Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Duke University Report

First of all, the student representatives from Duke’s Intercultural Affairs office were impressive. They were friendly, inviting, engaging, and interested. I recommend that future stops at Duke University include activities with students from this office. The students will, of course, change from year to year. Linda Capers, the center’s assistant director, is the contact person and is excited to continue working with us.

Samuel Carpenter, Duke’s admissions officer for Northern California, is also someone the ILC needs to maintain a relationship with. He too mesmerized the students and made them feel comfortable and relevant. He was warm and engaged in vibrant discussions with all four students and was honest with them about expectations, requirements, and the application process. His ability to make personal connections with students is crucial to our students’ experience visiting Duke.

Duke’s campus is located just outside of Durham but shows little evidence of city life, outside of the university’s medical center. This is not to say the area lacks culture, but it certainly is not considered to be as metropolitan as cities like Boston, Washington, or Philadelphia. The campus has more of a rural feel. Much of the campus is wooded and features a number of stone and Gothic style buildings. The campus is divided into three main parts, the East and West campuses and an area that features a number of graduate schools. Students looking for an idyllic setting will enjoy Duke. Those desiring something more urban will want to look elsewhere.

Duke has an enrollment of 6500 undergraduates. 44% students identify themselves as students of color, and international students make up 11% of the student body. This further breaks down into 26% Asian/ Asian American, 11% African American, and 7% Latino. The average student to instructor ratio is 8:1 and 75% of the classes have 19 or fewer students.

For students interested in academic exploration, Duke University is the place to be. The school offers over 40 majors and 40 minors and allows students the freedom to create their own programs. Certificates in Latin American studies are also offered, a point relevant to our district’s student population. Students choose their major in the second semester of sophomore year. There is a massive emphasis placed on creating a collaborative environment amongst the students, especially during freshmen year. 50% of undergraduates participate in research, and the school offers various opportunities to work directly with faculty. This is not a school for those expecting a prescribed slate of courses or, as Samuel Carpenter put it, “an education in a can.”  While many schools likely claim this, I am convinced, through my conversations with students, that Duke is genuine in their claims of academic exploration, collaboration, and authentic community building amongst their students.

A majority of Duke students receive some form of financial assistance, and the school seems to make extraordinary efforts to provide this assistance. Duke works to ensure students do not graduate with excessive debt by capping loans at $20,000 ($5000 per year). There is no family contribution for students whose families make $60,000 or less per year. Duke University is a need blind institution; the financial circumstances of the applicants are not taken into consideration in the application process. In the event students are accepted and the family wants to see the campus before a potential acceptance, financial assistance can even be extended to qualified families to make such a trip. The school also offers 50 merit-based scholarships, an impressive number for the size of the institution.

Students can apply for early decision admission, and it is a binding agreement. There is a 30% acceptance rate with this option, as opposed to 16% otherwise. Applicants are assessed by the strength of curriculum of their own school, not that of other high schools.

Overall, the Duke experience was extremely positive. I not only recommend future ILC visits, I think it would be well worth the ILC’s time to pursue further connections with Duke.

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