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A Dozen Projects to Strengthen Faculty Communities at Duke

The Office for Faculty Advancement has awarded seed grants to 12 new projects led by Duke faculty members. The theme for this grant cycle is “Strengthening Faculty Communities Through Innovative Engagement and New Connections.”

Building community among faculty and aiming for a high level of faculty engagement are top priorities for the funded projects, as well as highlighting inclusive practices throughout each stage. Successful seed grants are intended to have a positive impact on academic units and the faculty experience, with the hope that they will continue on to become long-term initiatives.

Project leaders represent the Fuqua School of Business, Law School, Pratt School of Engineering, Sanford School of Public Policy, School of Medicine, Social Science Research Institute and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

The seed grant program will provide financial support for these novel initiatives from March 2024 through March 2025.

2024-25 Duke Faculty Advancement Seed Grants

Center for Energy, Development and the Global Environment (EDGE) Faculty Interest Group

David Brown, Daniel Vermeer, Katie Kross

Project Leads: David Brown, Professor of Business Administration; Daniel Vermeer, Associate Professor of the Practice of Business Administration; Katie Kross, Managing Director, EDGE

This project aims to build community among faculty members at Fuqua and across campus who are interested in climate, energy and sustainability topics. Meeting at least twice per semester, the group will form deep, inter-area connections as they share research interests, discuss curricular innovations and invited presentations from faculty members, brainstorm new collaborations and learn about climate and sustainability initiatives across campus. A retreat will provide additional opportunities for relationship-building among the faculty participants.

Center on Law, Race & Policy’s Scholarship Mash-Up

Trina Jones, Geovanny Martinez

Project Leads: Trina Jones, Jerome M. Culp Distinguished Professor of Law; Director, Center on Law, Race & Policy; Geovanny Martinez, Senior Lecturing Fellow; Executive Director, Center on Law, Race & Policy

Through monthly lunch meetings hosted by the Center on Law, Race & Policy, faculty from across Duke will share scholarship related to racial equity. These mash-ups will allow faculty to receive critical feedback on their work and will also lay a foundation for future interdisciplinary collaboration, problem-solving and connection. The group will also host a retreat focused on building community within the faculty participants and strengthen relationships between faculty across schools and disciplines.

Combinatorics Seminar: Bridging the Math and Computer Science Faculty Communities

Fan Wei, Benjamin Rossman

Project Leads: Fan Wei, Assistant Professor of Mathematics; Benjamin Rossman, Associate Professor of Computer Science

This award is cosponsored with the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies.

The seed grant will expand the reach of research in combinatorics, a discipline at the intersection of mathematics and theoretical computer science, by facilitating visits from prominent researchers, providing group meals after talks and organizing social events to build community among participants. The overarching goal is to strengthen interdepartmental bonds and ignite new collaborations and relationships among faculty.

Duke Causation Group

Benjamin Eva, Reuben Stern

Project Leads: Benjamin Eva, Associate Professor of Philosophy; Reuben Stern, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

This interdisciplinary group aims to bring together Duke scholars who share a common interest in causation, causal inference and causal reasoning. By providing a regular forum where cutting-edge causation research from a wide range of fields is presented and discussed, this project will build interdisciplinary connections and foster an emerging scholarly community. The project will also provide opportunities for faculty participants to build and strengthen relationships with one another throughout the year.

Engaging Faculty in Confidential and Trusting Exchanges on Challenging Higher Education Topics

Judith Kelley, Manoj Mohanan, Jay Pearson

Project Leads: Judith Kelley, Dean and Terry Sanford Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy; Manoj Mohanan, Creed C. Black Professor of Public Policy; Jay Pearson, H. M. Foundation Associate Professor of Public Policy

This initiative addresses the need for faculty of the policy school to engage in discussions on challenging topics related to higher education and public policy. Faculty gatherings will take place over dinner or lunch, fostering small-group discussions on selected readings. The overarching goal is to encourage meaningful engagement, build stronger social connections and cultivate a sense of community among faculty in the school.

Fostering an Academic Network in Medical Robotics

Siobhan Oca, Brian Mann

Project Leads: Siobhan Oca, Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science; Brian Mann, Professor in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

This award is cosponsored with the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies.

By fostering a medical robotics education and research community at Duke, this project intends to enhance engineering and clinical collaborations and support new faculty members. The aim is to build intentional and meaningful faculty relationships, especially for faculty who are in different schools and departments across campus. Invited lectures and other activities will bring junior and senior faculty from multiple departments together, along with industry partners. A poster session and lecture series involving faculty members and their students will highlight key areas of interest and opportunity for Duke. The project will also include activities that focus on building community and deepening faculty relationships.

Fostering Connections and Nurturing Voices: A Community for East Asian Faculty Advancement

Yan Li

Project Lead: Yan Li, Assistant Professor of the Practice, Thompson Writing Program

The project aims to establish a community of Duke faculty members who share East Asian cultural identities and heritage. By offering an array of academic and social activities such as speaker workshops, reading clubs, writing retreats and cultural events, this affinity group will help foster an inclusive environment by creating opportunities for faculty to build relationships and thrive in their professional careers.

Obstetric Medical Group

Jerome Jeffrey Federspiel, Ceshae Harding, David Shaz

Project Leads: Jerome Jeffrey Federspiel, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Ceshae Harding, Medical Instructor in the Department of Medicine; David Shaz, Assistant Professor of Medicine

This award is cosponsored with the Office for Research and Innovation.

This multidisciplinary social and professional collaboration aims to support the careers of Duke faculty members who are interested in the care of pregnant people by organizing a one-day conference, quarterly networking dinners and a lecture series. These in-person activities are intended to build community among faculty who frequently work indirectly with one another by facilitating direct peer relationships and mentor-mentee relationships. 

Permission to Pause: Prioritizing Rest, Reflection and Innovative Thinking

Kristen Stephens

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

By providing the structure and space to address work-life balance and encourage the exploration of innovative ideas, this project will help faculty of the Program in Education to reflect, reenergize, think creatively and plan for the program’s next steps toward its articulated vision. Retreats and activities will also aim to build community among faculty in the program and strengthen relationships that will aid in work-life balance goals.

Scientific and Policy Recommendations to Mitigate the Impact of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites and Space Debris on Astronomy

Arun Kannawaki Jayaraman, Giovanni Zanalda

Project Leads: Arun Kannawadi Jayaraman, Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Physics; Giovanni Zanalda, Professor of the Practice in the Social Science Research Institute

This award is cosponsored with the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Through a symposium series, this project aims to strengthen relationships between STEM and social sciences/policy experts from the Duke Cosmology Group, Space Diplomacy Lab and other faculty interested in preserving the pristine nature of the sky to grow a Duke community of experts in space exploration and orbital activities.  An overarching goal of this project is to establish connections among faculty from different disciplines and their respective communities, and to build relationships that will improve faculty experiences and lead to innovative ideas.

Strengthening Faculty Engagement Across Clinical and Basic Science Research in Neuroimmunology

Niccolò Terrando

Project Lead: Niccolò Terrando, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology

This award is cosponsored with the Office for Research and Innovation.

This project will promote faculty engagement and communication by organizing a symposium and affinity group meetings to improve academic culture and build community between basic and clinical researchers interested in neuroimmune and neurovascular interactions in brain health and disease. These activities will strengthen faculty networks by facilitating connections, breaking down silos, and promoting the spread of new research ideas between faculty in Anesthesiology and Integrative Immunobiology.

Workshopping Grant Proposals With Assistant Professors

Daniel Scolnic, Emily Derbyshire

Project Leads: Daniel Scolnic, Associate Professor of Physics; Emily Derbyshire, Associate Professor of Chemistry

This award is cosponsored with the Office for Research and Innovation.

To address a stressor of assistant professors in STEM fields, this project will create a community for editing and planning of grant proposals. Associate professors who have successfully applied to grant programs will support early assistant professors as they work towards writing successful grant proposals. Over breakfast and lunch, they will discuss proposals in the works, engage in collaborative (partner and group) editing, share successful proposals, learn about each other’s work and hear from external speakers. The project will also provide opportunities for mentorship and community building for the assistant professors in the group.