School Profile: International Exploration, Tenting, and Pizza at Duke University

Duke University is ranked #15 on the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. This research university is located on a 9,000 acre campus in Durham, North Carolina. It’s had three name changes and two campus location changes since its 1838 Quaker roots.

More than three-quarters of Duke students are involved in some type of service learning either locally or internationally in keeping with the university’s “knowledge in service to society” mission.

Duke University is divided into four colleges.

  • Trinity College of Arts and Sciences graduates nearly 80% of all undergraduate students. The college’s philosophy of immersing students in hands-on research prepares them to make significant contributions to their fields of study.
  •  Nicholas School of the Environment gives students the opportunity to prepare for careers in ocean sciences, earth sciences, and natural history through perspectives in not only science, but public policy.
  • Sanford School of Public Policy prepares students to be ethical leaders in the realm of public policy-making.
  • Pratt School of Engineering is one of the fastest growing engineering schools in the nation, offering undergrads degrees in electrical and computer, biomedical, civil and environmental, and mechanical engineering.

The new Bass Connections initiative organizes learning and research around problem-solving  rather than discipline. Multi-discipline teams work on specific problems that need to be solved. For example, one team has taken on the problem of environmental epidemiology in Latin America. They’re doing research in a small Peruvian village in the Amazon, and have brought together the disciplines of global health and environmental engineering. This is an example of the kind of hands-on research that turns students at Duke into global problem-solvers.

Duke is one of the few schools that require students to live on campus for three full years of their undergraduate studies. Incoming freshmen are assigned to one of fourteen residences based on their academic studies and interests. Students who opt to participate in the FOCUS program are housed together as well. Sophomores, juniors and seniors have more flexibility in their campus housing choices, but all are affiliated with one of the 80 houses on either the West or Central campuses. Each house determines its own personality. Co-ed selective living arrangements offer upperclassmen the choice to live in social groups that are outside the Greek system. Most are organized around a particular interest. Nine sororities and fifteen fraternities in the Greek system are housed on the Central campus.

Duke athletics are epic, especially the men’s basketball team (even though they lost to Mercer during March Madness this year), and Duke fans are matchless in their enthusiasm and support for the team. Since tickets to athletic events are free for Duke students, a practice known as “tenting” has become the norm. It’s basically a line to purchase tickets for games where students pitch tents in a row, making sure they have the correct amount of people in their tent to stay in line. Occasionally, the “tent village” will hold a concert or Coach Krzyzewski will buy pizza for the enthusiastic fans in the village.

Besides the tradition of tenting before big games, there are a few other interesting campus traditions. One is the unofficial graduation requirement of driving backwards around the campus traffic circle. Another requires students to climb Baldwin Auditorium. The Chapel Tower climb has been a long-standing tradition at Duke; the daring is increased by rumors of the chapel being haunted. A less dramatic and more noble tradition was recently begun where students now participate in academic homecoming ceremonies to honor their choice of majors. Students who crave a social environment and want to be part of something bigger than themselves may want to put Duke University on their top five list.

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By Colleen Hill