Our History at Duke

NOTE: This history represents selected initiatives and is not meant to be a comprehensive history of civic engagement at Duke.

2017:  Duke Service-Learning enters its second decade with the theme “building collective impact through student development and ethical community engagement."

2008: The Office of Service-Learning is administratively housed within Duke’s Program in Education. Today it is called simply Duke Service-Learning.

2006: Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Bob Thompson creates the Office of Service-Learning and names David Malone as Faculty Director. A working group develops procedures and guidelines for labeling service-learning courses in Duke’s registration system.

2002: Duke is awarded significant funding to support service-learning through a federal FIPSE grant. “Scholarship with a Civic Mission,” created by Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Bob Thompson, Hart Leadership Program Director Alma Blount, and Kenan Ethics Program Director Elizabeth Kiss, is designed to foster research service-learning, a form of community-based research, at Duke.

2000: The Kenan Ethics Program begins publishing The Source, a biannual publication that lists all service-learning courses and contains essays on civic engagement.

1999: The Dean's Advisory Committee adopts a formal definition for service-learning at Duke.

1998: Duke's Program in Education creates Partners for Success, a program placing Education service-learning students as tutors in Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership schools.

1997: Dean of Arts and Sciences William Chafe names Betsy Alden ’64 as Duke’s first service-learning coordinator, housing the position within the Kenan Ethics Program. Chafe creates the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Service-Learning and charges the committee with infusing civic engagement into the undergraduate curriculum. The Committee begins sponsoring professional development opportunities for faculty.

1995: Duke sophomores Glenn Gutterman and Dan Kessler create LEAPS (Learning through Experience, Action, Partnership and Service), a student group that advocates strongly for service-learning courses and infusing civic engagement into the curriculum. “Break for A Change,” an alternative spring break program, offers service-learning opportunities in conjunction with student-led “house courses.”

Mid 1990s: Duke’s Community Service Center begins publishing Community Change, a biannual publication which lists more than 50 undergraduate Duke courses with a service orientation.

1990: Robert Coles (author of The Call of Service and noted civil rights leader) teaches at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies and advocates infusing service into the curriculum.

Late 1980s: Duke faculty members who teach service-learning courses begin brown bag lunch meetings to share ideas. The Hart Leadership Program, founded within the Sanford Institute of Public Policy, offers Service Opportunities in Leadership and other experiential learning opportunities.

1974: Professor Sheridan Johns (Political Science) teaches Duke's first "service-learning" course, Perspectives on Food and World Hunger, in the wake of the 1973-74 famine in Ethiopia.

Mid 1960s: The term service-learning begins to appear in the educational literature, made popular in part by Robert L. Sigmon, a 1957 Duke graduate.

1924:  James B. Duke's founding indenture for Duke University directed the members of the university to pursue "those areas of teaching and scholarship that would most help to develop our resources, increase our wisdom, and promote human happiness. To these ends, the mission of Duke University is to provide a superior liberal education to undergraduate students, attending not only to their intellectual growth but also to their development as adults committed to high ethical standards and full participation as leaders in their communities; to prepare future members of the learned professions for lives of skilled and ethical service."