From the President

There’s a uniqueness to Duke, and the impact it helps to shape, that is almost indescribable. The place, the people, the programs all work together to create not only great minds but great originality. The cross-pollination of ideas and the pursuit of self through different disciplines help every student, educator, and researcher evolve with a personal trajectory for success. Their achievements and shared discoveries move Duke forward—and help Duke move the world forward.

This collective impact has been possible thanks to the generosity and vision of our supporters. Your help has propelled our rise to the very top tier of universities. It has allowed us to attract some of the world’s finest faculty, build first-rate facilities, and launch model inter­disciplinary institutes and global partnerships. We have opened the minds of a new generation of students—passionate world citizens who push humanity forward and blaze new paths in both research and education.

And yet, as quickly as we have risen to exceed expectations for today’s university, the world has grown vastly more interconnected. In ways that few people appreciated fifteen years ago, the Earth’s seven billion people now feel the pressures and the opportunities of sharing the planet ever more acutely. These changes have vast implications for everything from energy and the environment, to health and nutrition, to politics and peace. And, of course, for the university.

The University of the Future

For centuries, universities have made an unparalleled contribution to the expansion of knowledge and development of human potential. From health care to information technology to capital markets, university research has driven virtually every major innovation in the world, and universities have trained virtually every leader in every sector.

As information becomes more voluminous, accessible, and free, the role of the university grows even more important. While society presents a nearly infinite number of opportunities for people to learn, the university remains the primary setting where people learn together—vastly enriching the contributions that any scholar, scientist, engineer, or entrepreneur could make alone.

But we cannot be satisfied with methods of teaching, or learning, that were born out of different needs and different realities. In a world where technology is reshaping the very definitions of communication, education, and knowledge, universities must adapt, preserving the best of our traditions but also transform­ing inherited approaches to education and research to meet today’s challenges.

The university of the future will be defined as much by collaboration as it is by individual accomplishment, and as much by the opportunity to engage with problems as it is by the accumulation of knowledge. Deeply con­structive partnerships across areas of expertise, between researchers and practitioners, and among students and faculty of diverse perspectives must be the norm rather than the exception.

In such an environment, the walls are low and the aspirations high, the solutions nimble and the breakthroughs profound. 

Our Time

Once upon a time, Duke was the new kid on the block. We lacked the heritage, the resources, and the unlimited self-assurance of many of our peer institutions. But because of our relative youth and flexibility, we devel­oped a culture of collaboration and teamwork that presaged the kind of connections today’s complex challenges require. While other universities were building disciplinary strength bounded by high walls, Duke was drawing together its most creative thinkers to breach such boundaries. Through partnerships between engineering and medicine, we advanced the frontier of biomedical engineering. To better facilitate the connection of theory with practical and policy applica­tions, we elevated our already outstanding Sanford Institute of Public Policy to Duke’s 10th school.

In striving for its own kind of greatness, Duke has not only risen to top spots in the rankings of U.S. undergraduate, medical, law, public policy, nursing, and business programs—and among world universities generally—but has become a place of enterprising agility. Duke is the kind of place that both helps to map the human genome and wins basketball championships. We graduate captains of industry, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists, and pioneers in global health. And now, ours are the traits required for 21st-century problem-solving. Duke is poised to lead higher education into the future.

Our Opportunity

For a top university in an evolving world, the need for advancement never stops. Not long ago, students could envision a fairly well-defined range of professions. Today, our graduates may change careers several times. They may have to work in different nations and cultural contexts, with partners trained in different skills and disciplines.

Duke has been preparing for decades for the complex challenges now before us. Before anyone knew just how interconnected the world would be, Duke was intertwining disciplines, learning methods, and people—because we believed that was the path to a world-class university. Now the world’s needs and Duke’s strengths intersect. This is our time.

We would never have achieved such growth and development were it not for our own supporters’ demon­strations of collaboration and teamwork. Investments 10, 20, and 50 years ago enabled Duke to be the institution it is today. Now we must keep advancing. The challenges of our era are too significant to ignore, and Duke’s capacity to address them is too promising to withhold.

How We Can Move Forward

Our campaign aims to capitalize on the special history and culture Duke has developed to train the leaders our future requires: bold thinkers and problem-solvers who are adaptable to rapid change and engaged with the complex issues facing society. By focusing our investment and expansion in three areas—enriching the Duke experience, activating Duke’s power for the world, and sustaining Duke’s momentum—we can give Duke’s talented students, faculty, and medical practitioners opportunities to advance ideas, make new connections, and move the world forward.

Richard H. Brodhead, President