alumni step up big time, too, to provide connections and use their network. So I'm confident that we will be okay on that front actually, that judging from my summer experience which was terrible, you know, it's actually a little bit better now in terms of the conditions. And we found every student who wanted to do a project, we found a way to do it. So judging from that experience, I'm confident that we will be able to not skip a beat here. Now, are there as many positions and opportunities in the world as there were last year? But like any downturn, but who knows if there's a downturn? The stock market doesn't seem to know. So I don't know, so we'll see. And then the Duke students, our brand is very, very strong, you know? There's a certain kind of creative thinking in our students that are very sought after, as you know, the stats generally. So we'll see. If we need to tap into our parent network, our alumni network to make that even better, I certainly will, I will not be shy.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, you shouldn't be shy. I, for one, am happy to help. Well, thank you for this, Ravi. I think as I mentioned at the beginning, we've got about 35 minutes left, and I think it'd be good to transition to the Q&A part where we look at some of the specific questions that parents and family members had submitted beforehand. And just to recap, we got these questions, I think an email went out several days ago. We had nearly 70 questions come back, which is awesome. And I've actually gone through all of 'em, right, to make sure I just did what folks were asking, and to understand the main categories, the main themes that are on everyone's mind. So we won't be able to go through each and every specific question, 'cause time just won't allow that. But I'm gonna do my best to kinda channel the crux of what folks were asking about. And you know, of course, people are still gonna have questions. And I'm sure you're gonna have those questions lingering. And at the end, I think we're gonna share some resources and some places, contacts to be able to get those questions answered. And I know people are already tapped in to a lot of these sources. We wanna make sure folks have access to that as well. So with that, I think I'll start with a couple of the areas here. The first is around, well, around COVID-19. I think about 1/3 of the questions we got were understandably around the COVID-19. But they're around testing and around quarantine procedures. So why don't we start with testing? You mentioned in earlier part of the discussion, and as folks probably know, every student's gonna be tested when they get to campus. After that initial coronavirus test, when they get back to campus, what can they expect for ongoing proactive testing across this semester?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, so again, should conditions change, we may change the plan, but the plan as I understand it now is everybody gets tested so there's a baseline. We expect some tests to be positive then. So we have set aside special beds on East Campus and there's a large associated health system. We have 250 or 300 beds set aside for quarantine. So again, I don't know of any other place that has planned for such an eventuality to this level. Another large university I was talking to apparently has set aside six beds, you know, so something like that. I mean, we have the luxury, I'm not making, this is a serious issue. So there is that. I'll come back to the quarantine thing in a second. There is an app that every student, and this is part of the COVID Compact. So I think the broad categories are, before I go into testing, is prevention, survey, so knowing if somebody is sick, so somebody is monitoring, right? And testing is one of them. There's a whole bunch of other ways, because the symptoms of an itchy throat or a slight temperature, there's an app that I used, I'm in my office right now, I use to come in here. You have to because the minute you swipe a Duke facility and you haven't signed in and done your symptom monitoring, somebody gets an email. If I hadn't done the app, I would get an email tonight saying, "Hey, you went to campus and," you know?
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, no, that symptom tracking app is live now, right?
Ravi Bellamkonda: It's live now, yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's very easy to do. It takes five seconds. It asks you very simple questions. The first time it asks you a little bit more, and then it's really, really simple. And it's live. You just do it on your phone. And we cross-check it to swipes and being on campus. So there's a lot of things about PPE, there's distancing, masks that we will distribute, we have a lot of Duke masks with the Duke logos on them and all that stuff. And then the testing part as you said, for graduate students and undergraduate students are tested. Now, note that a lot of the faculty research labs have already been open, so a lot of them, they won't be tested as well as the PhD students. But every new student who's coming to campus from outside is gonna be tested. And then there's two kinds of testing after. One is symptom-based testing. So if a student has an itchy throat, a slight temperature, automatically you're tested. And then there's surveillance testing, which we are still putting in place, which is pooled surveillance testing. So the idea is, randomly a faculty member, staff member, somebody could say, hey, you know? We're still figuring out how you're picked for the pooling. But there's gonna be some surveillance testing in place about four weeks from now. It's not finalized yet, so I couldn't give you too much accurate details about how that's going to work. But the symptom-based has been, by the way, about 18,000 Duke Health employees have been coming in every day all through. And so we have some experience with testing and contact tracing, and so we have, I don't know how many number of contact tracers. If there is a positive test, how do you do contact tracing and quarantining and things like that? So we've had some experience with this because almost all of our research labs are open already. We've had about eight weeks of experience with that. And Duke Health has been open already right here with 18,000 employees. And the last time I spoke with the chancellor and our folks, there have been some cases in Duke Health, but none of them are transmission in the hospital. Some are in the community, came into the hospital, and they were positive. But very low numbers. So we're confident that we have the things in place to prevent transmission on campus. We'll see with students and things. And to some degree at the end of the day, we debated a lot between how prescriptive we should be with our students, right? Can you go for a run? Can you have five of your friends in your room, right? So there's practical questions to ask. And what we've said is that, you know, use your judgment where possible. We have a responsibility that's collective. And we have said, the North Carolina rules are no more than 10 gathered indoors, all these things, and we've shared that data. But generally speaking, if you're outside of your room, you need to have a mask on. Our gyms will open or not based on North Carolina guidelines. But they're not open, but they may. Public spaces, you know, if you're outside walking around, I walk around right now, there's people with masks. In your room, you don't have to have a mask, obviously. And so we will, I'm sure there's situations I haven't thought of, but in general there's a plan to give students, not to be police and Big Brother, there's some responsibility each of our students will have. But generally there's a feeling that this is a collective responsibility. This is, I'm careful because I don't want to infect you. It's not about me being okay or not, right? And that's the spirit of the orientation we're trying to do and the sensitization, that's the spirit of the COVID Compact that they're signing. And every member has to sign it. We have took the controversial decision, and I know it will be controversial with some of our parents, that if you're gonna be on campus you have to take a flu shot by November 10th. There was a lot of debate on this. Yes, there is a religious exemption. But other than that, you know, it is controversial. I know not everybody believes in getting a flu shot. But we just felt like things like that we had to do for all the faculty and staff. They will have to take a flu shot by November 10th. Yeah, so we're doing our best.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, that makes sense. And you had mentioned, well, the beds that have been set aside I think on East Campus and a few other places. If folks do test positive, what does that quarantine and the medical care look like for students? And then you relate to that, what is contact tracing and the followup look like, you know, based on the people those folks have been in contact with? How would you kind of see that coming together?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, I think I have not done the contact tracing training myself. But I hear there's a first layer, second layer, third layer, there's three layers to this. And so there's trained folks who will interview and backtrack the person who tested positive and contact those individuals, keeping privacy in mind and all of that. We can't broadcast it to everybody saying, "Hey, somebody in EGR 101 is positive." We can't say the person's name. So we will act responsibly to have the first layer, second layer, third layer, and to identify who those individuals might be and contact them and ask them to quarantine or get tested and things like this. The quarantine itself, if somebody tests positive, we will, we have experience with this already this summer. As I told you, starting with the students that came back from Israel, none of them were hospitalized, by the way. Not a single student whose been infected so far in our community has been hospitalized, which is good.
Richard Alfonsi: That is good.
Ravi Bellamkonda: We've tried very hard to take care of them. Meals were delivered, and that'll be the case, meals will be delivered. People will constantly be in touch with them. There's telehealth services that they'll be in touch with every day. Symptom monitoring for any signs of things worsening. So that part we will do well. This is one of the advantages of having an unbelievable healthcare system right here nextdoor across the street. And one which has experience with this. So I'm confident that part we will do well.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, makes sense. We go back to the corpus of parent questions, we had probably a dozen questions broadly about campus life and what it's really gonna look like. And you touched on some of these things, but you know, a bit more color-rounded. You know, for example, how will the food service and cafes work? Will commons rooms and dorms be open? You know, you talked about gyms a little bit, are gyms and exercise facilities gonna be open? What can you share about how campus life is shaping up? We know it's gonna be different. We know you can't even know what you don't know. But from what you've seen so far, how would you describe those things?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, so we're gonna have, the library's going to be open. Some of the common spaces is going to be open. But every room, again, was surveyed for seating spaces so that they're distanced and all of that. So there's some unbelievable pictures of chairs far apart in rooms that normally students would be huddled when we're doing stuff. So all the common spaces that I know are open to first-years and second-years. If there are juniors and seniors living off campus, then those spaces are open if you need them for class but not just to hang out. So we are really trying to get the de-densification. But if a junior or senior needs a book or something for class, they absolutely have access to the library and things. What they don't have access to if you're living off campus and you're a junior or senior is dining, gyms, and those kinds of facilities. But because those are reserved for our first-year and second-year. My understanding of how that's gonna work is, there's an app that you can order your food and you can do contactless pickup of your food. The dining facilities Brodhead Center will have some indoor seating but we've vastly reduced density, lot of outdoor seating. And a lot of food trucks apparently are going to be around, so people can outdoors.
Richard Alfonsi: And those would all serve both students living on campus and ones who are living off campus?
Ravi Bellamkonda: Well, that's the difficult question. The priority is for the on-campus students to access all of those food things. Because the off-campus students, a lot of them are on 9th Street, there's a bunch of eateries there. If the capacity allows, I believe, 'cause there's no real way to check, I think, who's what. But I suspect what will be the case is there's no doubt that the intent is to give priority for the on-campus students, our first and second-years for all of these services. Now, if there's capacity and, we'll see. We don't know actually how many juniors and seniors. We have some estimates we're just seeing are actually going to be off campus here. Fortunately, financial aid covers off campus in apartments.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, you mentioned that. Yeah.
Ravi Bellamkonda: That's an important factor for some families. But I don't know, I don't have a good estimate yet of how many students are choosing to come to Durham and live off campus. But the idea is not to be, the idea is to stay true to the principle of de-densifying the campus, right? There's no point in everybody being on campus and hanging out, and you know? Although housing is a big deal.
Richard Alfonsi: They're off campus.
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, but at the same time we don't wanna be punitive. If somebody's here and they wanna do research in my lab and there's room, I'm going to to allow that, right? So we're trying to strike a balance. And the balance right now is recreation facilities, dining facilities are not accessible for off-campus folks. But student health, counseling, all of those are accessible, obviously, right? Obviously.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, makes sense. Well, one specific question, I think it's a good followup to these questions about campus life, and probably most relevant for first-years. One parent writes, "I'm concerned that my student might feel isolated given the lower density residency options," most folks are gonna be in a single, "and fewer opportunities for socializing. What's being done to address this?"
Ravi Bellamkonda: Yeah, we are very mindful. Mary Pat, I don't know how many of you know Mary Pat, our student affairs dean, she also came to us last year. She's incredible, by the way, if you haven't met her. So her whole team has all sorts of activities planned to precisely not have that happen and build community. The whole point of us as Duke taking the step of inviting our students back is for community, I'm telling you. It's a big part of their wellbeing. And so it would be antithetical for us not to allow for that. So I'm confident that that won't be the case. I mean, in engineering itself, we have something called E-Team, and Peter knows this, E-Team is gonna be extra active this year than last year. They have all sorts of events planned. Student identity groups are active. We are hoping, I had a conversation yesterday with Student Services, our Electric Vehicles team and these kinds of teams, we are hoping they'll have access to spaces after the two-week period. It's not officially announced yet, but I'm hoping to announce that by the end of this month that our motor clubs, our extracurricular stuff, it's also is a big part of community. All the extracurricular things will be active. Whether they can meet physically under supervision and reduced density, we are trying our best to make that possible also. And that announcement will come out in a couple of weeks.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, makes sense. Another question one parent writes, "How is Pratt focusing resources, students, faculty, identifying leverage, engineering solutions towards the pandemic, specifically around COVID-19?" And maybe you could broaden that to not just Pratt but the university. You mentioned vaccine research, maybe there's stuff going on with respect to testing, too. How is Duke innovating around COVID-19, the coronavirus?
Ravi Bellamkonda: That's right. So yes, I mean, so there is a lot of Duke research. In fact, immunology, immune engineering is one of Duke's strengths. If you think about the immune system, I'm a biomedical engineer, so if you'll indulge a little bit of geekiness from me in this one, I remember how the answer used to be plastics, you know? Plastics is everything. I feel in medicine right now-
Richard Alfonsi: The future, plastic's the future.
Ravi Bellamkonda: So immunology is that, because it impacts infectious disease, it impacts cancer, it impacts autoimmune disease, and it impacts regenerative medicine, are they believed to heal or not has to do with inflammation and how it's controlled. So we're learning more and more, and there's amazing research on all four of those areas at Duke, including in Pratt. So including new tests that we've developed for Ebola that people are adapting. Apps, so there's a whole bunch of things in that category. But there's another part that I'm very, very proud of that students will enroll and I'll allude to that. So when this first happened, we were inundated in various part of Pratt by clinical colleagues calling in saying, "Hey, I don't have this. Could you make me that?" Or, "I have this need." Because it not a very organized thing, because people were showing up and they were reacting. And they called somebody they knew or played tennis with or something. And we were getting a bunch of calls. So we quickly put together, I remember a Saturday afternoon being on the call with my team, we put together a team of what I call dream design scientists and engineers. I call it the COVID Response team. It was not a very creative name, but that it was it was. COVID Response team in engineering.
Richard Alfonsi: It was practical.
Ravi Bellamkonda: And we had an engineering dashboard where we had intake of every request that got prioritized, assigned to a team, followup, and every week we got progress on each of those projects. And so the idea was this team would work on things that the hospital actually needed and not imagined things that we thought maybe they need, like face masks and things, because they had face masks. They needed respiration things. They needed tents for isolating a patient by themselves in a room that is open. So they had all sorts of requirements. Pratt and students have been engaged. So this team interestingly was built not for this purpose, obviously, it was built with our design thinking and designed that on the educational space. But then the capacity in Pratt exists that it was then deployed for this. And so students have worked on this all summer long, speaking about virtual. The Innovation Co-Lab was open, printed, I don't know, hundreds or thousands of different devices. Patents have come out. We have shared opensource some of these things with other places that wanted things. So a whole series of innovations have happened out of this and I'm very, very proud, driven from the Engineering School. And the capacity we built originally with teaching in mind that was then deployed. And because of the teaching and the philosophy, the people we recruited like Eric Richardson and others had industry experience because the whole idea of authentic problem-solving was that I wanted people here with PhDs teaching our students who had experience in industry teaching this kind of content to the problem-solving I alluded to earlier. So that readily came about, because they knew exactly how to handle a project, how to set up a dashboard, not make it into a five-year research grant, but actually have it deliverable. So it's been incredible, actually, to see that response.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, that's great, that's great. Well, I guess last question that I'll bring in from the parents, one specifically asked, "I really enjoyed being part of PTA at my student's high school. What are different ways parents get engaged with Duke Engineering?"
Ravi Bellamkonda: There are many, many ways. I think you'll see a slide. If you have any questions, we have our team who can give you many ways. Richard, you've engaged with us in a very deep way, both as a parent, as a board member. Certainly there's service like that. You can speak to our students anytime, as I said, out of a deep interest, if you have expertise in a certain industry you're part of, I like my students to imagine different futures, and there's nothing like speaking to some of you to actually know what that is because people have imaginations of what that is, but don't actually know every day what that involves. You could mentor our students either by geography or by interest. You can come hire our students for internships and things. I would very much love that. And I guarantee you, you will not be disappointed. That has never been the case. And you'll want more once you hire one. And so there are many, many ways to engage. And you may have ideas on how you might want to engage. You may want, if you're in a company, want to work with a team of our design students and sponsor a project for them to work on. And your engineers and employees will get to interact with some very bright, creative students. And they always it to be a very rewarding experience. Plus, they get something out of it. So there are many ways to do this. And I will welcome any of those ways.
Richard Alfonsi: Yeah, I mean, I just echo what you said. I mean, I personally really enjoy staying connected to the university since I was there myself. But in the last few years, I think really getting reconnected and thinking about service. I mean, joining the board is one thing, but being able to talk to students and just having informal conversations. Wouldn't call it exactly a mentor relationship, but just to be able to talk to them about my own career path and let them ask questions as they're thinking about the path they want to pursue. I do think tapping into the, well, parents as well as alumni for internship ideas, project ideas, I think there could be projects you could bring to the table for the Engineering 101 class, it could be fascinating as well. So I think there are a lot of ways that parents get involved. And it's my own experience, it's rewarding, right? It's fun just to-
Ravi Bellamkonda: And there's one other way I will say and that is the Annual Fund. And I know you've already said it's a tough time for many of our parents. But I will tell you this whole design thing that we've talked about wouldn't be possible, or our response in the spring, and I'm really addressing those who have helped us in the past and not asking for support here. I'm deeply appreciative of those of you who have helped us in the Annual Fund. I know many of you are watching this now. It truly made a difference in us getting this whole design project off the ground, finding the space for it, hiring the instructors, this dream team I talked to you about, and in helping our students when suddenly internships disappear, we paid for some of those at other companies, but the company didn't have the budget for it because it was sudden. So we really stepped up to use it to help our students and enrich their experience. And a lot of that is parents, Duke parents, who are not even parents now, some parents from before continue to support the school. I'll tell you, I have been here, Richard, as you said for about four years, and in every university there's a tight community, but there is something remarkable about Duke and Duke's family that I know many of you who are first-time parents will experience this yourself if you haven't already in whatever social media groups you're part of. There is a tight-knit sense of helping each other, positively too, in terms of networking and things like this, and also at times of need that, I have been at very good places, I've been at Brown, MIT, other universities. There is some special fabric that once you touch Duke in a real, meaningful way, and I'm forever a part of it as a Duke parent, as an administrator, I think I'm all my life I'll be a Dukie. And there's something special. And Peter, you should speak to this, you're a grad from here. There's something, I just want to convey my gratitude on behalf of our students now, on behalf our staff and faculty, that's just wonderful to be a part of, especially at a time that's stressful like this, to know that you're part of a network that will try to do the right thing, will be informed by certain values, and also try to help each other out, you know? And also I'll tell you the last thing about Duke that's interesting and which is why our students love being here is, it's not a competitive environment. Those of you who are first-year parents coming in, and I know some of these other places, I'm in advisory boards at many places, the Duke students help each other out. That is their first instinct. They help each other out. It's not a competitive, you and me competing for that other resource kind of thing at all, you know? And it's so, and it had nothing to do with me, it's just the culture of the place that's so wonderful to see. So I'm, that's a long thank-you, I guess.
Richard Alfonsi: I will say, I mean, looking at it as an alum, I feel like the Duke family is strong and there is something special about it. I'm sure all schools have some sense of connection. For folks who are basketball fans, they call the basketball team The Brotherhood. And yeah, when you're part of that, it's with you for the rest of your life, even if you only stayed for one or two years. But there's something about that family nature that is totally true about the entire university. It's not just a basketball thing. And I think there is a sense of collaboration and this sense of teamwork and trying to help each other that I found in the last, well, 30 years now, which is hard to talk about. But that's reality. That's why I have this gray hair.
Ravi Bellamkonda: We're proud of you, Richard. We are.
Richard Alfonsi: That's right, that's right. Well, listen, thank you, Ravi. I think as we wrap up this section on the Q&A, I know I suggested that there be, we'd flash up some links and resources. And Nick, I think maybe that's, yeah, here we go. Folks can just see, we can get more information, and I'm sure there's way to contact folks as well. You can see some of the smiling faces here, too, of people that can help. Because look, I know we, I'm not gonna pretend that we covered the breadth of questions that are on people's minds. And I suspect, it's a moving target, 'cause even since we asked for questions, I'm sure a lot of other information has come out that spawned new questions. So don't be bashful. I mean, make sure that if you have questions, use these resources, use the other resources you've seen to be able to make sure you're comfortable. 'Cause that's ultimately, I think, the goal here is we're all gonna have to work together on this, and hopefully that will just give you all the information you need to make the right decisions and to feel good about those decisions. So with that, Ravi, I don't know, I want to turn it over to you, maybe say a few kind of closing things, then I'll wrap it up.
Ravi Bellamkonda: No, Richard, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this. It's been a pleasure working with you on the board, and you exemplify many of things that I want for our students who are entering Duke now and in the future. So I'm deeply appreciative of your taking the time on your busy schedule to do this, and all our parents who have taken the time to tune in. I hope I've answered or reassured you to some degree the questions you've had. And you will have other questions and the conditions will change, and some of you may have specific things particular to your own child. And if that's the case, just drop me a note, drop one of our undergraduate deans a note and we will get back to you. We will do, one thing I can tell you, all we can to look at safety, use the science to do this, look at student wellbeing, optimize their learning experience, make sure they're progressing towards graduation, opportunities to connect with folks, have a community. So this is what we're trying to do. If you have ideas on how we could do it better or differently, let us know. We will probably have thought about it, but if we haven't, I'd be happy to consider it. And all of Duke is this way, not just the Engineering School. All of Duke is trying to do the right thing here. And we've been working nonstop to prepare for this day and the semester opening. And I'm confident it'll be a fantastic experience, actually. It'll be different, no doubt about it, but it will still be a Duke experience in many, many, many ways. So it is a little bit of an adventure. But we will not compromise on the safety aspect. So I appreciate your trust in Duke, your willingness to engage. And the last thing I'll say, especially for the new parents, and I mentioned this before, and for all our parents, as a parent myself, I know it takes a lot of effort before we get to this point to be a Duke parent, right? I mean, from sports lessons, to camps, to driving people around, to, you know? And as a dad, maybe I'm getting a little sentimental, but you know, it's tough to watch our children go off to college and be away from us, especially when there's a safety thing lurking. But they're in good hands with Duke, generally speaking. And Duke absolutely tries to do the right thing, I promise, by our students, and both in terms of their wellbeing and their learning experience. And I urge some patience on your part. We're in this together as, Richard, you said. And let's work on this. When there is a challenge, that's when we have an opportunity to figure out who we are and how we'll respond. As in the COVID Response team, we did. And these are challenging times in multiple ways. And I'm confident in Duke's ability to respond as a community, all of us together. And we will let that play out. So, thank you, Richard.
Richard Alfonsi: Well, thank you, Ravi. Thank you for spending the time with us here and thanks for all you do for Duke. And a huge thank-you to all of the parents and family members who made the time to join us here. I hope it was a helpful start to some of these questions. And look, I think to echo some of the stuff that Ravi said, I think despite all the craziness that 2020 has thrown at us, and there's certainly more craziness here in the next few months, it's an exciting time to be a Duke student and to be a Duke engineering student in particular. I think it's gonna take resiliency and flexibility for both students and parents, right, to power through this and to work through those challenges. But as I said, this journey's gonna be an interesting one. I'm sure together we can make it successful. So with that-
Ravi Bellamkonda: And all things, all the things, Richard, if I may add, all the things that made Duke attractive to begin with are still true.
Richard Alfonsi: 100%.
Ravi Bellamkonda: Amazing research. Amazing education. Amazing community spirit are all true. We have a trying time the next six months to eight months. But let's not forget in the arc of time that all the things that make Duke special are still true. I apologize for interjecting there.
Richard Alfonsi: No, I think that's, I couldn't have said it better. I think that's totally right. And that's a good place to end. So wanted to say good evening, everyone. Stay safe out there. And wishing all the best to you guys and your families as you get started this semester. Thanks a lot.
Ravi Bellamkonda: Thank you, Richard. Thank you, everybody. Have a wonderful and safe time.