Seven Duke centers focused on different geographic regions or international issues have received major federal grants under Title VI of the Higher Education Act to strengthen their activities over the next four years -- a record number for the university and the highest number of any private research university, campus officials announced Thursday.
The competitive awards from the International Education Program Service of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) provide independent confirmation of the quality and scope of Duke's expanding international programs, according to Gilbert Merkx, the director of International and Area Studies.
"This is a remarkable achievement by Duke," Merkx said. "The Title VI awards reflect the judgment of peer-review teams of faculty from other universities. Hundreds of applications were reviewed. The fact that seven Duke centers were selected for funding demonstrates the success of Duke's strategic investment in international programs. Duke's Title VI centers provide a solid foundation for Duke's larger global strategy and its overseas ventures."
The seven Title VI grants totaling approximately $12.6 million over the next four years were awarded to these Duke centers:
- Asian Pacific Studies Institute
- Center for International Business Education
- Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
- Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies
- Duke Center for International Studies
- Duke University Middle East Studies Center
- Language Resource Center for Slavic and Eurasian Languages
"These grants are a tribute to the remarkable leadership of Gil Merkx and the faculty leaders of the funded centers," said Greg Jones, Duke's vice president and vice provost for global strategy and programs. "The vision, leadership, and educational outreach of these centers will be critically important as Duke continues to develop as a global university for the 21st century."
DOE awards the Title VI grants for a four-year period to undergraduate and graduate programs that focus on particular regions, foreign languages and international studies. Duke's area centers combine language instruction with interdisciplinary studies and research, as well as with outreach to public schools.
"What they're looking for is a strong program that can be stronger with outreach. They're not interested in supporting a little enclave of specialists but rather in having specialists share their expertise across the campus," said miriam cooke, director of the Middle East studies center, a 2-year-old consortium with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). "We have good connections with both the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Nicholas School for the Environment, for example."
Cooke said the NRC funding will provide administrative support to help launch a new graduate certificate in Middle East studies, and also will help the center collaborate across disciplines such as by teaching Arabic for business at Duke's Fuqua School of Business.
The Duke Center for International Studies will begin a 4-year collaboration with the Kenan Institute for Ethics this fall, offering a seminar on globalization and ethics. It also will use the funds to meet core needs such as salary support, fellowships and library acquisitions, according to Rob Sikorski, executive director of the center.
The Language Resource Center (LRC) provides instruction and fellowships in less commonly taught languages such as Persian, Romanian and the Afghan languages Pashto, and Dari. The program will use its funding to develop new initiatives in Eurasian studies including curricula for K-16 social studies teachers. The funding also helps the LRC maintain a web portal for all of the NRC-funded centers.
The center on Latin America and the Caribbean, a consortium partnership with UNC, will use half of its NRC funding to help medical students travel to Honduras and other countries. Dr. Dennis Clements, who directs the center, said the experience will provide the students with the cultural immersion that is so important to global education.
"The students are all transformed," he said, adding that students who learn about the culture, politics and religion of another country gain a useful new perspective on the services they provide after returning home to the United States.
"The reason we should understand these countries better is because many of the people are not only living here in the United States, but they are in Durham and on campus," Clements said.
The seven centers will also continue to complement other international initiatives on campus, such as the Center for South Asian Studies, which recently partnered with the university's Program in Education to sponsor a month-long trip to India for students and their mentors from Durham public schools.
More broadly, the funding will further accelerate Duke's effort to define "knowledge in service to society" as a challenge that extends worldwide, Merkx said. "The issues we confront are global issues that we cannot solve alone. Because of our interdisciplinarity we have the opportunity to bring new insights to bear on the basic problems of humanity."