Duke Digest – January 31, 2017

January 31, 2017

In Today’s Issue:

  • The Next Generation of Political Leaders
  • Where Does the US Go from Here?
  • Blue Devils in the Beltway
  • The Policy of Science and the Science of Policy
  • Entrepreneurs and their Enablers


Duke’s Center for Political Leadership, Innovation, and Service (POLIS) is reigniting political civility and a bipartisan way forward.

POLIS’s offerings include a full-time course called “Democracy Lab” that challenges two-dozen graduate and undergraduate students to research innovative, bipartisan solutions to political challenges and “Beyond Gerrymandering,” project that uses big data to educate the public on how an independent, impartial redistricting process could work.

During inauguration week, their aptly named “Purple Project” held an inauguration watch party with an ensuing debate. “The Purple Project” also hosted a conversation with Phil Bennett of The Washington Post on “The Rise of Political Polarization” and a panel of high-level North Carolina lawmakers on “Bridging the Bipartisan Divide.”

And if that’s not enough, POLIS also hosts students of opposing political views in a weekly debate podcast called the Devil’s Discourse to debate hot topics of the day: from campus safe-spaces to drug legalization and much more.


(DON EMMERT / AFP/Getty Images)

(DON EMMERT / AFP/Getty Images)

Just as the semester was starting two weeks ago, unexpectedly intense winter weather offered students a brief respite from their new classes.


A new digital media project from Duke University called What’s Next for US will provide a forum for university faculty to explore public policy issues through analysis, commentary, video, podcasts, and news clips. What’s Next for US will explore policy issues from multiple vantage points. In addition to policy issues, topics may include a reflective look at why college campuses are considered out of touch with the rest of the country and how Duke’s programs, research, and people are working to understand and improve conditions in rural and small-town America.

What’s Next for US?


Mary “Missy” Cummings, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke University, has been named to a new Federal Committee on Automation established this month by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Focused on automation across a number of modes, the new committee includes 25 leading professionals and experts in their field, who will work on some of the most pressing and relevant matters facing transportation today. The announcement comes on the heels of Cummings being tapped to help lead the new $2.8 million Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety (CSCRS), a National University Transportation Center funded by DOT and based at the University of North Carolina, in its efforts to prepare for the advent of driverless cars.


“Building a bridge assumes people are going to continue to disagree. Our goal is to bridge gaps that will remain.”

On January 20, John Hood, President of the Pope Foundation, took part in a panel discussion for POLIS entitled “Is Purple Possible? Bridging the Partisan Divide in North Carolina”.

Bridging Red and Blue America


The Duke Initiative for Science & Society is examining the role of science in law, policy, social institutions, and culture through a new public service website. In an attempt to maximize the social benefit of scientific progress, Duke’s new SciPol website makes breaking research more accessible, just, and relevant to societal needs.

SciPol provides policy updates, explanations of relevant scientific issues, and opportunities for engagement in the policy-making process. Existing topical coverage includes genetics/genomics and neuroscience – expansion into nanotechnology and robotics is forthcoming.


For millennials fresh out of college, the entrepreneurial life holds a unique and non-traditional appeal. About four out of ten students in the U.S. want entrepreneurship education, according to a January 2016 Gallup poll.

The Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs program is part of Duke University’s efforts to tap into one of the fastest-growing areas in higher education: students’ increasing demand for opportunities to innovate and expect their universities to provide the skills, funding, and mentorship to get them started.

Just two years after Duke created its Innovation and Entrepreneurship certificate program, 200 students have enrolled, making it the second-most popular certificate offered. The five available courses are all “wildly oversubscribed” according to vice provost and director of Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Eric Toone. “The students sure get it. They know what they want,” he says.

No More Business as Usual



The number of Duke alumni currently registered in the District of Columbia.


At what point can a doctor refuse advice due to moral or religious conflicts?  Does the Hippocratic Oath mandate medical professionals silence their personal opinions in the name of public service?

 Aaron Ancell, a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy and a graduate fellow of the Kenan Institute’s “Rethinking Regulations” Program, coauthored a paper in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics to answer just those questions. Harking on the value of a multi-disciplinary approach to policy conundrums, Ancell is working to propose a framework that allows both conscientious dissension and equal treatment under the law.