Wednesday, November 26, 2008 - Duke University, Guatemala

Volunteer on Duke's Dime

By Carolyn Beeler
This article was printed in Abroad View magazine fall 2007

Beginning in the summer of 2008, every undergraduate at Duke University will have the opportunity to participate in a summer or semester-long immersive service experience in the United States or abroad, funded completely by Duke. The new program, called DukeEngage, provides $30 million toward supporting
undergraduate civic engagement projects. The money will also help establish the Duke Center for Civic Engagement (DCCE), an umbrella organization to coordinate civic engagement and service-learning programs on campus.

DukeEngage will provide full funding and staff support for participants to learn about contemporary social
issues. Students will have the flexibility to work with a variety of different organizations, including nonprofit and nongovernmental agencies, in addressing poverty, housing, and education, among other issues.

Students may use funds to participate in programs coordinated through Duke or they may initiate their own proposals and earn funding by writing grant proposals. The $30-million endowment comes from equal
contributions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Duke Endowment, a private foundation serving North Carolina and South Carolina.

Eric Mlyn, incoming director of the DCCE, estimates that half the students taking advantage of DukeEngage will volunteer abroad. HIV/AIDS relief work in India and Tanzania and volunteer positions at a Kenyan school for young women are some of the program’s international opportunities currently in development.

Mlyn is also looking to include programs that tie experiences at home to volunteering abroad. For example, Duke students might work with Guatemalan immigrants in the area around the university in Durham, N.C., then travel to Guatemala to teach English as a second language. Mlyn says the program’s emphasis on engagement and service learning “fits in beautifully” with the University’s greater mission of using knowledge in service to society.

“We give our students superb academic training, but we also want them to become active citizens and creative problem-solvers, using their education to make a real-world difference,” Duke President Richard Brodhead says in a press release. “Duke has always placed a special emphasis on using knowledge for the greater social good.”

Social awareness and service have a strong presence on campus, as more than 80 percent of students actively volunteer. “Duke students are already doing this—now we have the money to do it fully,” Mlyn says. He says student response to DukeEngage has been overwhelming. “The demand is there, now the question is building programs to meet the demand.” Program directors hope that by 2012 a quarter of
the student body will participate in the program.

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Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
View of Lake Atitlan and volcano from my apartment balcony in Panajachel. Taken by Catherine Todd June 2008.