In 2015, the Duke University Graduate School and Senior Associate Dean Jacqueline Looney received an award from the American Historical Association for outstanding efforts in recruiting and supporting students from underrepresented groups. In their letters, the scholars and colleagues who nominated Looney for the award praised her as “the ultimate facilitator of the best work and the best people.”

That phrase—“the ultimate facilitator of the best work and the best people”—also describes the role the Duke Graduate School strives to play. Broadly speaking, the school does not have its own faculty (except for the instructors in its English for International Students and Certificate in College Teaching programs), nor is its success best measured by its staff’s publications or research grants. The essence of The Graduate School lies with its students, who serve as a needed leavening in Duke’s academic community.

The Graduate School’s mission, therefore, is to attract the best students, ensure that they receive a high-quality, research-based graduate education that prepares them for outstanding careers, and provide them with the resources and support to navigate the transition from learners and apprentices to scholars, junior colleagues, and professionals. Through this endeavor, The Graduate School also strengthens Duke’s research enterprise, as the ability to recruit and support outstanding graduate students helps attract top-flight scholars and researchers to the university.

This mission is set against a backdrop of national and local changes that affect graduate education and graduate students. For instance, nationally, the rapidly evolving and diversifying job marketplace pushes us to re-imagine graduate education in order to prepare our students to thrive in a variety of careers. Locally, dramatic growth in Durham—particularly the area surrounding the university—has made Duke’s home city more dynamic and appealing, but also an increasingly expensive place to live, particularly for graduate students who need to stay near campus. This is something that Duke must take into account when considering issues that affect graduate students’ non-academic lives, such as financial support, transportation, parking, and student housing.

Taking those challenges into account, this plan lays out six major goals that The Graduate School will pursue over the next decade. Achieving these goals will help Duke not only maintain, but also enhance its position among elite private institutions of graduate education:

  1. Provide robust support to compete for the best graduate students, help them thrive at Duke, and prepare them for success after Duke.
  2. Assist the school’s graduate programs in recruiting top students and providing them with the best possible educational experience.
  3. Help create an inclusive atmosphere at Duke where students from all walks of life can succeed and diversity is valued as a strength and a means to achieving the university’s mission.
  4. Work university-wide to develop a vision and strategy to grow master’s programs sustainably and ensure master’s students receive a high-quality experience.
  5. Continue to strengthen and grow The Graduate School’s connections with its community of alumni and supporters.
  6. Increase awareness of The Graduate School’s resources, programs, and accomplishments among key audiences at Duke and beyond.

Of course, The Graduate School cannot accomplish these ambitious goals alone. Graduate programs, departments, campus services, and other units at Duke must be close partners in our endeavor, and The Graduate School will actively seek out such collaborations as we implement the strategies laid out in this plan.

The Graduate School’s new strategic plan was created concurrently with the university’s new academic strategic plan, which stated the need for a university-wide effort to re-imagine doctoral education at Duke and emphasized enhancing the graduate student experience. The Graduate School’s strategic plan was designed to contribute to those efforts. Work on our strategic plan began in 2016–2017, the 90th year since The Graduate School was founded, and this plan will serve as a roadmap to ensure that the school reaches its centennial with a bright long-term future and in an even stronger position to facilitate “the best work and the best people.”


Strategic Goal 1 →