Faculty Seek Graduate Students to Partner on Course Design

April 9, 2024

Kyle Bradbury (middle) with students.

Seven faculty are seeking applications from graduate students to work with them to create a new course or redesign an existing course that integrates collaborative, project-based work as a central element of the course design. 

This call is part of the Collaborative Project Expeditions program hosted by Bass Connections, which provides graduate students with a stipend of $1,750 to spend approximately 75 hours throughout the summer or a semester developing a collaborative project course in consultation with a faculty sponsor.

Any master's, professional or doctoral student may apply, but preference will be given to doctoral students. Students can expect to gain skills in course design and pedagogical innovation.

Bass Connections also offers a rolling opportunity for doctoral students to propose their own expedition project with a faculty sponsor of their choice.

Application and Selection

To apply for a current course design opening (listed below), please email a resume and a statement of interest to the affiliated faculty sponsor. Your statement of interest should include relevant background, skills and interests; a strong articulation of why you are a good fit for the opportunity; as well as how this work fits into your academic and/or professional development pathway at Duke. Faculty may require additional materials and/or an interview.

Applications will be reviewed as they are received, but we encourage prospective applicants to apply by no later than May 1 for summer opportunities and August 1 for fall opportunities. Positions will be filled on a rolling basis.

Courses Seeking Support in Summer 2024 (Apply by May 1)

EGR 105L: Computing for Engineers

Faculty sponsor: Genevieve Lipp 

Course description: This course explores computational thinking and programming to solve engineering problems. By the end of the course, students should be able to devise and implement an algorithm to address a computational engineering problem using expert tools and systematic testing and debugging. Throughout the course, student teams tackle projects inspired by engineering industry and research. Ideally, the projects will include industry partners who “sponsor” the projects by providing their knowledge of the domain and sample data. Ultimately, students in the course will gain computing self-efficacy, fundamental programming skills, and a sense of engineering identity and community.

Applicant specifications: Applicants can be from any engineering discipline and should have experience programming in Python. They should have a deep interest in course design and at least two prior experiences in a teaching assistant role. The student in this role will help create the specifications for a menu of collaborative projects inspired by industry and faculty partners. They will help identify key skills necessary for each stage of the project and work on modules to prepare students to complete that stage of the project.

MARSCI 205/ENV 205/BIO 205: Marine Megafauna

Faculty sponsor: Meagan Dunphy-Daly

Course description: This course introduces students to marine ecology and conservation through the ocean's largest inhabitants. Using marine megafauna examples, students examine the ocean environment, evolution, life history strategies, methodological approaches and technologies for studying marine ecosystems and marine biodiversity. Students explore the interdisciplinary nature of marine conservation and how science and research, societal and cultural values, and law and policy play a role in marine conservation and management. In the course, students work in teams to develop a blog post and in-class presentation as well as a final video project that communicates a current marine megafauna conservation or management issue to the public.

Applicant specifications: The timeline for this work is flexible – either Summer 2024 or Fall 2024. Applicants should indicate their preferred timeline in their letter of interest. Applicants may be from any field but should have experience in STEM or visual media and be excited about science communication. The student in this role will work to refine and improve existing group projects and design new hands-on learning opportunities for small groups of students. This would involve reviewing existing group project ideas and curricula. This student will help develop a draft action plan for teams to use at the beginning of the semester to develop individual roles within the group and help improve rubrics for the group projects, including self- and peer-assessments. 

GLHLTH 215/GSF 212: Global Sexual and Reproductive Health

Faculty sponsor: Megan Huchko

Course description: This course examines the field of global sexual and reproductive health. Students explore how social determinants of health impact reproductive and sexual health around the globe; evaluate how disparities in sexual and reproductive health are measured; learn about interventions to address these health disparities and evaluate their effectiveness; and practice proposing interventions. Students work in teams to research health outcomes, identify the drivers of these outcomes, see how these drivers can be impacted through various interventions and propose their own solutions.

Applicant specifications: Applicants can come from any field but should have experience in global health, social determinants of health and/or health disparities, as well as skills or interests in research design and epidemiology. The student in this role will design project plans, milestones and deliverables, and assist with the development of assessment rubrics.

Courses Seeking Support in Fall 2024 (Apply by August 1)

WRITING 101: Narrating Medicine: From Medical Research to Patient Experiences

Faculty sponsor: Jessica Corey

Course description: This course explores individual and collective experiences with medicine (e.g., medical research, physician training, patient experiences) through an interdisciplinary lens. Students will explore how subjective experience and “objective” inquiry inform medical practices and policies; how historical and current social structures determine how meaning is derived from certain forms of knowledge and representations of knowledge; and what the future of medicine could look like if it adopts a narrative form. In the course, students work in small groups to examine narrative case studies related to medical experiences, illness or healthcare encounters. The groups then use the case study to collaboratively generate a research question, conduct additional research and write a report that synthesizes the primary (narrative) and secondary sources. Students also collaborate to create narrative maps that visually represent the journey of a patient or healthcare provider through illness, treatment, caregiving or policy creation/implementation. Ultimately, the goal is for students to understand writing as a social practice from both a theoretical and practical perspective.

Applicant specifications: Applicants should be from fields such as evolutionary anthropology, cultural anthropology, psychology and neuroscience, or public policy and should have some knowledge of health systems and/or health communication. The student in this role will help refine the course syllabus and project modules; design course materials and resources for student teams; plan and scope collaborative projects; design project plans, milestones and deliverables; and design project resources.

Undergraduate Seminar in Education (Course Number and Title TBD)

Faculty sponsors: Kisha Daniels and Yolanda Dunston

Course description: This new course will examine the stereotypes, narratives and counter-narratives of the work of African American women focusing particularly on their role in primary and secondary education systems. The course will center the voices, perspectives and experiences of African American women in Durham Public Schools to help students explore relationships and look for connections between aspects of identity (e.g., race, social class, gender) and labor. Students will engage in service learning and research with local organizations (e.g., Durham Public Schools, Office of Equity Affairs, The Dudley Flood Center for Education Equity and Opportunity) to support their frameworks for success and efforts to increase diversity in the educator pool. In rotating research teams, students will complete literature reviews, collect oral histories and conduct interviews. They will then collaborate to analyze data, determine the most effective methods for communicating findings, and use digital tools to create and share multimedia projects. 

Applicant specifications: Applicants should be from Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, History or Political Science and will ideally be interested in supporting the course in both Fall 2024 (development) and Spring 2025 (implementation). In Fall 2024, the student in this role will research and gather materials for the course content; co-create course presentation materials; help manage data; assist in the setup of CANVAS (or other learning management system). In Spring 2025, this student will support the course implementation, including supporting the cultivation and logistics of external partnerships.

ENVIRON 617: Restoration Ecology

Faculty sponsor: Rebecca Vidra

Course description: This new course will provide a broad overview of the field and process of ecological restoration. Student teams will connect with local conservation organizations and (possibly) private landowners to develop preliminary restoration plans to suit their needs. Students will complete site inspections, conduct a search for potential funding opportunities and regulatory hurdles, engage with stakeholders to define potential goals for the project and outline a restoration process from start through monitoring for success. Overall, the course and the semester-long project will give students real-world experience in restoration planning while providing actionable plans for community partners.

Applicant specifications: Applicants should have interest in community engagement, familiarity with conservation and/or restoration, and a willingness to communicate directly with external organizations. The student in this role will identify and work with community partners on developing restoration projects for student teams.

What Are Collaborative Projects?

Collaborative projects are learning experiences that require students to work in teams on a research question using the academic knowledge and skills concurrently being developed in the course. Collaborative projects strengthen students’ ability to apply classroom learning to interdisciplinary or disciplinary challenges and work effectively on teams, and should culminate in the creation of new knowledge, tangible works and/or creative or artistic products.

How Does the Program Work?

Participating graduate students will be expected to work 75 hours over the course of the term with a faculty member to integrate collaborative projects into a course. Depending on the objectives of the faculty sponsor and participating student, this time may include:

  • Consultations between the student and faculty sponsor
  • Development or modification of a course syllabus and project modules
  • Design of course materials and resources for student teams
  • Development of assessment rubrics
  • Outreach to project partners and relationship cultivation

At the end of the experience, students will be expected to write and submit to Bass Connections a short reflection on their experience for publication or for use in a professional portfolio or relevant job market materials related to pedagogy, teaching, teamwork/collaboration and/or project management. 

Benefits for Graduate Students

Through this opportunity, graduate students will have the chance to practice course design, collaboration, project scoping and management, team building and leadership.

Ideally, this experience will enable graduate students to:

  • Work collaboratively with faculty (and possibly staff and external partners) on course design, project management and team building
  • Think critically about course pedagogy and when to integrate collaborative projects into courses
  • Develop concrete learning objectives and clear course syllabi
  • Plan and scope applied research projects, especially with short timelines
  • Facilitate teamwork (e.g., build effective teams, develop and scaffold key resources, troubleshoot interpersonal/team issues)
  • Broaden their intellectual networks and build strategic external partnerships
  • Teach and mentor undergraduates

For examples of how prior graduate students have benefited from this experience, check out these reflections:

  • Ph.D. student Colin Birkhead (Sociology), who redesigned SOC 250: Immigration and Health to integrate client-based collaborative projects (read about the experience from the point of view of his faculty mentor, Jen’nan Read)
  • Ph.D. student Siobhan Oca (Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science), who designed and taught ME: 490: Introduction to Robotics, which includes collaborative final projects

Eligibility and Funding Restrictions

Any master's, professional or doctoral student may apply, but preference will be given to doctoral students. Participating students are responsible for adhering to financial policies and restrictions (including restrictions on hours of work per week) set by grantors of any other fellowships or positions held during the funding period. Please note that some fellowships do not allow supplemental funding. Please see the Graduate School Supplementation Policy for more information. We also advise that prospective applicants consult with their advisor and director of graduate studies about how this opportunity would fit in their academic and funding plans for the proposed period of work.


Check out our Collaborative Project Courses: Course Design Resource Center to browse example syllabi, video advice from faculty, answers to common questions, links to templates and additional course design resources.

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