Duke Trustees OK Increase in Pratt Undergrads

The Duke University Board of Trustees on Oct. 4 approved a proposal to expand the undergraduate enrollment of the Pratt School of Engineering by 200 students over the next four years.

Provost Peter Lange, the university’s top academic official, said the timing is right for the move.

“Demand for Pratt’s undergraduate education is strong and growing; at the same time, the quality of applicants and matriculants is increasing,” Lange said. In 2002-03, SAT scores for the middle 50 percent of first-year Pratt students ranged from 1,440 to 1,540, a record high.

“Undergraduate education is part of the core mission of the university,” Lange said. “There are moments of opportunity when we can deepen our mission and meet societal needs while preserving the texture of our close-knit community. This is such a moment.”

One of the goals of the university’s strategic plan, "Building on Excellence," is to significantly strengthen Duke’s science and engineering programs. The trustees approved “Building on Excellence” in 2001.

In conjunction with the enrollment expansion, the trustees also approved the construction of a new 138-bed residence hall on East Campus, where all first-year students live. The new dorm, to be built northwest of Randolph Residence Hall, will not only house some of the additional students, but also alleviate crowding in other East Campus dorms where small rooms are being used as doubles and triples.

The projected cost of the new dorm is $13.8 million, and it is expected to open in the fall of 2005.

Officials say they will make other adjustments as necessary, including expanded course offerings and increased bus services during peak hours between East and West campuses. Other campus services, such as dining facilities and career counseling, can accommodate Pratt’s growth without additional resources.

Pratt is also ready, with faculty and facility expansions already underway.

The tenure-track faculty at Pratt will have grown from 70 in 1999 to more than 90 in 2004 to enhance the quality of the curriculum and the effectiveness of research. Even with the expansion of the student population, the student-faculty ratio will improve from 12.7:1 to 12.1:1. Every undergraduate is expected to be provided the opportunity to participate in an individually mentored research or design experience, which will make Duke’s engineering program one of the most personalized in the nation, said Pratt Dean Kristina Johnson. Duke will also invest in additional teaching assistants, facilities and laboratories.

In addition, the construction of the $97-million, 322,000-square-foot Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences (CIEMAS) complex is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2004. The complex’s west wing is home to the Pratt School’s new Fitzpatrick Center for Photonics and Communications Systems, and the larger east wing contains new interdisciplinary initiatives in biomedical engineering and materials sciences. The center will feature undergraduate teaching and project labs, state-of-the-art research facilities and a variety of spaces where faculty and students can both formally meet and informally interact.

“In 1985, there were more than 80,000 graduates from all engineering and technical schools in the U.S. Today, there are fewer than 60,000 degrees conferred annually, yet there are thousands of technology jobs vacant in the country,” Johnson said. “Increasing the enrollment of the Pratt School will enable Duke University to educate more engineering leaders, and contribute to meeting this national need.”

In other business, the trustees gave the go-ahead to two building projects: a major expansion of Perkins Library, the main West Campus library that was built in three stages between 1928 and 1968, and the construction of a second Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy building.

The $55 million Perkins proposal is part of a three-phase plan to enlarge and redesign the library for today’s information-based society by creating new and flexible spaces to meet changing needs and uses. The first phase calls for constructing a five-story addition to Perkins behind the Old Chemistry Building and to the east of the 1968 expansion of the library.

The new Sanford Institute building would be located behind the current structure at the corner of Science Drive and Towerview Road. The existing courtyard would separate the two buildings. Currently, the Sanford Institute is at full capacity and leases about 7,500 gross square feet off campus. The new $12 million, two-story building would nearly double the current usable square footage, and would include office space, classrooms, videoconferencing rooms and computer areas.