Donor Spotlights

Fueling Program Growth and Innovation

General program support gifts, like a $1 million commitment from the Mary Alice Fortin Foundation matched by $500,000 from the Bass Connections Challenge Fund, enable Bass Connections to expand to meet student and faculty demand while also continuing to innovate and invest in strategic priorities.

As Bass Connections has continued to grow, program leadership has committed to continuous improvement and innovation – introducing new summer programs, creating opportunities for student-driven research, and cultivating innovative courses that move the model further into the curriculum. In 2018-2019, this focus led to the creation of Bass Connections Open – a channel to support projects that fit the Bass Connections model and approach but that fall outside of the existing themes – and a new opportunity for students to propose collaborative, student-driven research projects.

I had the opportunity to attend the Bass Connections Showcase and what struck me most was the faculty engagement with students. They talked about how the program introduced both of them to new ways of tackling complex societal challenges. –Danielle (Dani) Moore T’85, President, Mary Alice Fortin Foundation

Conservation and Environmental Education

Passionate about supporting biodiversity conservation, Jeff and Laurie Ubben made a gift of $5 million to Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and a companion gift of $20 million to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in support of wildlife conservation programs at WWF and environmental research and education at Duke.

$500,000 of the Nicholas School fund has been matched through Bass Connections to support year-long project teams led by Nicholas School faculty focused on biodiversity conservation.

Over the past two years, seven research teams have been funded through this initiative. These teams are tackling a range of biodiversity challenges including how to deploy ocean evidence gap maps to target conservation efforts, develop new microorganisms to convert plastic waste into biodegradable products and analyze the role that African forest elephants play in forecasting ecological changes.

Jeff and Laurie Ubben are both alumni of Duke, and Jeff is a member of Duke’s Board of Trustees.

Bass Connections provided a unique opportunity for us to make a gift that would support several institutional priorities at once – experiential learning for students, faculty research, and the application of research to help global communities. –Jeffrey T’83 and Laurie T’84 Ubben P’15, P’19

Innovations in Early Childhood Development

All Babies and Children Thrive (ABC Thrive) – an interdisciplinary initiative under Bass Connections that takes a holistic approach to helping babies and young children get the best possible start in life – was established by a $2 million gift from Duke alumna and trustee Laurene Meir Sperling and her husband, Scott M. Sperling, through the Sperling Family Charitable Foundation. The Bass Connections Challenge will add $1 million in matching funds for a total of $3 million.

Leveraging the innovative research, education, clinical care and outreach capabilities of Duke University and Duke Health, the initiative promotes optimal development in children from prenatal to age five.

ABC Thrive awards seed grants and implementation grants to interdisciplinary teams of faculty. Corresponding Bass Connections projects and courses also provide opportunities for students to explore these issues.

Bass Connections is a distinctive new model for education and research focused on exploring and solving major societal challenges through interdisciplinary research, teaching, and community engagement. Supporting Bass Connections gave us the opportunity to leverage multiple parts of the university – Duke Health, undergraduate education, faculty in Duke’s professional schools – as well as community partners to create a learning agenda focused on optimal development in children from prenatal to age five. –Laurene Sperling T’78, P’13, P’14