In the midst of enormous uncertainty brought about by the global pandemic, one thing is crystal clear — Duke is open and committed to undergraduate teaching and learning as our core mission and to providing educational excellence for all students, wherever they are. We are steadfast in our resolve to educating the whole person — mind, body and spirit — and we must do so in ways that keep our entire community healthy and safe.
To this end, we made the difficult decision to reduce on-campus housing to under 50% capacity this fall, develop robust, online versions for most undergraduate courses, and enact comprehensive, multi-layer safety measures. Spaces throughout campus — residence halls, classrooms, libraries, and research labs — were evaluated and reconfigured to reduce density and allow for distancing. Unprecedented ongoing COVID-19 testing and symptom monitoring protocols were implemented. Faculty, with help from campus experts in teaching and learning innovation, have been working since March to refine, retool and reset their teaching. Research has continued, with modifications to protect the safety of faculty and research staff, while maintaining progress to important path-breaking results, outcomes and discoveries.
In the Pratt School of Engineering, for example, faculty teaching “hands-on” courses shipped lab kits and supplies to students learning remotely so that they could engage in projects from home. Others set up 3D printers in their own homes so students could send in their design projects to be custom-printed. This fall, faculty expanded the school’s new “Thrive” program to all first-year students in a virtual format so everyone has a chance to connect with their new classmates and learn skills for resilience and success both in academics and in life. And some undergraduates have even contributed to the research and design efforts of Duke’s COVID-19 Engineering Response Team, which engineers PPE and other solutions to keep Duke Health caregivers and patients safe during the pandemic.
With the rapidly evolving circumstances and significant changes we have made, I cannot overstate how critical Annual Fund support has been to make these shifts possible. The generosity of donors like you allows our schools to be nimble and respond to the immediate needs of our students, faculty and staff. When you donate to the Annual Fund, you also support one of Duke’s highest priorities: financial aid. Given the economic strains caused by the pandemic, to students and their families, we anticipate the need for financial aid to substantially increase in the coming year.
Now more than ever, we need alumni and parents to partner with us as we support the most indispensable members of the Duke community—our students. I invite you to join me in donating to the Duke Annual Fund. We know we can be successful and resilient in these times of extreme uncertainty, but only when we all come together as one Duke community.
Thank you for all you do.
Sally A. Kornbluth, Ph.D
Provost, Duke University
P.S. Students need a variety of support right now. If you would like to help in other ways, please visit: https://giving.duke.edu/support-students-during-covid-19.