Frequently Asked Questions about Bass Connections for Faculty

What is Bass Connections?
How can I get involved in Bass Connections?
How do faculty benefit from participating in Bass Connections?
How do I apply for a Bass Connections project team?
How were the themes determined and what if my work doesn’t fit within a theme?
Who can I talk to to help conceptualize a project idea?
How can I find faculty to collaborate with on a project?
What types of projects are ideal for a Bass Connections team?
What types of projects are not funded?
How many projects are accepted each year?
What is the average budget for a project team and what activities are allowable?
Can projects be multi-year?
What are some examples of strong project proposals?
What are the responsibilities of project team leaders?
Are there opportunities for professional masters and doctoral students to participate?
How much time is required to lead a team?
What are the benefits to students of participating on Bass Connections project teams?
What are some challenges that faculty face when leading a Bass Connections team?
What support is available to project team leaders?

What is Bass Connections?

Bass Connections is a university-wide initiative that brings together faculty and students to explore pressing societal challenges through interdisciplinary research. There are five themes in the initiative, each of which runs project teams, interdisciplinary courses, co-curricular activities and faculty-mentored student research experiences.

How can I get involved in Bass Connections?

Faculty can engage in Bass Connections in a variety of ways. The most prevalent of these is to co-lead a Bass Connections project team. Project teams are groups of four to 15 individuals, including at least two faculty leaders, from different disciplines and different student levels who work together to address a societal challenge through research and outreach. Projects generally last nine to 12 months, but some projects are as short as 10 weeks and others as long as 16 months.

Faculty can also participate on project teams as a contributor, which means they engage with a team occasionally throughout the year as a sounding board or advisor, but they are not responsible for leading the team.

Finally, faculty can work with the Bass Connections theme leaders to design and teach interdisciplinary courses and other research experiences that engage students. Faculty have also extended Bass Connections projects via DukeImmerse and DukeEngage, and have connected to Global Education programs and other popular programs.

How do faculty benefit from participating in Bass Connections?

Our survey of team leaders from 2014-15 revealed that faculty choose to participate for a variety of reasons including to:

  • Start a new research project
  • Mentor students in a different way
  • Be part of something innovative
  • Be part of a multidisciplinary team
  • Expand their professional network.

Faculty also report benefiting in a range of ways including mentoring students, connecting with other faculty and engaging in research that they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

More than two-thirds of team leaders report that Bass Connections benefited them professionally with regard to research, leadership experience and service to the external community.

How do I apply for a Bass Connections project team?

Requests for Proposals will be distributed to faculty each September for projects that will begin the following year (summer or fall). Projects will be selected and team leaders will be notified in December. When applying, you will need to select which theme you think your project fits within. Some projects may fit within more than one theme. The RFP will ask you to:

  • Explain the goals of your project and how it aligns with the goals of Bass Connections
  • Provide a high-level proposed timeline for your project
  • List faculty co-leaders and contributors
  • Submit a budget estimate.

How were the themes determined and what if my work doesn’t fit within a theme?

The five themes were selected in 2012 following a year-long planning process that included a university-wide committee with faculty and administrators, and input from the Provost and President. Each theme addresses challenges facing our society through the application of interdisciplinary research. The themes are designed to be broad and encompassing of many disciplines. If you are uncertain if your work would align with a particular theme, we encourage you to contact a theme leader.

For faculty whose work falls outside the scope of the five themes, we have created a new avenue for faculty and students to engage in Bass Connections. Bass Connections Open is a temporary channel for projects and courses that otherwise meet the model of Bass Connections but do not align with one of the existing themes.

Who can I talk to to help conceptualize a project idea?

Faculty are encouraged to reach out to theme leaders to brainstorm potential project ideas. Faculty who have participated in Bass Connections may also make a great sounding board for deciding how to structure a potential project.

How can I find faculty to collaborate with on a project?

We recommend using Scholars@Duke to identify faculty with shared or complementary research interests, or contacting a theme leader for ideas.

What types of projects are ideal for a Bass Connections team?

While successful projects take many different forms, they often share a few elements including:

  • Integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines
  • Are accessible to students from various learner levels, including undergraduates
  • Are research-based
  • Engage an external community or partner
  • Are of a scope that can be completed within a year (this may include completing a discrete phase of a larger research project)
  • Are suitable for group-based work.

What types of projects are not funded?

Bass Connections projects are not standard courses or seminars, nor are they for individual faculty research or travel. Projects that are not sufficiently interdisciplinary or team-based will also not be selected.

How many projects are accepted each year?

Between 40 and 60 projects are accepted each year across all five themes. The number of projects will depend on the quality of applications received, the awarded budget for each project and other sources of funding available. Themes make their best effort to fund, or partially fund, all projects that are recommended by the review panel.

What is the average budget for a project team and what activities are allowable?

Most project budgets are between $5,000 and $25,000, with the more expensive projects tending to include a team trip. Major expenses for teams generally include student stipends, travel, post-doc support, data collection/research support and materials. Budgets can also include funding for team-building activities, meals and experiences.

If your project is selected, you will be responsible for administering the project funds (or working with a business manager in your unit to do so).

Can projects be multi-year?

Team leaders may reapply for funding each year but projects are only awarded one year of funding at a time. Continued funding will depend upon the team’s past performance as well as the number and quality of the other applications received in a given year. A significant number of the current projects are continuing projects.

How are Bass Connections project teams selected?

Each theme forms a panel of interdisciplinary faculty members to review applications. Each project is reviewed to ensure that it:

  • Aligns with the mission of Bass Connections by creating connections between:
    • The academy and the broader world
    • Areas of disciplinary expertise
    • Different learner levels (undergraduates, master’s and professional students, graduate students and post-docs)
  • Focuses on team-based learning
  • Is research-based
  • Has clearly articulated goals that broadly align with the goals of the theme.

What are the responsibilities of project team leaders?

It’s important to understand and be realistic about the time required to lead a project team. Generally speaking, team leaders are responsible for:

  • Conceptualizing and proposing the project: Team leaders create the initial vision for a project, identify faculty co-leader(s) and submit the RFP. If the project will engage external partners, which is encouraged, team leaders are also responsible for identifying and recruiting those partners.
  • Team formation: Once a project has been funded, team leaders need to form the project team by selecting students from the applications received and/or personally recruiting students. They also need to set up a framework for when the team will meet and how they will work together.
  • Project administration: Depending on the structure of your project, many students will receive either course credit or a stipend for participating. For students receiving credit, team leaders will need to provide a course permission number and grade student performance. Team leaders will also need to schedule time for the team to meet and set up a structure for the team to communicate and operate. Finally, team leaders are responsible for administering the project funds.

    Many team leaders invite a graduate student or post-doc to join the team to help with the project administration and to mentor students. However, team leaders should continue to play an active role, regardless of the presence of a graduate student.

  • Project leadership: Throughout the project, the team leaders will continue to set a vision and provide direction for the team, but they are also encouraged to give team members significant responsibility for the direction of the project, while providing coaching and support. Team resources provide guidance to team leaders and simplify the process of leading a team.

Finally, team leaders will be invited to participate in optional networking and informational events as part of Bass Connections and their particular theme. Team leaders will also be responsible for reporting on the outcomes of their projects and completing a post-program survey.

How much time is required to lead a team?

Faculty estimate that they an average of five hours per week on their project.

Are there opportunities for professional masters and doctoral students to participate in Bass Connections?

Absolutely! An ideal team includes participants at multiple educational levels working together. While project teams must include opportunities for undergraduates to participate, all projects are strongly encouraged to propose opportunities for participation at all learner levels. We have heard from students at all levels, and faculty, that the opportunity for students to work across levels is a unique and valuable aspect of Bass Connections.

What are the benefits to students of participating on Bass Connections project teams?

94% of students – undergraduates and graduates – who participated on a Bass Connections team in 2014-15 said that they would recommend the experience to a friend. Students reported common benefits including the opportunity to:

  • Explore their research and career interests
  • Work closely with faculty
  • Gain valuable experience for their resume
  • Work with external stakeholders
  • Connect classroom lessons to social issues
  • Work on a diverse interdisciplinary team.

Students may also receive credit and/or stipends for participation.

What are some challenges that faculty face when leading a Bass Connections team?

The most common reported challenge is finding time to dedicate to the team. A related challenge is finding a common time when all members of the team are available to meet on a regular basis. To address this, many team leaders are now designating a specific time to meet prior to selecting team members – this ensures that everyone who applies for the team will be available at the same time. Some faculty have noted that they would like to see students take more initiative around the project, acknowledging that some students require mentorship and a bit of prodding in order to feel comfortable with the expectations inherent in participating on a project team.

What support is available to project team leaders?

Each theme has both a theme leader (in some cases two co-leaders) and a theme administrator that are available to answer questions and assist team leaders. Team resources provide guidance and simplify the process of leading a team. Team leaders might also consider inviting a graduate student or post-doc to join the team to help organize the team and mentor students.