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14 Ways to Build Academic Networks and Strengthen Faculty Communities

The Office for Faculty Advancement has awarded seed grants to 14 new projects led by Duke faculty members.

A mix of new ideas and expansions of existing initiatives, these projects aim to engage and support faculty through building communities and affinity groups, connecting faculty within and across academic disciplines, and promoting welcoming and respectful academic environments for all members of the Duke community.

The seed grant program will provide financial support for these novel initiatives over the next year.

The theme for this grant cycle is “Building Academic Networks and Strengthening Faculty Communities.” Project leaders represent the Law School, Nicholas School of the Environment, School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

2023-24 Faculty Advancement Seed Grants

Arts Practice Faculty Network 

Leads: Augustus Wendell, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies; Bill Fick, Lecturing Fellow of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Award cosponsored with Duke Arts 

Faculty, administrators and staff in many units across Duke engage in arts practice. The dispersed nature of this practice creates a challenging environment for developing genuine community and fellowship representing the arts at Duke. This project will support a university-wide Arts Practice Network, bridging units and bringing together a wide array of practitioners. The network will be built largely through social events, including informal monthly meetups, local guest speakers and a handful of higher-profile events. This mix of activities is aimed at creating a welcoming atmosphere for discovering and nurturing connections among arts practitioners at Duke. 

Building Academic Networks and Strengthening Faculty Communities in the Nicholas School of the Environment

Lead: Nicolette Cagle, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences & Policy 

This project will address three needs in the Nicholas School of the Environment: creating spaces for positive faculty interaction; creating spaces for positive interaction among faculty and staff; and improving faculty mentoring of students, staff and others. Employing a data-driven and collaborative approach, the project includes themed field trips for faculty and staff, mentor training in faculty meetings, mentor training in biweekly lunch-and-learns, and special Tuesday events on the water or in the orchard.

Building a Community of Practice to Increase Representation in Evolutionary Anthropology

Leads: Brian Hare, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology; Doug Boyer, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology; Elaine Guevara, Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology

Collaborator: Leslie Digby, Associate Professor of the Practice of Evolutionary Anthropology

Increasing representation is vital to the health and success of the field of evolutionary anthropology, which is the study of human origins and variation. This project aims to build a strong community of practice among faculty to help achieve this goal. A summer program under development will support faculty engagement with undergraduates from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as summer interns in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology. Project activities will enhance faculty engagement on a broad scale within the departmental community and specifically with the summer internship program. 

Building a Community-Based Intervention Science Network at Duke

Leads: Timothy Strauman, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience; Ann Brewster, Research Scholar, Social Science Research Institute

The dehumanizing impact of systemic structural racism on mental health is one of our nation’s greatest public health challenges. To achieve comprehensive mental health promotion, we need an approach that integrates and synthesizes disciplinary strengths with a systemic structural racism perspective on the social determinants of adolescent mental health. This project will establish a network of Duke University scholars whose collective expertise and commitment can help address this enormous problem. The network will become the first formally organized community-based intervention science entity at any North American university.

Convening a Thought Community for Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Lead: Kristen Stephens, Associate Professor of the Practice in the Program in Education

The Program in Education shares important links with the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. This project aims to cultivate a “thought community” among faculty in these three Duke entities, and perhaps others, where undergraduate interest and inquiry consistently intersect. The goals are to explore ideas, perspectives and practices across disciplines; facilitate problem-solving around critical issues in education; enhance collegiality; connect undergraduates with one another and potential faculty mentors; and reconnect with Duke alumni and retired faculty. Intellectual networking events will help bring faculty, staff, students and alumni together.

Expanding Our Community: Creative Collaborations Across Disciplines and Between Scholars and Publics

Lead: Laura Florand, Senior Lecturer of Romance Studies

Collaborator: Lou Brown, Senior Research Scholar at the Franklin Humanities Institute
Award cosponsored with Duke Arts 

In collaboration with the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke, this project seeks to bring together faculty and staff who are engaged with the Forum and are interested in the community-connection work at the heart of its mission. Participants will gather in spaces that create opportunities for an exchange of ideas and deepen connections with local artists, entrepreneurs and activists. Faculty gatherings will be anchored in engagements with the community that both position faculty scholars as learners from their community and engage them in low-stakes collaborations that might provide inspiration for future projects.

Increasing Neurodiversity Competency of Faculty at Duke

Leads: Geraldine Dawson, William Cleland Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience; Tara Chandrasekhar, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Marika Coffman, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Forms of neurodivergence are often under-recognized, misunderstood or under-resourced in a university setting. Building on work led by the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development and Duke Neurodiversity Connections, this project seeks to foster a community of faculty that feels comfortable incorporating principles of neurodiversity competency into its day-to-day work. Activities include a needs assessment to provide input into the nature and type of training needed to promote neurodiversity at Duke; workshops and materials informed by the assessment; and evaluations at the project’s start and conclusion.

Local Listening Series

Lead: Sophia Enríquez, Assistant Professor of Music

Award cosponsored with Duke Arts 

The Department of Music faces the challenge of responding to nationwide calls for a more equitable and justice-based music curriculum. This project will engage faculty by launching a series of “Local Listening” lunchtime performances of Durham-based and campus-based performing groups in an informal, celebratory environment. The department recently proposed a new minor path of study that is listening-focused, which will serve students who may not have classical training. The Local Listening series will help promote the new minor path and put its values into practice, exposing students and faculty to a more diverse representation of music-making practices in our communities.

Mentoring Partnerships: Building Strength and Relationships Between Nursing Faculty and Clinical Instructors

Leads: Amie Koch, Associate Clinical Professor in the School of Nursing; Susan Gower, Consulting Associate in the School of Nursing; Vickey Keathley, Clinical Associate in the School of Nursing

The School of Nursing is negatively impacted by the nursing workforce shortage and burnout by not having consistent clinical instructors to assist in teaching nursing students. Bringing nurse clinical instructors (CIs) and nursing faculty together through a mentorship program will promote communication and help bridge the didactic and clinical gap. This project will identify successful strategies and operations of faculty mentorship for CIs. Through virtual and in-person connections, CIs and nursing faculty will build stronger relationships. Maintaining consistent CIs, as well as improving recruitment and retention of CIs, will help ensure a more reliable learning experience for students. 

Narrative Medicine: Passages, Practices and Pedagogies

Leads: Jehanne Gheith, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature; Sneha Mantri, Assistant Professor of Neurology

Narrative medicine is a growing subdiscipline of medical humanities that incorporates literary, visual and performance arts into health education and practice. While courses have been developed at the undergraduate and graduate/professional level, there is a need for faculty development in this area. This project will expand the Duke Narrative Medicine Network across the university as well as the health system. Building on efforts by the Health Humanities Lab and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities and History of Medicine, this “practices and pedagogies” expansion will bring together academics and clinicians for a series of in-person and online trainings.

Promoting Collaborations and Training Opportunities for Emerging Leaders in Implementation Science

Leads: Heather King, Assistant Professor in Population Health Sciences; Leah Zullig, Professor in Population Health Sciences

Collaborator: Megan Oakes, Senior Research Program Leader, INTERACT

The field of implementation science continues to expand, resulting in a need to promote education and training opportunities for faculty, students, trainees and staff so that they are equipped with skills to support their career development. The Implementation Science Research Collaborative (INTERACT), housed in the Department of Population Health Sciences, includes faculty, staff and students/trainees. The project will include several activities and events aimed at strengthening the student/trainee relationship with faculty by fostering new training and collaboration opportunities for staff, students and trainees.

Rise Above the Research Silos: All Roads Lead to China

Leads: Alex Zhang, Archibald C. and Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professor of Law; Shitong Qiao, Ken Young-Gak Yun and Jinah Park Yun Research Scholar Professor of Law

This project seeks to engage faculty across schools by fostering intellectual dialogue and encouraging knowledge transfer on topics related to Chinese law and policy. Monthly in-person workshops and a national transdisciplinary research conference on law and policy in China will include people from a range of disciplines such as law, political science, social science, the humanities, data science, computer science and environmental studies. The longer-term objective is to help create a platform that motivates academics to investigate and apply research frameworks, theories, methodologies and techniques, as well as data and other types of information resources, from different disciplines to challenges in their own fields.

School of Nursing Teaching for Equity Fellows Alumni Affinity Group

Leads: Kara McGee, Associate Clinical Professor in the School of Nursing; Jacquelyn McMillian-Bohler, Assistant Clinical Professor in the School of Nursing; Malinda Teague, Assistant Clinical Professor in the School of Nursing

This project will create an affinity group for Teaching for Equity Fellows faculty alumni at the School of Nursing. The goal is to renew faculty commitment to advancing equitable teaching approaches and continuing to develop skills in engaging a diverse group of students. The affinity group will participate in professional development activities aimed at specific skills and strategies to create an inclusive culture for all learners. There will also be collaboration opportunities and networking among faculty. An important outcome will be a community of practice on advancing equitable teaching practices.

Strategies and Practical Approaches in Research and Collaboration (SPARC) Initiative for Algorithmic Bias Detection and Mitigation

Lead: Michael Cary, Jr., Elizabeth C. Clipp Term Chair of Nursing 

Algorithmic bias is often described as “systemic and repeatable errors in a computer system that create unfair outcomes.” It has real-world implications that manifest broadly in areas such as employment, housing and healthcare. Many emerging methods are being utilized to mitigate algorithmic bias, and ultimately reduce health inequities, yet gaps remain in development and implementation. This project will bring together Duke faculty colleagues and other experts from different disciplines to discuss harmful bias and create innovative training programs to eliminate bias in algorithms that are used to make decisions and target resources that affect patient care.