History of Civic Engagement at Duke

1924: Duke University is indentured. James B. Duke encourages the school to serve “the needs of mankind along physical, mental, and spiritual lines.”

1972:  The Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs is founded. Duke President Terry Sanford establishes what will become, in 2009, the Sanford School of Public Policy. The public policy undergraduate major provides one of the largest civic engagement opportunities for students through the required internship program.

1974:  The first service-learning course is offered. 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.

1986:  The Hart Leadership Program is founded. Since 1987, more than 8,000 Duke undergraduate students have taken Hart Leadership Program courses and participated in experiential-learning programming. Students have worked with hundreds of community partners in North Carolina, across the United States, and around the world. The Hart Leadership Program inspired the launch of several other engagement programs, including the Enterprising Leadership Initiative.

1989:  The Community Service Center opens. Originally part of Student Affairs, and part of the Office of Durham & Regional Affairs since 2011, the Community Service Center facilitates student volunteer placements and is home to the America Reads/America Counts program and the annual Project Share drive.

1990:  Roberts Coles joins the Center for Documentary Studies. The Center for Documentary Studies, founded in 1989 to carry on the tradition of the documentary experience, has a history of activism (such as the Student Action with Farmworkers project). Dr. Robert Coles joined the faculty in 1990, encouraging the integration of service into the curriculum.

1996: The Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership is created with significant support from The Duke Endowment. The DDNP is a partnership between Duke University and the 12 neighborhoods closest to campus, providing community-based services intended to improve quality of life, including health clinics, home ownership initiatives, and rehabilitation projects. The DDNP is now part of the Office of Durham & Regional Affairs.

1996:  The Duke Legal Project begins. The oldest of Duke’s now 10 legal clinics began providing free legal assistance to low-income HIV-infected clients in 1996. Each semester, the fourth-year Law students assist with cases and provide more than 100 hours of free legal services. Other clinics focus on children’s law, civic justice, human rights, and wrongful convictions.

1997:  The first service-learning coordinator is hired. Housed in the Kenan Ethics Program, the creation of the first service-learning coordinator position occurred simultaneously with the creation of the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Service-Learning, which was charged with integrating civic engagement and the undergraduate curriculum.

2001: The Duke Strategic Plan, Building on Excellence, launches. The 2001 strategic plan focused on developing the University’s distinctive “signature in higher education,” with goals related to promoting diversity, extending the global reach and influence of campus, and taking a leadership role in partnerships within the state and around the world. From this point on, civic engagement programs would become a distinguishing attribute of a Duke education.

2002: The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship is established. Professor J. Gregory Dees, widely recognized as the academic pioneer of the field of social entrepreneurship — the pursuit of innovative, sustainable solutions to critical social problems — co-founds CASE at the Fuqua School of Business, leading to a dramatic increase in civic engagement among Duke MBA students. Duke’s diverse efforts in social entrepreneurship lead to recognition as an Ashoka Changemaker campus in 2012.

2003:  The Duke Chapel PathWays Student Ministry begins. The PathWays program, which currently includes Chapel Scholars, summer internships, a year-long fellowship, and mission trips, among other programs, provides students with an opportunity to put their faith into the context of community and service.

2004:  The 2003-2004 Community Engagement Inventory at Duke is released. The report listed the ongoing academic and extracurricular projects on campus that provided service to Durham and Duke University. The report catalogued nearly 100 community partnerships, student groups, and courses available as direct service opportunities, resulting in nearly 300 partnerships.

2004:  Richard Brodhead is inaugurated as President of Duke University. President Brodhead’s address emphasizes the role of interdisciplinary, real-world focused learning. Under his tenure, several new civic engagement efforts are started and several existing efforts are amplified.

2006: The Duke Strategic Plan, Making a Difference, launches. Making a Difference emphasized interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society. Specifically, the plan called for creating a campus culture of service that would be beneficial to many communities — campus, local and global — and expanding opportunities for knowledge to be applied in beneficial, society-focused contexts. To that end, the plan engaged the University in real-world issues and developed in undergraduates a commitment to difference making.

2006: The Office of Service-Learning is created. Now Duke Service-Learning, the Office of Service-Learning, which oversees some 75 classes annually, is officially created and establishes procedures and guidelines for designating courses. In 2008, the Office of Service-Learning is housed in the Program in Education.

2006:  The Duke Global Health Institute is established. DGHI was established as a University-wide institute to coordinate, support and implement Duke’s interdisciplinary research, education, and service activities related to global health. DGHI is committed to developing and employing new models of education and research that engage international partners and find innovative solutions to global health challenges.

2007:  The Center for Civic Engagement, currently Office of Civic of Engagement, opens. The Duke Office of Civic Engagement incubates, coordinates, and amplifies the various ways that students, faculty, and staff work to make a difference in the civic life of our communities. Serving as the hub for civic engagement activities across campus, the Office supports Duke’s collaborations with communities on pressing social challenges. Such collaborations may be through student social entrepreneurship, as with the partnership with Clinton Global Initiative U that began in 2012, the 2013-2014 Civic Studios initiative, or the Engaged Faculty Fellowship, a 2015 initiative to provide financial support for Durham-focused community-based research projects.

2007:  The inaugural summer of DukeEngage. Beginning with a pilot summer of 89 students in five communities and two initial endowments from The Duke Endowment and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, DukeEngage has matured into a robust undergraduate program that has placed more than 3,200 students in more than 69 countries and 19 U.S. cities. In the summer of 2015, DukeEngage students celebrated the program’s one millionth hour of service.

2008:  The Carnegie Foundation classifies Duke as a “community-engaged institution.” The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching grants Duke classification as a “community-engaged institution” based on evidence of Duke’s involvement in communities, promoting scholarship, teaching, and learning that emphasizes and benefits the community as part of a strong civic mission.

2008:  The Duke Partnership for Service is formally founded. The Duke Partnership for Service (DPS) is the governance organization for student service and social action groups. DPS works to connect those organizations to each other and to connect students to service opportunities that are meaningful and appropriate to their passions and interests.

2008:  The Office of Durham and Regional Affairs is formed. The Board of Trustees creates DARA to expand and deepen university engagement with local governments, schools, neighborhoods, and nonprofits. Dr. Phail Wynn served as the first Vice President and Dr. Stelphanie Williams is the current Vice President. In 2010, DARA begins the Doing Good in the Neighborhoodemployee giving campaign, which raises more than $600,000 for local organizations in 2013-2014.

2008:  Duke is placed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The Corporation for National and Community Service recognizes Duke’s commitment to community service and its exemplary, innovative and effective community-service practices. Duke is designated a Presidential Awardee, the highest recognition a college or university can receive.

2009:  The first NAE Grand Challenge Scholars begin their work. Housed in the Pratt School of Engineering, the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars program provides engineering students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge and expertise to the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering through two years of focused research and portfolio development (with service, interdisciplinary and global learning components), culminating in a senior thesis and national summit. The first class graduates in 2010.

2010:  Engaging Excellence: A Report Concerning Civic Engagement at Duke University published. The report, issued by the Klein-Wells Committee convened by Provost Peter Lange, highlighted the evolving civic engagement landscape at Duke and provided several recommendations and guidelines focused on including the role of faculty and the importance of a collective and comprehensive strategy.

2011:  Duke Global Advisors begin work. New Directors of Academic Engagement work with undergraduate students to help them connect academic goals to a variety of courses and learning opportunities, including DukeEngage, global studies and internships, in a way that leverages students’ strengths and cumulative experiences.

2013: The Forum on Scholars and Publics is founded. Created as a space for scholars and various publics — local, national, and global — to interact and exchange ideas, the Forum on Scholars and Publics promotes public leadership through discussion, work and research sharing, and engagement with communities. Through working groups and classes that serve as opportunities for debate and critique, FSP promotes innovation and exchange.

2013:  The Bass Connections Program launches. Currently, faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students work collaboratively on projects in five diverse thematic areas in the humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences, combining classwork, research, and community-based projects in order to address real-world problems.

2014:  Duke begins to offer an undergraduate certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which provides students a cross-disciplinary opportunity to examine field theories and practice those theories through hands-on experience. The certificate emphasizes using knowledge in the service of society as a tool of critical problem solving.

2015:  The Carnegie Foundation re-certifies Duke as a “community-engaged institution.” The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching cited Duke’s “excellent alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources, and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement.”

2015:  The experiential certificate, Civic Engagement and Social Change, is adopted. Approved by the Arts & Sciences Council in academic year 2014-2015, the experiential certificate in Civic Engagement and Social Change provides students with an opportunity to study traditions of civic engagement and theories of social change, while completing coursework and two intensive, immersive experiences over the course of their studies at Duke.