Ways to Get Involved
Each year, more than 350 faculty, well over a thousand undergraduates and several hundred graduate students engage in team-based research through Bass Connections. Projects, courses and summer programs are aligned with five interdisciplinary themes; Bass Connections Open provides additional opportunities for projects outside the themes.
Project teams are generally groups of five to 20 individuals, including at least two team leaders, graduate and undergraduate students, who work together to address a societal challenge through interdisciplinary research and outreach. Projects generally last nine to 12 months. Besides leading a team, faculty may opt to participate on a project team as a contributor, providing occasional guidance. Staff, graduate students, postdocs and trainees/fellows may also co-lead projects, but all projects must have at least one faculty team leader.
Faculty may propose a project through our annual call for proposals which runs from early September to early November of each year. Faculty are invited to reach out at any time to discuss potential project team ideas. We will occasionally consider off-cycle proposals for projects addressing emerging or time-sensitive issues of strategic importance.
Around 45 semester-long courses are affiliated with Bass Connections, each infused with interdisciplinary, team-based learning. Faculty who currently teach a course that align with this model are invited to reach out to us to discuss how we might spotlight the course. Faculty can also receive guidance, support and funding to design new or modify existing courses that align with the model of Bass Connections through the Collaborative Project Courses Faculty Fellows Program.
Four summer programs offer additional opportunities for faculty to get involved as project sponsors, clients or leaders.
Bass Connections offers support for individual and collaborative faculty-mentored, student-led research projects, outside the structure of a project team, course or summer program.
Special initiatives provide seed funding for interdisciplinary research into issues such as early childhood development, energy access and biodiversity conservation.
Benefits for Faculty
Faculty report benefiting from the program in a range of ways including: the opportunity to form new faculty networks, the chance to mentor students in a close capacity, and the opportunity to launch or expand a research project.
I am a fairly new faculty at Duke. Bass Connections gave me an opportunity to form collaborations quickly with faculty who are outside of my department. It has been a huge networking tool. It has also provided me with a way to collect preliminary data to apply for larger grant funding. It also provided exposure for my project, which allowed me to recruit students from several different disciplines in an organized fashion. –Faculty team leader
The opportunity to engage a diverse group of undergrads and allow them the opportunity to interact with one another outside of their silo of study has been and continues to be incredibly rewarding. –Faculty team leader
Writing to Heal
Ray Barfield, a professor of pediatric oncology and professor of Christian Philosophy, has seen the toll of pediatric cancer on his patients and families. Even when successfully treated, psychological effects can endure for decades. In 2018, Barfield teamed up with an interdisciplinary team of students, the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, and John Evans, an expert in expressive writing, to test whether writing can help heal.
Expressive writing offers a low-cost therapeutic intervention for former patients and caregivers. Guided by prompts, participants write about a traumatic or stressful event. This Bass Connections team developed an expressive writing intervention program and is now piloting this program to assess whether it can increase resilience for adult survivors of childhood cancer and their caregivers. Along the way, all students on the team became certified as expressive writing instructors and completed portfolios documenting their work. Team leaders plan to expand the scope of the research into the Durham Community.
Identifying “Slums” in India
In 2013-14, Public Policy professor Anirudh Krishna and Political Science professor Erik Wibbels launched a Bass Connections project to use satellite imagery to create a richer understanding of slums in India. In India, only official slums are eligible for government services but the government’s methods for identifying slums are outdated. This team’s work ultimately continued through four successive Bass Connections teams, during which time the team interviewed 9,000 residents in hundreds of slums across a wide range of living conditions.
In the summer of 2018, the team held a public workshop at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore to share findings with government officials, NGOs, policy experts, and academics. The team’s work was covered on the front page of the Times of India. Krishna and Wibbels have received grants from the Omidyar Network and the International Growth Centre to further their work studying property rights and public services in Indian slums.
My multiyear Bass Connections project with Anirudh Krishna provided the analytical and empirical foundation for several successful grant proposals and several years’ worth of sustained work in the slums of India. So far that work has produced a gaggle of published papers and two dissertations—and courtesy of policy engagements, I am now doing related work elsewhere. More importantly, it was through this project that I learned how to work with big collaborative teams, and that has deeply impacted all of my work since then. –Erik Wibbels, Robert O. Keohane Professor of Political Science