How we engage at Duke

Duke was instrumental in the creation of the American Tobacco Campus, which now attracts many companies to Durham.

We hope that Duke’s Civic Engagement website can be a resource for everyone in the Duke community – students, faculty, staff, and alumni – as well as for prospective students and others from outside Duke who want to learn more about how Duke engages.

We have broken Duke’s engagement into five “actions”: serve, innovate, advocate, research, and develop. Community service or volunteerism is the largest category, with many opportunities for Duke to engage in the community through curricular or co-curricular activities. For example, the Service Learning program allows students to connect their academic activities to meaningful volunteer service. The communities served are not necessarily local, with programs such as DukeEngage and the Alternative Breaks Program sending students, faculty, and staff around the country and the world.

Social innovation and entrepreneurship is the creation of new ideas and technologies to help ameliorate societal issues. Duke was home to the late Professor Gregory Dees, who was widely regarded as a pioneer in the field. Professor Dees was cofounder of Duke’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), which is housed in the Fuqua School of Business. Today, Duke has a number of social innovation and entrepreneurship programs. Many of these programs include strong curricular connections, and they encourage not just the creation of ideas but also collaboration, integration with existing entities, and project sustainability.

The third category, advocacy, is not always political, although Duke’s location – close to the capital of North Carolina and only a few hours’ drive from Washington, D.C. – enables interested students to become immersed in state and national policy issues. However, advocacy includes any cause-based action to promote social or community interests. Duke’s Women’s Center is an example of an office that provides advocacy opportunities.

Every school at Duke has faculty who participate in engaged research. Depending on the field of study, this type of research has many names: translational research, public scholarship, strategic scholarship, applied research, community outreach, and many others. The Forum for Scholars and Publics is a Duke program that seeks to connect scholarly research with external communities. By working with faculty who practice engaged research, students are able to leverage the academic rigor and excellence of a Duke education to create positive societal change.

The final category is community development. This topic acknowledges Duke’s inexorable role in shaping the physical landscape of its hometown, Durham, as well as the surrounding region and state. The university was a key partner in the creation, in 1959, of the Research Triangle Park, which now houses some of the largest corporations in the U.S. In the last decade, Duke has been instrumental in the redevelopment of downtown Durham, including the incredibly successful American Tobacco Campus. Duke also participates in neighborhood development on a physically smaller scale, through initiatives such as the Southside Housing Incentive Program. Through this program, Duke has partnered with the city of Durham and several nonprofits to work in the Southside neighborhood to redevelop houses, the first batch of which will be sold at affordable prices to qualifying Duke staff.

In addition to those five categories, we have classified courses and student activities into five topic areas: Education, Peace and Human Rights, Environment and Climate Change, Poverty Alleviation, and Global Health. These may be accessed through the “Explore” item on our website’s navigation bar.

Among Duke’s abundance of civic engagement opportunities, the DOCE exists to help the community navigate these opportunities, foster thoughtful conversations about Duke’s impact in the world, and integrate civic engagement into academics. Duke’s Civic Engagement website serves as a medium for all these goals and a resource for anyone who wants to learn more about how Duke makes a difference in the world.