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The Semester in Review at Duke in DC

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Sanford’s Study-Away Program in Washington, DC

Each year at the start of a new spring semester at Duke University, a group of students voyage to Washington, DC, to carry out their studies and complete an internship in the nation’s capital. Along the way, they gain new perspectives about themselves and the policies that influence the world around them.

Sponsored by Duke’s Global Education Office and the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Duke in DC: Policy, Leadership & Innovation program celebrated its 10th year this spring semester with 11 students studying away in Washington, DC.

“I truly enjoyed the opportunity to take four different classes with the same group of students. Over the course of the semester, we engaged in thoughtful debates with each other in the classroom that oftentimes spilled over into hours-long conversations in the home where we all lived. This dynamic pushed me to truly consider my own stances on different policy issues in a way I haven’t before.” – Chloe Decker, Trinity ‘25

Mirroring their unique backgrounds and interests, each member of the 2023 student cohort interned at a range of places across the capital, including in both chambers of Congress, the Departments of Education and Commerce, the Public Defender Service, the US-ASEAN Business Council, and several policy advocacy firms.

“From my internship at the U.S. Department of Commerce, I learned about the extremely nuanced considerations that must be made by leaders in government agencies to implement policy most effectively. My internship has shown me the tremendous responsibility that federal employees in the executive branch have when ensuring a policy or program leads to its intended outcomes.” – Zach Dobson, Trinity ‘24

Throughout the school year, the students also embarked on a variety of class excursions, meeting with key Duke alumni and touring quintessential DC attractions. From local institutions like Ben’s Chili Bowl to the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, each student got a real taste of what it’s like to live and work in DC.

Over the course of the semester, we engaged in thoughtful debates with each other in the classroom that oftentimes spilled over into hours-long conversations in the home where we all lived. This dynamic pushed me to truly consider my own stances on different policy issues in a way I haven’t before.”

Chloe Decker, Trinity ‘25

Former Young Trustee Amy Kramer, Trinity ‘18, took the students on a tour of the Pentagon and organized a series of meetings with senior defense officials to discuss career opportunities that blend public service and national security.

Bringing it closer to home, the group met with North Carolina’s senior Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and his staff to discuss their experience in DC and learn about Senator Tillis’s path to public office.

“I found it eye-opening to engage with a member of Congress with a different political perspective, especially through the lens of my Hill internship this semester.” – Sam Sreeram, Trinity ‘24

A flagship experience of this year’s Duke in DC program included a student-organized Alumni Conference celebrating the program’s 10-year anniversary. The two-day event included multiple panel discussions with Duke in DC alumni, as well as an evening reception where the current students were able to learn about potential career paths in Washington, DC, and beyond.

When considering the spring semester in review, the academic and real-world experiences the Duke in DC program offers provide a rich launchpad for Duke students to explore future careers and think critically about the impact they want to make on the world.

The Vitality of the Humanities: A View Through Advocacy

By Bella DiMeo ’25

When I declared as a humanities major at the beginning of this year, I could never have guessed that my passion for this field would take me out of Durham, much less to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. However, as Duke University’s advocate for National Humanities Advocacy Day this past month, I had the opportunity to directly discuss the importance of federal humanities funding with lawmakers and their staff in Washington, DC.

When I came to Duke, I was excited to explore my passion for the Classics and Political Science, but I was disappointed to see I was one of the few, not of the many. Among the top five majors at Duke last year, Computer Science, Economics, Public Policy, Biology, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, the humanities are notably absent. 

As one of 5 Classical Civilizations majors in my year at Duke, I wanted to try and find ways to represent my field through research and engage in my community through my studies. Shortly after I began this search, through my internship with the Office of Government Relations I was afforded the opportunity to work with the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) as part of their Spring advocacy efforts. 

The NHA is an organization that advocates for federal humanities funding and makes a case for its public value. I felt especially excited about this opportunity because President Biden’s 2022 Executive Order on Promoting the Arts, Humanities, and Library Sciences showed a new focus on the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which the NHA directly supports. 

My fellow advocates on Capitol Hill were Dr. Candace Bailey and Dr. Prudence Layne, professors at North Carolina Central University and Elon University respectively, who both had experience collaborating with the NEH and the NHA. 

During my trip, I had the opportunity to speak with staffers from the offices of Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Representatives Valerie Foushee (D-NC) and Deborah Ross (D-NC) about the importance of the humanities opportunities for the younger generations as the field becomes less popular. My goal during these meetings was to try to present myself as an example of what this work and funding could do, and the type of global citizens the humanities helps to create. I spoke about my individual experience as a lifelong student of the humanities and the value of my chosen field. Together, we discussed the programming the NHA supports in North Carolina, the importance of the humanities as a field, and the national impacts of humanities support such as preserving the material heritage of the country through the National Archives. 

Overall, the trip strengthened my passion for the arts and humanities and was a helpful step forward in my experiences in advocacy. As a young person and a student, I know I still have much to learn and many experiences to gain in the Humanities and beyond, but the encouraging words from staffers and my fellow advocates made me feel I have a place in the advocacy space. Participating in National Humanities Advocacy Day allowed me to discover my voice on an issue near and dear to my heart. I felt supported by the organization I was advocating for and inspired by the individuals with whom I was advocating. I look forward to continuing my journey in the Humanities with a greater awareness of my studies’ impact as a lifelong advocate.

Appropriations Season Kicks off in Washington, DC

While Duke’s campus started clearing out for spring break, Washington, DC, was buzzing amid President Biden’s FY24 budget request.

In addition to the appropriations season taking flight, the last few months also brought a flurry of activity on student aid, research, federal appointments and more in the nation’s capital. Below are the highlights of federal activity relevant to Duke and the higher education community.

Budget & Appropriations

On March 9th, the White House released its FY24 budget proposal, totaling $1.7 trillion. The blueprint – which is also expected to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade – marks the beginning of Congress’s year-long federal appropriations process. In the coming weeks, both chambers of Congress will finalize their hearing schedule to decide on final topline numbers. Duke’s Office of Government Relations’ primer provides additional background on the process.

Below is an up-to-date table outlining the status of Duke University’s funding priorities.

Federal Appointments and Roles

Biden Administration

Starting at the top, Duke alum Jeff Zients T’88 began his new role as President Biden’s Chief of Staff this January. Zients previously served as the White House COVID-19 response coordinator early in Biden’s term and previously held positions in the Obama administration.

In other administration updates, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Deputy Director Alondra Nelson stepped down from her position in February after two years in the role. The Biden administration also announced eight new appointments to the National Science Board. The Board, established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Act of 1950, establishes the policies of NSF and serves as an independent body of advisors to the President and Congress on policy matters related to science and engineering and education in science and engineering.

The Department of Defense (DOD) recently announced Doug Beck as the next Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) director. Beck is currently the vice president of Apple and has co-led the company’s global business development and sales functions, leading the company’s business across Northeast Asia and the Americas.

Congress

After a start delayed by the prolonged Speaker of the House election, the 118th Congress now has a full list of committee assignments for the North Carolina delegation, Duke alumni in Congress and relevant committees to higher education. All relevant positions can be seen here.

Student Aid & Other Issues Related to Higher Ed

The Department of Education released its Title IX proposed rule on participation and eligibility for male and female athletic teams. The proposed regulation would allow schools to adopt or apply sex-related eligibility criteria for male and female teams and use criteria that would limit or deny a student’s eligibility to participate on a male or female team consistent with their gender identity if those criteria are “substantially related to the achievement of an important educational objective.” The department states that a “one-size-fits-all” policy to ban transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity would not satisfy the proposed regulation. The administration unveiled a more comprehensive set of Title IX policy changes last year, intentionally leaving more time to craft this rule thoughtfully.

In February, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the legality of President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. Already, about 26 million people have applied for debt forgiveness, and 16 million applications have been approved. However, because of court rulings, all the relief is on hold. A decision on the case is expected this June.

The same month, the Department of Education released a ‘Dear Colleague Letter’ intended to update guidance to institutions that contract with third-party servicers (TPS). The department responded to an initial request to extend its comment period to allow the higher education community and other stakeholders sufficient time to consider the broadly expanded TPS definition. In March, the American Council on Education led a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, followed by a NASFA led-letter, both outlining the higher education community’s request that the Department rescind their letter and engage with higher education stakeholders in a meaningful and less hurried process. Duke also joined a group of public and private schools from across North Carolina in echoing this request.

Research

In only the first few months of 2023, the Biden administration and its federal agencies have already rolled out a substantial number of new initiatives and guidance involving research.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), established last year with the mission of speeding medical breakthroughs, announced its first initiatives as an agency. Among the list are new funding opportunities through an Open Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) and three agency hubs – the national capital region (NCR), customer experience and investor catalyst – in various locations to be determined through a solicitation process.

The Department of Energy (DOE) also announced a brand-new venture, its first-ever agency-related foundation, the Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation (FESI), authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act. FESI aims to accelerate the commercialization of new and existing energy technologies by raising and investing funds through engagements with the private sector and philanthropic communities.

To implement the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act and invest in the U.S. semiconductor industry, the Department of Commerce recently announced a group of leaders from public and private sectors who will create ‘CHIPS for America.’ These individuals will serve in the CHIPS Program Office, which is housed within the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In terms of reports, the White House released several documents covering cybersecurity, U.S.-India relations, biotechnology and biomanufacturing. The National Cybersecurity Strategy includes five pillars and several recommendations, including prioritizing investments in next-generation cybersecurity R&D and developing a diverse cyber workforce. Meanwhile, OSTP released a new report that outlines the administration’s priorities to advance American biotechnology and biomanufacturing.

The White House fact sheet on the United States-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), intends to “elevate and expand” the “strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions” of the two countries. The fact sheet emphasizes that the U.S. will collaborate with India on several initiatives, focusing on quantum, artificial intelligence, defense, space, and advanced telecommunications.

Foreign Influence and Research Security

China and threats to U.S. research security continue to be top of mind for the White House and Congress. OSTP released a roadmap in January to help strengthen scientific integrity policies and practices across the federal government.

In February, Congress also hosted several hearings focused on issues related to China and foreign influence. These hearings likely represent the beginning of increased scrutiny by in both chambers on China’s role in U.S. national defense and research security strategy, later underlined by Congress’ highly covered hearing investigating TikTok.

The Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Commerce also announced the launch of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, which will bring together experts throughout the government to target illicit actors, strengthen supply chains and protect critical technological assets from being acquired or used by nation-state adversaries. The strike force’s work will focus broadly on export control investigation, prosecution and enforcement while strengthening connections with the Intelligence Community.

Immigration

Both the American Council on Education (ACE) and NASFA: Association of International Educators sent letters to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) outlining their concerns regarding a recent proposed rule to increase certain filing fees. Namely, the letters highlight an overcomplicated process that could result in slower adjudication times, an increased risk of errors and more burden on the applicants and universities.

In a positive development, in February the Department of State extended its issuance period for F and M visas up to one year allowing prospective students more time to make it through the processing times.

As they have done in recent session of Congress, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-GA) joined forces to reintroduce the bipartisan DREAM Act, which would allow noncitizens without lawful status who were brought to the United States as children and meet certain education or work requirements to earn lawful permanent residence.

Duke’s Activity and Engagement

On Campus

On March 24, the Director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), Catherine Marsh, visited Duke to tour the Duke Quantum Center, which has received over $30 million in funding from IARPA, and speak with interested faculty  about the agency’s programs and engagement opportunities, particularly in artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum and synthetic biology.

Several members of the North Carolina delegation and their staff also visited campus, including Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-NC) who represents Duke University, Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) and  staff from Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) and Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC) offices.

In Washington, DC

The full reopening of Capitol Hill marked a busy start to 2023 in terms of DC-based advocacy visits. Several members of the Duke community traveled to DC to advocate in support of research funding, the humanities and sensible immigration policy. This included senior leaders like Vice President for Research and Innovation Jenny Lodge and Pratt Dean Jerry Lynch, along with various student groups.

Partnership and Driving Impact Across North Carolina

Duke in DC’s New Event Series Highlights How Duke Faculty, Students and Staff are Making a Difference in Their Local Communities

From left to right, Chris Simmons, Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, Brad Thie, Liz DeMattia and Aaron Kyle

For Liz DeMattia, Duke’s work to improve communities across North Carolina is about empowering them.

“I think the common theme … is agency,” said DeMattia, director of the Community Science Initiative at the Duke Marine Lab. “When you hear the negative and don’t have the agency, it can be depressing.”

In Beaufort, North Carolina, DeMattia creates K-12 curricula on marine debris, water quality, restoration and drones for the Community Science Initiative at the Duke Marine Lab (DUML). Researchers there work with local teachers and community members to engage elementary students with experiential learning based on local ecosystems.

Photo credit from the DUML Community Science Initiative

“Talking about hope and working towards restoration,” she said, “our faculty can work actively on restoration with students, local agencies and local schools.”

That effort is one of many Duke-led programs currently serving North Carolinians nationwide.

DeMattia joined Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, dean of the Duke School of Nursing; Brad Thie, director of the Duke University Divinity School Thriving Rural Communities Initiative; and Aaron Kyle, professor of the practice in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering for the Duke Office of Government Relations’ new salon series, NC in DC. The discussion took place at the Duke in DC office on March 15.

With a focus on Duke’s engagement and workforce training across the state, the inaugural event of the series hosted a select group of D.C.-based policy and business leaders, including staff from the North Carolina delegation and NC-based companies. Chris Simmons, the interim vice president for Public Affairs and Government Relations at Duke, moderated. Duke State Relations and Duke Health Government Relations cosponsored the event.

Across all disciplines and geographies, Duke plays a pivotal role in workforce training and education throughout the state.

Like DeMattia, one of Kyle’s primary goals is empowering students to solve big problems and overcome their own. He is currently adapting his summer engineering design camps to Durham. His Outreach Design Education Program, supported by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), introduces grades 6-12 students, particularly underrepresented minority or economically disadvantaged students, to STEM concepts through biomedical engineering design projects. Kyle is also bringing local high school teachers through the program to help them learn how to incorporate engineering design into their curriculums.

Before joining Duke, Kyle led summer design camps for New York City high school students, allowing students from the local community to enter university workspaces and build biomedical devices. He helps students identify challenging engineering problems to solve while “empowering students to look at the world, develop skills and their identity… so that as they run into difficulties, they will persist in STEM.”

Dean Ramos spoke of the Duke School of Nursing’s (DUSON) priority to “serve as a thought leader and an agent of change” by addressing health inequities in rural and underserved populations in North Carolina.

DUSON recently received a $3.9 million award from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to deliver nurse-led models of care in North Carolina communities. Ramos explained the importance of building trust in rural North Carolina communities, “rather than mitigate [mistrust], we are trying to bolster trustworthiness.”

DUSON’s collaborations with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and community colleges in the region – including the Watts School of Nursing and Durham Technical Community College – also create stronger and more lasting outcomes for the community.

“Our students and alumni are serving in local communities from Murphy to Manteo.”

Brad thie, director of the thriving rural communities initiative
Photo credit from the Duke Divinity School’s Thriving Rural Communities Initiative

That region-wide approach is also manifest in the Divinity School’s Thriving Rural Communities Initiative led by Thie. The initiative cultivates Christian leadership and congregations in rural North Carolina while preparing students for effective ministry in these areas.

“Our students and alumni,” Thie said, “are serving in local communities from Murphy to Manteo.”

The Shortest Month Proves Busier Than Ever for Duke on Capitol Hill

After a slow first month of the year, the 118th Congress has picked up the pace of activity. Accordingly, February proved to be a busy month for Blue Devils on Capitol Hill.

Welcome to the 118th Congress Reception on Capitol Hill

The month began with the in-person return of a bi-annual tradition. Duke and a host of its North Carolina peer institutions played host to staffers in the North Carolina delegation and the respective school alumni who work on Capitol Hill at the “Welcome 118th Congress” reception on Capitol Hill. On the evening of Feb. 8th, more than eight North Carolina universities were present to welcome the state’s newly elected and returning members of Congress. Nearly 200 people gathered for the reception, including half of the entire North Carolina delegation members: Sen. Ted Budd (R) and Reps. Don Davis (NC-01), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Kathy Manning (NC-06), Greg Murphy (NC-03), David Rouzer (NC-07), Valerie Foushee (NC-04) and Wiley Nickel (NC-13).

“My first time on the Hill with our state’s elected representatives was inspiring – the bi-partisan commitment of our delegation is empowering Duke and other North Carolina universities to collaborate on the elevation of our global competitiveness in the highly competitive fields of science and technology.”

Jerome Lynch, The Vinik Dean of Engineering at duke university
Dean Jerry Lynch Pictured (second from left)

Earlier that same day, Pratt School of Engineering Dean Jerry Lynch met with members and staff from the North Carolina congressional delegation, including Rep. Wiley Nickel (NC-13) and staff from Sen. Thom Tillis (R), Reps. Valerie Foushee (NC-4), Deborah Ross (NC-2), Kathy Manning (NC-6) and Alma Adams (NC-12). Dean Lynch was in town for the ASEE Engineering Deans Public Policy Colloquium. Lynch was joined by his fellow deans at Campbell University, North Carolina A&T State University and UNC-Charlotte, and the group raised a number of topics, including the importance of investments in the National Science Foundation and Department of Defense fundamental research to the state.

“My first time on the Hill with our state’s elected representatives was inspiring – the bi-partisan commitment of our delegation is empowering Duke and other North Carolina universities to collaborate on the elevation of our global competitiveness in the highly competitive fields of science and technology.” Jerome Lynch, Vinik Dean of Engineering

Duke faculty also spent time in February sharing their expertise in the more formal settings of congressional hearings. Lee Reiners, the policy director of the Duke Financial Economics Center and lecturing fellow at Duke University School of Law, provided his ‘two cents’ on the rise and fall of the cryptocurrency industry for the Senate Banking Committee.

Meanwhile, Gina-Gail Fletcher, professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, spoke with members of the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Capital Markets, about federal securities law and how it could be reformed to enhance market efficiency and fairness.

Lee Reiners Testifying Before the Senate Banking Committee

Fourteen years have provided ample evidence of the dire harm cryptocurrency inflicts throughout our society,” Reiners stated in his opening remarks. “If there were going to be one change, I would recommend Congress focus on, it would be requiring these crypto platforms to segregate customer assets from firm assets so that if these firms do get into trouble, customers will still have access to their funds.”

The spring will bring even more activity and engagement for the Duke community in Washington beyond Capitol Hill. Sign up for Duke in DC’s mailing lists to stay current on future communications and events.

Federal Dollars to Tangible Impact: Duke and NSF Engage with Congress

Rep. Hayley Stevens (D-MI) providing opening remarks

On December 6, 2022, April Brown, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke University, participated in a congressional briefing hosted by the National Science Foundation (NSF), “Accelerating Advancements in Manufacturing: How NSF Supports Research and Education to Transform Manufacturing Capabilities.” This was NSF’s first in-person Capitol Hill briefing since 2020.

April Brown speaking to the audience

The event included opening remarks from Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI), then chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology, and Dr. Susan Margulies, the NSF Assistant Director for Engineering. Following the introduction, four NSF-funded researchers specializing in innovative manufacturing capabilities, including Brown, provided the audience with a brief account of their research and how their federal support has played an instrumental role in that work.

April Brown demonstrating her research with audience members

Following the panel, the audience was encouraged to participate in interactive demonstrations with each NSF-funded researcher, where they could ask questions and even try on industrial exoskeletons. Professor Brown showcased her work investigating how quantum information devices could transform semiconductor manufacturing beyond the traditional silicon-based devices.

The NSF-funded researchers with Dr. Susan Marguiles (center)

NSF plays a critical role in not only supporting fundamental research but also translating that research into real-life capabilities that transform the potential of 3D printing, computer design, the aerospace industry, and much more to solve a wide range of societal problems.

New Year, New Congress

The Final Months of 2022 in the Nation’s Capital in Review

Uncertainty and delay are on full display as the 118th Congress begins its work this month. As congressional leadership and priorities are still taking shape, we look back at what did happen to wrap up 2022. Over the fall semester months, states tallied up November’s midterm election results and Congress finished the year in dramatic fashion, narrowly passing its FY23 omnibus spending package just in time to avoid a government shutdown over the Christmas holiday. We recap all that and more, plus what we can expect for Duke’s federal priorities heading into the new year.  

Midterm Elections Recap

The 2022 midterm elections wielded a strong influence on this fall’s overall activity and priorities in Washington, DC. There were several key races in North Carolina as Congressman David Price (D-NC), who represents Duke University and Durham, and longtime Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) both retired at the end of the 117th Congress. State Senator Valerie Foushee (D-NC) won her election to replace Mr. Price and will represent the 4th Congressional District and Duke University in the 118th Congress. Meanwhile, former Congressman Ted Budd (R-NC) defeated Cheri Beasley and will join Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) in the Senate. Our DC Digest includes additional information regarding the new North Carolina delegation makeup.

For a complete list of the North Carolina delegation and other congressional news relevant to Duke, you can access the 118th Congress tab on the Duke Government Relations website.

Budget & Appropriations

After passing three temporary stopgaps and only a few hours before a government shutdown, Congress successfully passed the $1.7 trillion FY23 omnibus spending package on December 23rd. The year-end legislation included approximately $800 billion for non-defense spending, an increase of $68 billion over FY22, and $858 billion for defense spending, an increase of $76 billion over FY22. The massive bill holds significant implications for the higher education community, many of which are outlined in this DC Digest.

Below is a table representing Duke University’s funding priorities for the current fiscal year.

Status of Duke University’s Funding Priorities in the Federal Budget Process

ARPA-H

In addition to $1.5 billion in funding provided for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Health (ARPA-H), the final FY 23 omnibus contains statutory language authorizing the agency and its structure. The agreement places ARPA-H under the National Institutes of Health, but the director reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The language also sets forth some parameters for the agency’s location, noting that it cannot be co-located with an existing NIH campus and should have a presence in no less than three locations.

Research, Innovation & Competition

The implementation of the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act began in earnest after it was signed into law in August. In September, the White House announced its implementation leadership team, which is led by Duke Fuqua Professor Aaron “Ronnie” Chatterji. The CHIPS Research and Development Office released an update on the National Semiconductor Technology Center in November, which provided an overview of its process for defining the NSTC and previewed a white paper expected in 2023 that will also include guidance on when a request for proposal can be expected.

Rounding out the year, Congress also successfully passed the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 23rd. The annual legislation authorizes $138.9 billion in research and development investments across the national security enterprise, including a 22.8% increase in basic research and historic funding for research activities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Among other provisions, the policy bill also requires DOD to develop a strategy and implementation plan for strengthening defense innovation ecosystems, establishes an industry, academia and government working group on microelectronics and requests the establishment of a new innovation fellowship under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Foreign Influence and Research Security

Following the midterm elections, newly elected Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced plans to launch a Select Committee on China in the 118th Congress, tapping Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) to chair the panel. In the waning days of 2022, Majority Leader-elect Steve Scalise (R-LA) sent a letter to the Republican caucus outlining a list of legislative priorities in the first two weeks of the new Congress, including a draft resolution to create the new committee focused on China.

Over the last several months progress has been made on the Biden administration’s national security strategy. In October, the White House released its long-awaited National Security Strategy, which encapsulates the administration’s thinking on the state of the world and how it will navigate challenges to the homeland and global order. The report aims to maintain the U.S.’s strategic advantage to attract and retain the world’s best talent.

In late November, Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo delivered an extensive speech on US competition with China and outlined the administration’s efforts to invest in domestic R&D and manufacturing and protect our technological advantage from foreign influence.

Immigration

In the FY23 year-end funding bill, Senator Tillis attempted to include a bipartisan compromise for Dreamers, which ultimately failed and does not appear to be a realistic prospect for the 118th Congress. Accordingly, legal challenges and regulatory activity involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) will continue to be the focus of Duke’s federal immigration advocacy.

In September, the Department of Homeland Security removed regulatory hurdles for anyone deemed “likely” to become dependent on public benefits while obtaining a visa or becoming a permanent U.S. resident, which had been established by the Trump administration. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also upheld the federal government’s legal authority to allow F-1 international students to work in the U.S. after graduation under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, including the STEM OPT extension.

This academic year, the broader higher education community also saw a rebound in international student enrollment after several years of pandemic-related decline. Overall international student and graduate enrollment at U.S. institutions saw a 4% and 17% increase, respectively, during the 2021-2022 school year. Despite these trends, 45% fewer students from China were issued visas from May-August 2022 compared to the same months in 2021, and overall international enrollment is still below pre-pandemic levels.

Student Aid & Other Issues Related to Higher Education

The Supreme Court has two issues on its current agenda involving higher education. In February, the high court will hear arguments about the legality of President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program. Additionally, the court also heard arguments in 2022 on race-based admissions practices from Harvard and UNC and is expected to rule on both cases separately later this June.

The last few months of 2022 were also action-packed for the Department of Education. Beyond President Biden releasing his long-awaited student debt forgiveness plan, 360,000 student loan borrowers received $24 billion in forgiveness through a temporary Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver. The department also issued several rules, which include allowing Pell funds to be accessed by incarcerated individuals and closing a loophole to protect veterans and service members from predatory lending practices. Furthermore, the Department released Title IX guidance to protect pregnant students and is expected to release a Title IX proposed regulation concerning athletics in the coming year. In the coming months, the Department is also expected to issue rules on the TRIO program, third-party loan servicers, distance education, student loan forbearances, accreditation, state authorization, student withdrawal rules and student aid disbursement.

Federal Appointments and Roles

Throughout these milestones over the past several months, several individuals have been named to serve in key positions within the Biden administration. Among the appointments relevant to the higher education community, Arati Prabhakar was confirmed as the new director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with Asad Ramzanali named Chief of Staff. In December, the Senate confirmed Evelyn Wang, the current head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, as the new director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). In October, President Biden also announced his appointment of Renee Wegrzyn as the first director of the ARPA-H, the agency newly established to drive cutting-edge biomedical and health solutions led after ARPA-E. President Biden also announced his intent to appoint 14 individuals to serve on the National Board for Education Sciences.

From the Duke community (as mentioned above), Ronnie Chatterji was announced as the White House Coordinator for CHIPS Implementation at the National Economic Council (NEC). Previously, Chatterji was serving as the Chief Economist of the Department of Commerce. Director of the Duke Marine Lab, Andrew Read, was confirmed by the Senate to be the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) Commissioner in December. Read is a widely cited expert on marine vertebrates and has previously served on the MMC committee of scientific advisors on Marine Mammals. President Biden also nominated Duke alum Danny Werfel PPS ’97, to serve as the next head of the IRS. Finally, former principal deputy director of national intelligence and Duke University Rubenstein Fellow, Sue Gordon T’80, joined the reestablished Defense Innovation Board this fall to provide recommendations to the DOD regarding emerging technologies and innovative capabilities.

You can access the Federal Government page on the Duke Government Relations website for a complete list of federal appointments relevant to Duke.

Duke in DC Updates

Duke in DC hosted numerous events throughout 2022, including a return to in-person event programming. Moving into the new year, a brand new series, “NC in DC,” will kick off at Duke in DC in March that will highlight the university’s broad and far-reaching impact across North Carolina. Our office also continued its Direct Impact video series highlighting two faculty researchers, Sunshine Hillygus and Dalia Patino-Echeverri and their National Science Foundation (NSF) and DOE-funded work, respectively.

Follow us on social media (Twitter and LinkedIn) and subscribe to our mailing lists to stay updated on our office’s latest communications and events. If you are interested in using the Duke in DC office for a future event or gathering, fill out this space reservation request while space is still available.

Fort Bragg Visit Highlights Innovative Technologies and Partnerships with Key Industries in NC

This story is reposted from Duke State Relations on November 18th, 2022.

On November 3rd, representatives from North Carolina’s state and federal government, economic development, defense, and higher education community were invited to visit Fort Bragg to highlight Soldiers’ need for innovative technologies to maintain combat readiness on the battlefield.

Organizations represented included the Economic Development Partnership of NC, NC General Assembly, Office of Senator Thom Tillis, NC Department of Commerce, NC Military Affairs Commission, Army Research Office, Assistant Office of the Secretary Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASAALT), USAF AFWERX, the USAF SPARK, National Security Innovation Network, Defense Alliance of NC, NC Military Business Center, NC Defense Technology Transition Office, Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development, Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State University, and East Carolina University.

Fort Bragg is Home of the Airborne and Special Operations and is often called “the center of the military universe.” Fort Bragg is the largest U.S. military installation in terms of population, with approximately 48,000 troops and another 16,000 civilians who work on the post. With an economic impact of over $8.2 billion annually, the post supports a population of roughly 260,000, including military families, contractors, retirees and others.

North Carolina’s academic, economic and private sector industries have longstanding partnerships with Fort Bragg to support the needs of the military base and to contribute to the state’s growing defense innovation ecosystem. Major General (Retired) Rodney Anderson, chair of the NC Military Affairs Commission, and Denny Lewis, Business Development Manager, Defense Industry at the Economic Development Partnership of NC, led the tour of Fort Bragg, providing insight into the lives of Soldiers and their roles on base. The tour began with an overview briefing by the Garrison Commander, Colonel John Wilcox, who highlighted Fort Bragg’s presence, size and economic impact on the local community, along with the challenges faced and plans for continued growth. The group then visited the Training Simulation Support Center to demonstrate how soldiers are trained on the “Dragon Missile” to prepare for combat situations, and attendees had the opportunity to participate in a simulated firing range. 

After sharing a meal with Soldiers in the dining facility, the tour included a stop at the new 82nd Airborne Innovation Lab (AIL). The AIL opened in October with the purpose of providing Paratroopers with tactical innovation support for the battlefield. The AIL offers robotics equipment, 3D printing, a woodshop, a textile station, and a computer lab for Soldiers to test and create new ideas. The AIL also plans to offer courses for Paratroopers to learn how to design technologies and materials on their own. The tour ended at Simmons Army Airfield where participants had the opportunity to learn how Army Aviators train in simulators.

Duke University is a key partner in North Carolina’s defense innovation ecosystem, as demonstrated most recently by an Educational Partnership Agreement with the U.S. Army’s 18th Airborne Corps to spur innovation, help streamline military processes and provide new research and learning opportunities for Duke faculty and students. The new partnership formalizes existing connections between Duke and the military, tapping into Duke’s expertise in science, technology, engineering and public policy to encourage opportunities for collaboration with the Army.

With a thriving dual-use innovation ecosystem and a concentration of strong and committed partners across the continuum to advance innovation, North Carolina is the frontline of the future for the military’s innovation needs.

Spring(ing) Through Summer of 2022 in Washington:

The Will They or Won’t They Edition

It was anything but quiet in the nation’s capital since the end of the last academic year. While making progress on the FY23 budget, Congress also successfully passed major legislative packages on both climate and U.S. competitiveness, sending them to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The Biden administration also proposed new Title IX regulations, unveiled a much-anticipated student loan forgiveness program and nominated individuals to fill several key positions. Here is all you need to know about these and other federal highlights of significance to Duke University and the higher education community since Duke’s Office of Government Relations’ last update this spring.

Budget & Appropriations

As Congress makes its return from August recess, the FY23 budget and its impending September 30th deadline will be the focus for appropriators. In the final days before each chamber broke for recess, the House successfully passed half of its FY23 appropriation bills and Senate Democrats released their own twelve appropriations bills. With less than a month before government funding runs out, lawmakers will likely look to vote on a temporary stopgap bill to extend funding beyond its current deadline. However, political dynamics resulting from this summer’s maneuvering on various bills foreshadows a rocky path for a continuing resolution. Duke’s Office of Government Relations has prepared this flow chart to provide more information about the federal appropriations process. Below is a table illustrating the current status of some of Duke’s appropriations priorities.

President Biden also signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law on August 16th. The long-awaited climate, health care and tax legislation, previously shelved as the Build Back Better plan, will invest roughly $300 billion in climate and energy initiatives. Of interest to the higher education community, this includes $2 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) National Labs to accelerate breakthrough energy research and several environmental and climate justice block grants and resiliency programs through which universities can be considered a partner.

Research, Innovation & Competition

This summer was marked by considerable drama and a final resolution to the ongoing conference negotiations to align the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) and the America COMPETES Act. The prospects for passage of a competitiveness measure grew dim as negotiations stalled, first due to general disagreements over the direction of the final package, then after Republicans walked away after Senate Democrats announced movement on its Build Back Better budget reconciliation measure. In response to the legislative hold-up, Senate Democrats opted to draft the “CHIPS and Science Act,” which combined the $52 billion emergency funding the semiconductor industry under the CHIPS for America Act with negotiated section of USICA and COMPETES focused on key science authorizations. This ultimately bipartisan legislation officially authorizes the new Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF), reauthorizes the other core NSF directorates, along with the Department of Energy Office of Science, NASA, establishes a new federal initiative focused on bioengineering and much more.

In other innovation policy updates, Congress moved forward on the framework for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency – Health. Earlier this summer, the House of Representatives approved its vision for the agency and now awaits Senate action. On the administration side, it was announced that the new ARPA-H will be housed within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Adam Russell D.Phil.(T ‘95) was named acting deputy director. The agency will support transformative high-risk, high-reward research to drive biomedical and health breakthroughs.

Wrapping up the summer with some rather blockbuster news, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released updated policy guidance to increase the accessibility of federally supported research, which includes dropping an optional 12-month embargo on publications and supporting data from federally funded research. The guidance memo requests federal agencies to update and/or develop public access policies to ensure immediate, equitable and transparent access to federally-funded research no later than December 31, 2025.

Foreign Influence and Research Security

As noted in previous updates, the competitiveness proposals moving through Congress were a focus for provisions related to research security. The final CHIPS + Science bill does contain several security-focused provisions related to foreign talent recruitment programs and a new provision requiring an annual summary report to NSF from universities outlining financial support of $50,000 or more from foreign sources associated with countries of concern. However, several of the more concerning provisions found in USICA, like the proposed expansion of a Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) review of certain gifts and contracts between foreign individuals and universities and new faculty disclosure of foreign gifts and contracts, were dropped from the package.

On the topic of disclosure, work has continued on the implementation of National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM)-33, which directs the federal science agencies to develop standardized guidelines for the disclosure of information to assess conflicts of interest and commitment among researchers applying for federal funding. Last week, the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Research Security released draft standardized disclosure forms for biographical sketch and current and pending support with a public review and comment period.

As conversations around research security policy continue to develop, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to hold a workshop this fall on factors affecting the classification of federally funded research. Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, Matthew Axelrod, also announced a new initiative at the department to help academic research institutions protect themselves from national security threats.

Immigration

As the globe continues to rebound from COVID-19-related challenges, the Biden administration is making efforts to resolve ongoing immigration delays and backlogs. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released its annual report, which outlines some of the most significant challenges individuals and employers encounter when applying for immigration benefits with the agency. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would designate Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, effective through November 20th, 2023. In addition, in July both the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced their ongoing efforts to support Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants.

Student Aid & Other Issues Related to Higher Education

The Department of Education officially published its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the regulations implementing Title IX in the Federal Register on July 12th, with comments on the proposed rule due on September 12th. Duke University has worked closely to help draft comments to be submitted on behalf of the Association of American Universities and the American Council on Education.

Meanwhile, the White House announced its three-part plan to address student loan relief as well as its plans to amend Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) to create targeted student loan forgiveness programs. The plan includes a final extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections and cancellation up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients. The administration will be releasing more specifics in the coming months.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will deconsolidate the Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill affirmative action cases it plans to hear this fall. Duke University signed an amicus brief, along with a group of higher education institutions, in support of race-conscious admissions policies, emphasizing the profound importance of student body diversity.

Appointments and Confirmations of Relevance for Higher Education

Several key additions to the Biden administration have been named over the last several months, including Arati Prabhakar to be the next director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Prabhakar’s nomination was advanced through the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee by a vote of 15 to 13 and her nomination now awaits full committee approval. Prabhakar previously led both the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

For an updated list of key administration personnel relevant to higher education, view Duke’s Office of Government Relations’ Federal Government page here.

The 2022 Midterm Elections

North Carolina’s 2022 primary elections took place this June and the upcoming statewide general election will be held on November 8, 2022. Since the 2020 election, the state gained a new congressional seat, creating North Carolina’s fourteenth district. Our office will be closely watching the races for both the state’s fourth district and Senate (which includes Duke University) as Rep. David Price (D-NC), who represents the fourth district, and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) are set to retire at the end of the 117th Congress.

As the election season continues, you can learn more about Duke University’s policies on voting, political activity and engagement with government officials here.

What’s Going On at Duke in DC and the Office of Government Relations

Duke in DC and Duke’s Office of Government Relations highlighted a mix of faculty expertise throughout this spring and summer. Event programming included a Beyond Talking Points series of briefings on pandemic preparedness – exploring topics related to the U.S. public health infrastructure and environmental practices – and a congressional briefing on the Blue Economy and ocean innovation.

On Capitol Hill, Duke’s Lanty L. Smith ’67 Professor of Law Joseph Blocher spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing titled “After the Highland Park Attack: Protecting Our Communities from Mass Shootings.” The hearing was centered on how gun violence might be curbed following recent mass shootings.

Rounding out an event-filled summer, over 200 members of the Duke community traveled to Washington, DC as part of Duke’s reimagined immersive pre-orientation program. The Duke in DC office, located in the heart of downtown D.C., served as a home and central convening space for the first-year students, as well as faculty, staff and student orientation leaders.

Posted 10/06/22

Duke in DC Welcomes Two Duke Orientation Groups to the Nation’s Capital

Duke students at Arena Stage in Washington, DC (Lizzie Devitt)

Over 200 members of the Duke community traveled to Washington, D.C. this week as part of the university’s reimagined immersive orientation programs and QuadEx initiative. The Duke in DC office, located in the heart of downtown D.C., served as a home and central convening space for the first-year students, as well as faculty, staff and student orientation leaders.

The two groups – Project Citizen (led by POLIS: Center for Politics) and Project Identity and Culture (led by Duke’s Office of Student Affairs) – spent several days participating in enriching educational activities, including a special showing of the musical “American Prophet,” meetings with Duke alumni, and visits to the U.S. Capitol, embassies and Smithsonian Museums.

“The history of our country impacts how identities are valued and devalued in the present day. Creating an opportunity in Washington, D.C. for students to take in both the strengths of historically marginalized communities and the challenges these communities have navigated with their peers presents so many valuable opportunities,” said Duke’s Associate Vice President of Student Affairs for Student Engagement Shruti Desai.

Desai highlighted the value that the two programs bring to Duke’s undergraduate experience, “It teaches students to reflect, dialogue across differences and question their own assumptions and learnings. This experience is a catalyst to how we want students to take on their time at Duke.”

Henry Stephens IV, a first year from Georgia on the Project Citizen trip, added that the orientation programs’ emphasis on diverse thinking stood out to him. “We have so many different perspectives and I think that’s what makes us – as Blue Devils – so great,” he said.

The week was highlighted by several marquee programs including:

Duke students speaking with Duke alumnus and playwright Charles Randolph-Wright (A.B. ’78) after attending a performance of “American Prophet” (Eric Shipley)

A Night at Arena Stage – Students, faculty and staff from both programs gathered with over sixty alumni to attend “American Prophet,” a musical centered around abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s life and work. The musical, co-written and directed by Duke alumnus Charles Randolph-Wright ’78, is influenced by Douglass’s speeches and writings about escaping slavery and stewarding a national movement against racial injustice. Charles Randolph-Wright and members of the cast treated the Duke community to a post-performance discussion of key themes of the musical and took questions from the students.

Students hear from a panel of Duke alums at the Duke in DC office (Lizzie Devitt)

Alumni Networking – Recent alumni Elise Bousquette ’22, Kamran Kara-Pabani ’22, Amy Kramer ’18, Bryant Lewis ’21, Christina Oliver ’17, Ivan Robles ’20 and Janelle Taylor ’19 attended a dinner with the Project Identity and Culture students at the Duke in DC office. During a panel discussion with a lengthy Q&A, the alumni shared valuable advice on academics and student life, including how to maintain balance, find meaningful extracurricular activities and build community at Duke.

Students hear from a panel of Duke alums on Capitol Hill (Lizzie Devitt)

Tour of Capitol Hill – Project Citizen students toured the U.S. Capitol and then heard from a panel of Duke alumni congressional staffers: Leah Hill ’09, Madeline Perrino ’16, Sandeep Prasanna ’11 and Nathaniel Sizemore ’17 who shared their experiences living and working in the nation’s capital, how Duke helped shape their careers and advice for succeeding at Duke.

“Our Project-Citizen first-year orientation experience was an extraordinary opportunity for students to think seriously about how they want to engage as members of the Duke and Durham communities, of the states and nations that they call home, and as world citizens,” said Deondra Rose, the director of Polis: Center for Politics and an associate professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy. “It was an honor for Polis to be included and to have the chance to help inspire students as they embark on their journey at Duke.”

Tyné Kidd, a first year from Maryland on the Project Citizen trip said, “Visiting the Capitol building – even though I’m from the area – was a better experience with my peers because it has built my confidence and pushed me to do things I never would have considered, like reaching out to public officials in my home state.” Project Citizen also engaged their students with tours of several embassies and civic training with Braver Angels and the Close Up Foundation.

Project Identity and Culture’s Smithsonian tour – Project Identity and Culture students toured several museums including the National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of American History: Molina Family Latino Gallery, National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Joseph Asamoah-Boadu, a first year from North Carolina, reflected on his experiences with Project Identity and Culture saying, “There is so much history that gets left behind, so much history that people don’t talk about. It will be a priority of mine to tell people’s stories. It’s so important for us to know our history because if we don’t, history will repeat itself.”

Joyce Gordon, the director of Jewish Life at Duke who led Project Identity and Culture, highlighted the program’s overall value. “The trip to DC afforded students the opportunity to think deeply about and experience various aspects of identity before they embark on their Duke career,” said Gordon, “Through the lenses of history, arts, and the learned wisdom of young alumni, these students spent two days asking thoughtful questions and developing friendships to help guide them through their first weeks at Duke.”

Posted 8/25/22 by Lizzie Devitt

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