Frequently Asked Questions

When and how can I learn about new project teams?

New project teams are announced each January at the start of the spring semester for the coming academic year. Visit the project team page to read detailed project descriptions and learn about student opportunities, anticipated outputs, timing and crediting for each team. You can also learn more about new project teams at the Bass Connections Fair, a tabling event in late January where students can talk to team leaders.

On occasion, Bass Connections will also announce new teams, or teams with openings, outside of this January cycle. The best way to learn about project openings is to join our student newsletter

What are the application instructions?

The Bass Connections student application cycle generally runs from mid-January through mid-February each year. The online application will ask you for: basic background information, a resume (uploaded as a PDF or Microsoft Word file), name and contact information for two references – one of which should be a faculty member unless you are a first-year student, and a short-answer response that asks you to explain your prior experiences working on a team. After completing this basic information, you will have the opportunity to identify up to three project teams to which you wish to apply. You will then be asked to complete a few short-answer questions specific to each of these projects. You may save your work in the application system and return to complete it at a later date.

How many projects can I apply to?

You may apply to up to three projects, but you should only apply to those that are of genuine interest to you. If you apply for more than one project, you will be asked to rank your selections in order of interest (e.g., first choice, second choice, third choice).

What is the selection process and timeline?

Once submitted, your application will be reviewed by the team leaders of the teams to which you applied. Team leaders may contact you for additional information or an interview. First round decisions will be made by mid-March, with some students remaining on a waitlist until the end of March when all final decisions will be made. If you applied to more than one team, you may receive an offer to join more than one team. Please note that in such an instance you may choose which team to join (you don’t have to stick with your initial ranking), but we ask that you make your decision promptly so that you can free up space on another team for other students.

What makes for a successful application?

Each team is seeking to form a team comprised of a unique combination of skills, experiences and academic backgrounds based on the goals of the project. We encourage you to read the project description thoroughly before applying and to tailor your application responses to articulate why you are interested in the project(s) and how you can contribute to the work.

What are the benefits of participating in a Bass Connections project?

Bass Connections provides opportunities for students to go beyond their classes and majors and have a different kind of educational experience. Common benefits include:

  • Applying coursework to a complex societal challenge through a practical, hands-on experience
  • Engaging in team-based problem-solving – including learning how to work with others to shape project goals, navigate ambiguity and disagreements and redirect as needed
  • Building close relationships with students and faculty from different disciplines and experience levels
  • Developing a deep understanding of an issue of interest to you
  • Learning and applying research skills in a small group environment
  • Engaging with communities and organizations outside of Duke
  • Exploring potential career paths and gaining valuable experience for your resume

What should I consider before applying to a project team?

Bass Connections is not a standard course, but rather a team-based project with different requirements. When considering whether to apply for a project team:

  • Look for a project team focused on a topic you are passionate about
  • Talk with your advisor to understand how participating aligns with your degree requirements
  • Make sure you understand the requirements of a project before applying – every team operates differently
  • Be prepared to actively participate in all team meetings and activities over the course of the project (projects can range from nine to 12 months, and may include a summer component)
  • Plan to commit about the same amount of time to your project as you would a course (i.e., about 10 hours/week)
  • Be prepared to grapple with ambiguity and a changing landscape – research on complex problems is an exploratory process that can take many years

How are Bass Connections project teams formed?

Each fall, faculty members from across the university propose projects related to at least one of the five Bass Connections themes. The selected projects are announced to students in January and students have approximately a month to apply. Team leaders review the applicants and select a team. Some team leaders may conduct interviews or request additional information from applicants. Once accepted onto a team, students enroll in Bass Connections for course credit, or in some cases such as summer work, receive a stipend in lieu of credit.

How do Bass Connections project teams work?

Every team operates differently, so it’s important to understand the requirements of a project before applying. Most project descriptions on this website include information about the project timeline and structure. If you need additional information, we encourage you to contact the team leader listed for the project. Some general parameters to consider include:

  • Project teams are designed to be intellectually diverse – including students and faculty from different disciplines, students at different stages of their academic studies and external partners
  • Project teams range in size, typically involving between five and 15 undergraduate and graduate student team members and at least two faculty/staff leaders
  • Projects generally last nine to 12 months
  • Some teams start in the summer, others in the fall
  • Some projects may be multi-year, with students rolling off and on
  • Teams set their own schedule but generally meet at least once a week
  • Participants should expect to spend 10 hours per week on their project
  • Team members generally work together to set direction and assign roles and responsibilities

What advice do other students have?

  • Do it! One of my favorite experiences so far at Duke.
  • Definitely pick a topic you are interested in, but do not build up too rigid expectations of the work you will be doing in contribution to the project.
  • Be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking.
  • Choose a project carefully to ensure you will give it your all and stay interested throughout.
  • Apply to projects that interest you rather than ones that align with your career interests. You never know where your experiences will take you.
  • Browse student stories to learn more