Thinking BIG: Pratt 2039

In anticipation of our centennial in 2039, the Pratt School of Engineering conducted an aspirational visioning exercise to identify strategic priorities for the decades ahead.

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Executive Summary

We sought and received input from key stakeholder groups, including students, faculty, alumni, staff, leadership across Duke and representatives from industry.

Our efforts were concentrated on identifying key actions, processes, and initiatives to advance the Pratt School of Engineering’s research enterprise, educational mission, and the cultural and societal impact of the school.

The committee received near-unanimous encouragement from all stakeholders to think big and propose bold, actionable initiatives.

Thinking big is inherent to several recommendations to undertake major research initiatives, extend our emphasis on design and real-world experience throughout our students’ educational experience, and take bold steps to increase our connectivity with our alumni and with industry.

We recognize that the success of any future initiatives will hinge upon our ability to retain, attract, and recruit students, staff, and faculty who feel valued and that their

careers are continually enhanced by their experience.

This includes ensuring that the Pratt School of Engineering builds a culture of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all community members.

It also includes ensuring that all employees have opportunities for career advancement, for example by supporting professional development opportunities for staff and developing stable and attractive career advancement models for non-tenure-track career research and teaching faculty.

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4 Principles

Think Big

Propose bold, actionable initiatives—Duke Blue Sky Ideas

Seek Interdisciplinarity

Leverage our position as part of a world-class, academically diverse university in both research and education

Reach Outward

Build outreach and partnerships with alumni and industry to increase societal impact

Value Our People

Nurture a culture of diversity and inclusion; provide pathways for careers to flourish

8 Themes

High-Impact Research

Invest in pursuit of new avenues and talent

Best-in-Class Educational Experience

Be a thought and practice leader in engineering pedagogy

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Be committed to creating a diverse community, at all levels

Meaningful Alumni Relationships

Engage our graduates as partners in advancing our missions and vision

Industry Connections & Investments

Develop new opportunities, including in the dynamic Research Triangle Park community

An Outstanding Place to Live and Work

A supportive environment and work-life balance are crucial for attracting faculty and staff

Our Physical and Virtual Plant

Continue strategic investment in physical and virtual spaces

Global Impact and Branding

Essential to our vision of engineering in service to society


  • The Pratt 2039 Steering Committee was charged in early 2020 by Dean Ravi V. Bellamkonda and the Engineering Faculty Council (EFC) with leading our community in an aspirational visioning exercise with the goal of answering two questions so we can realize our mission of positively impacting society in the decades ahead:

    • How can we best position Duke Engineering to maximize the long-term impacts of our educational programs and research enterprise?
    • Who do we want to be in 2039, as a school and as a community, in service to society?

    The process was intended to have two phases. In the first, the Pratt 2039 Steering Committee worked with members of our community to think big about what Duke Engineering could be when we celebrate our centennial in 2039 and to propose ambitious goals and initiatives that will help us reach that vision. In Phase 2, we will chart our path toward those goals by creating deliberate steps including financial modeling and implementation plans.

  • The committee’s work began in early March 2020. Shortly after the first meeting, Duke issued university-wide work-from-home requirements for all faculty and staff and announced that the remainder of the spring semester would be taught virtually due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

    To allow the faculty to adjust to this new and sudden situation, the group’s work was temporarily paused. Work resumed in mid-April and progressed through mid-October, at which time the group delivered its final report to Dean Bellamkonda and EFC Chair Craig Henriquez. A period of community review followed, with opportunities for feedback to be shared both online and at community meetings held through March 2021.

  • The committee outlined a methodology by which they would review data, gain input, and ultimately determine recommendations. First, the committee received presentations from school leaders in the areas of education and research. These presentations provided committee members with baseline data about the school’s past and current performance and reviewed the leadership’s immediate-term goals and objectives in these areas.

    Next, in order to seek ideas and input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, board members, and other stakeholders, the group held a series of focus groups. These focus groups were designed to ensure that representatives from all engineering units and stakeholder groups had an opportunity to participate in the process.

    Focus groups were held with tenure-track faculty, other regular rank faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, staff, members of our Board of Visitors, and deans of all other Duke Schools. Committee members invited and received input from colleagues in faculty meetings and individual conversations. The committee consulted with leaders of the Engineering Alumni Council (EAC) to better understand the alumni perspective. Finally, the committee underwent more typical strategic planning activities including preparing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities, Threats) analysis, participating in a long-term visioning exercise, and identifying broad themes and specific recommendations for achieving that vision.

The Committee

Vinik Dean of Engineering Ravi V. Bellamkonda and Craig Henriquez, chair of the Engineering Faculty Council, formed the Pratt 2039 Steering Committee with input from the department chairs. Membership was intended to be representative across departments, ranks and fields, as well as gender and background.

Joseph Izatt of Duke BME served as chair. Staff from the school’s Administration, Finance, and Communications & Marketing teams provided invaluable service to the committee.

Ana P. Barros Profile Photo
Ana P. Barros Profile Photo

Ana P. Barros

Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Kenneth R Brown Profile Photo
Kenneth R Brown Profile Photo

Kenneth R Brown

Michael J. Fitzpatrick Distinguished Professor of Engineering

Warren M. Grill Profile Photo
Warren M. Grill Profile Photo

Warren M. Grill

Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Lisa Gresham Huettel Profile Photo
Lisa Gresham Huettel Profile Photo

Lisa Gresham Huettel

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education

Christine K. Payne Profile Photo
Christine K. Payne Profile Photo

Christine K. Payne

Yoh Family Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Guillermo  Sapiro Profile Photo
Guillermo Sapiro Profile Photo

Guillermo Sapiro

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

David E. Schaad Profile Photo
David E. Schaad Profile Photo

David E. Schaad

Professor of the Practice of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Tatiana  Segura Profile Photo
Tatiana Segura Profile Photo

Tatiana Segura

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Michael  Zavlanos Profile Photo
Michael Zavlanos Profile Photo

Michael Zavlanos

Professor in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

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