Thomas Williams
Thomas Williams

DukeEngage in Washington, DC

Program Dates: May 25-July 23
This program is organized by the Duke Initiative for Science & Society in collaboration with DukeEngage. Apply to Duke Engage Visit Duke Engage Homepage

DukeEngage Logo

DukeEngage Overview

During their two months in Washington, students will serve with a governmental agency or body, a non-governmental organization, or a non-profit or a lobbying organization where they will assist with the analysis of policy questions, formulation of policy options, or making of policy choices at a national level regarding science policy.

The overall purpose of the program is to draw on what you have already learned at Duke and elsewhere, use that knowledge and your skills to improve a domain of national science policy, and to bring that experiential knowledge back to Duke to inform and enrich your academic and social service commitments.

Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

The goal of the program is to engage Duke undergraduates with the opportunity to participate in active learning around the process of federal policy making, with specific focus on the sciences and the unique challenges that work in this niche field requires, including effective science communication. During the 8 weeks in Washington, the program hopes to foster an ethic of service and civic participation in students who will be tomorrow’s volunteers, civic leaders and policy makers.

By the program’s end students should be able to:

  • Communicate the science with which they are working in an accessible way.
  • Understand the structure of federal policy making generally; with a more specific understanding of how it impacts the science policy area in which they worked.
  • Generate alternative solutions to a policy problem.
  • Believe they can have a positive impact on local social problems.
  • See the connection between their academic learning at this college and real-life experiences.

Service Opportunities

Organizations that might host DukeEngage students include:

  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
  • FasterCures
  • The Cancer Letter
  • Department of Agriculture
  • National Institutes of Health (National Human Genome Research Institute,
  • National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Child Health and Human Development)
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Genetic Alliance
  • Disease-oriented advocacy organizations (AIDS, breast or ovarian cancer, general cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Physicians for Human Rights
  • Human Rights First

Examples of projects that student groups have carried out include:

  • Created a database for the Cancer Genome Atlas, an important project for accessibility of information within the NCI.
  • Explored the agency research question: How do we create a more collective global workforce to alleviate the cancer burden? To do so students created a geo-map of specific organizations that are known/recognized within different countries and connected to agency work and helped to reach goals of increased awareness and dissemination of information about cancer diagnosis/treatment/support centers in global communities.
  • Wrote items for the several newsletters and online information resources disseminated by an agency policy office.
  • Tracked and followed bills that would impact scientific funding, enabling the American Association for the Advancement of Science to respond promptly and appropriately.
  • Prepared a presentation and background papers for staff about the Bayh-Dole Act and university indirect costs reimbursement. They also prepared case studies of nonprofit disease research advocacy organizations that described their modes of operation in preparation for a 60 expert workshop.
  • Developed a project that will be used to inform the general public of the issues aging populations face in the current economic climate. Students also created community outreach materials that will be directly impact the DC metro area.

Duke Engage - DC

Program Details

Description of Community: Students will live together in housing within Washington, DC. The facility will be at the New York University facility on L Street, NW, between 13th and 14th Streets, Northwest. This is a lively, safe part of the city, with excellent public transportation access. The Duke in Washington office, at 12th and New York Avenue, NW, will be used for some activities, including orientation, and is a block from the Metro Center subway station, and two blocks from the NYU residential facility.

Housing and Meals: The facility is an apartment-like setting, with kitchen facilities. Pairs of students will share a room, with four students sharing kitchen, common room and bathroom facilities. There will be Internet access. DukeEngage students may reside with other Duke students or students from another college.

Students will have a meal allowance. This meal allowance will cover groceries to cook in temporary housing, with occasional meals out. Washington is an expensive city in which to eat out, and the DukeEngage meal stipend is not intended to cover numerous meals outside of your apartment.

Transportation: Students will get a SmarTrip card loaded with several hundred dollars, which can be used on Metro trains and buses. Cars are not permitted.

Communication: Students will be expected to provide their own cell phone. Internet will be available through the internship site and the residential facility. Internship sites will have their own computing networks, but students should bring a laptop. Each internship site will have policies and procedures regarding what information can be stored on personal computers and taken away from the site, and students will be expected to learn and abide by those policies. A laptop or iPad/slate computer will be essential for communication and personal work, and some placements may require use of the student’s laptop.

Opportunities for Reflection: We will meet weekly as a group for dinner to discuss how placements are going and hot topics. Outside speakers will be selected in an effort to address student interests, host social events (with some emphasis on health policy, science, and human rights), and cultivate a strong emphasis on laughter punctuated by insight.

More Information

Curricular Connections: This DukeEngage program is connected to the Undergraduate Certificate in Science and Society coursework and class offerings.