Bioethics Blogs

Creative Undergraduate Education at Duke

Photo Credit: Rita Lo / The Chronicle

I love teaching at Duke. I can’t believe, actually, that I’m able to do that for a living. One of the great things about teaching is interacting with smart, ambitious students. And today, Duke’s The Chronicle just wrote about one such student, Elle Wilson who took a class from me last fall, and now designed her own major to more thoroughly explore the topics we covered.

Although most students choose traditional majors like economics, public policy or biology, there is a lesser-known option for those who desire a more personalized area of study—Program II.

Program II is essentially Duke’s design-your-own major and has been in place since 1968. The 12 to 18 undergraduates per year who follow this path must submit an extensive application outlining an independent, theme-based course of study, including a senior capstone project. Instead of being based in a single discipline—as most Program I majors are—Program II uses themes to focus study, said Norman Keul, associate dean and director of Program II.

“Once you have a clearly defined theme you want to explore as an undergraduate, you cherry-pick courses that allow you to get at and explore that theme most effectively,” Keul said.

Students generally participate in Program II when they cannot study what they want to study under the standard Program I majors, explained Keul.

“The most fundamental question asked by the Program II committee when reviewing an application to Program II is whether a student can do an effective study of what he or she is interested in under Program I,” Keul said.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.