Knowledge in the Service of Society

  • KISS students with Rosa Parks Statue
    KISS students with Rosa Parks Statue
  • Parents and Faculty interacting at Parents Weekend
    Parents and Faculty interacting at Parents Weekend
  • Prof. Susie Post-Rust talking with Parent
    Prof. Susie Post-Rust talking with Parent
  • Prof. Jehanne Gheith listening to Parent
    Prof. Jehanne Gheith listening to Parent
  • Profs. David Malone and Jehanne Gheith with Student
    Profs. David Malone and Jehanne Gheith with Student


This FOCUS cluster pursues themes associated with Duke's strategic goal of using knowledge in the service of society. Increasingly in American higher education, both public and private institutions are underscoring their commitment to civic engagement in their curricular and co-curricular offerings. This stems from an increased recognition of the important role that our colleges and universities play in helping to solve real world problems in our local, national and international communities. Duke’s commitment to civic engagement has been widely recognized, and students in this cluster will become widely familiar with how Duke is engaged with it is many communities.

Students enrolling in the FOCUS cluster will learn about, critique, and explore the conceptual underpinnings of the pursuit of civic engagement and will get real life experiences through a service learning course that places students in a Durham public school and a leadership course that provides students the opportunity to develop and act on enterprising civic engagement ideas.


Education 111FS — Pursuit of Equality: Rethinking Schools-Lens of Social Justice, (SS, CCI, EI)

  • David Malone, Professor of the Practice, Program in Education
  • Jan Riggsbee, Professor of the Practice, Program in Education

In 1954 the Supreme Court case Brown versus the Board of Education forever changed American schools by ending segregation and creating educational equity. Or did it? Are today's schools any more inclusive or socially just than schools were 50 years ago? Examination of ways schools may or may not perpetuate and reproduce social inequities. Focus on recent efforts to imagine and create socially-just schools. Discussion of our ethical responsibilities as civically engaged citizens to work towards educational equality and provide support of schools that are inclusive, culturally responsive, and democratic. Required service-learning experience working with children in a Durham public school.

Education 113/ Cultural Anthropology 113FS — Enterprising Leadership and Civic Engagement, (EI, SS)

Lisa Beth Bergene, Associate Dean for East Campus

How do you make change happen?  Is community service enough?  Spend the semester developing and implementing an idea to improve the first-year experience at Duke.  Examine ethical issues that arise when engaging in community service.  Dive deeply into systematic issues of inequality and discuss how everyday citizens can lead efforts to bring about change.  Learn about different models of leadership and how leadership intersects with social change.  Explore and enhance your own abilities as a leader.  This course incorporates opportunity for reflection and a high level of interaction with classmates.

Education 112FS/ Public Policy 183FS/ Russian 121FS/ Science and Society 112FS — Medical Ethics, Aging, and End of Life Care in the U.S. (ALP, CCI, EI)

Jehanne Gheith, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature; Lincensed Clinical Social Worker for Duke Hospice

Examines policy issues in end of life care by considering personal and societal ethical issues. Cross-cultural analysis of end of life care addressing ethical issues among diverse populations: how do different cultural attitudes to dying, death, and health affect end of life care? Ethical issues include discussion of Death with Dignity/Physician Assisted Suicide, access to health care, whether/how long to keep people alive on machines, and how these decisions are made. Course includes perspective and anticipates debate on how art and literature are important for social change.

Education 209FS/ Documentary Studies 209FS/ Visual Arts 212FS/ Visual and Media Studies: Digital Photography: Education, Childhood and Growth (EI, ALP)

Susie Post-Rust, Lecturing Fellow of Documentary Studies

Few experiences are more vital than childhood. Using digital photography and a documentary approach, students explore one of Durham's public schools. In the FOCUS section, students produce a semester-long project that speaks to the heart of a Durham public school or the Croasdaile
Village Retirement Community.  Through each project, students explore meaningful topics, give a voice to their subjects, and think about the issues that grow out of change. Collectively the students’ body of work portrays the life of the school and community, and in so doing, mirrors course content across the FOCUS cluster.  A service-learning course, the culmination of the class includes a student exhibit and website launch that takes place publicly at the school; prints and the project website reside at the school.  Course includes discussion on ethics in documentary photography, basic camera usage, Photoshop, narrative storytelling, and dissemination. 

Faculty Director

Jan Riggsbee
Jan Riggsbee
  • Professor of the Practice of the Program in Education
  • Director of Duke TeachHouse
213 West Duke Building, Program In Education, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
(919) 660-3077