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Lange: Stay the Course on Clusters

Duke University Provost Peter Lange encouraged NC State to take pride in its new interdisciplinary faculty clusters.

“Communicate the excitement, communicate the success,” he said in a keynote address at a symposium in the Hunt Library auditorium last Friday. In the audience were many of NC State’s newest faculty members, hired through the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program to work in clusters focusing on areas like bioinformatics, forensic science and geospatial analytics.

Duke launched its own interdisciplinary effort in 1988 in response to an internal report titled “Crossing Boundaries.” In 1998 it hired a vice president for interdisciplinary studies who reports directly to the provost.

“We drove it through the faculty,” Lange said. “We’ve been really happy with the outcome. It’s a distinctive feature of Duke. It makes us a better school.”

Lange urged NC State to remain committed to the program despite the challenges.

“It can’t be the first thing you cut when the budget goes to pot,” he said.

The symposium, “A Celebration of Interdisciplinarity,” included panels on big data, humans and the environment and the challenges and rewards of cluster hiring. Guests were welcomed by Chancellor Randy Woodson, who has gained a national reputation for promoting educational innovation.  Duane Larick, senior vice provost for strategic initiatives, gave an update on NC State’s cluster hire program.