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DukeEngage is a serious endeavor, and one that extends beyond eight weeks in the summer. Before students enter into their host communities, they participate in a robust pre-departure training program called the Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy. The Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy represents our commitment to preparing students to be successful and ethical global citizens during DukeEngage and beyond, and consists of the following components:

Students participate in two or more cohort-specific orientation meetings led by their DukeEngage program leader(s). These meetings give participants the opportunity to learn more about one another, their host communities, and their summer projects. Community partners and program alumni sometimes join these meetings, too.

In the spring, all DukeEngage participants attend a required series of three seminars that explore the implications of short-term service; ethical engagement; culture shock; and health, safety and travel. Led by DukeEngage alumni, this series provides the groundwork and tools for effective civic engagement, safety, and self-care. The seminar series also helps DukeEngage participants cultivate an ethos of critical reflection about the world and their place in it.

You can access the 2021 virtual seminar series syllabus here, and read more about some of its components below.

Sample material from the pre-departure seminars:

  • A closer look at DukeEngage – our work is complicated and nuanced, demanding a great deal of thought and intentionality from participants. Before ever stepping foot in their host communities, we want students to begin to critically examine their experience. Students discuss questions such as: What’s the purpose of DukeEngage? Are there right and wrong reasons to do DukeEngage? What steps can DukeEngage participants take to work as ethically and equitably as possible? Can Duke students be seen as anything other than “privileged outsiders”?
  • A Nazareth Manifesto – this excerpt introduces students to three paradigms of engagement: working for, working with, and being with. We want students to work with our partner communities, and use this reading to start a conversation about how to do so.
  • What is community? How does it develop during DukeEngage – within a group of students, with the local organizations they partner with, and with members of the community themselves?
  • How is DukeEngage different from volunteering, or from an internship? How do group reflection, discussions about the big picture in a social issue, and cultural immersion change the focus?
  • Identity – What is your social identity? How about your social change identity? How might they come up in your experience?
  • Health & Safety – the health and safety of participants is of utmost importance, and we recognize that participating in DukeEngage often means a shift in routine health and safety considerations. Students read our Health & Safety handbook individually, discuss it with peers, and synthesize its contents to create a tailored health & safety plan (in-person years).


The pre-departure seminar series is led by students! Preceptors are DukeEngage alumni selected and hired for their leadership capabilities and thoughtful commitment to community engagement. DukeEngage preceptors are trained to facilitate meaningful discussion among their peers, and belong to a teaching and learning community, committing to weekly group meetings to debrief, reflect, and share best practices. The student-led model allows new DukeEngage participants to learn from students who have recently been in their shoes, with the added benefit of deepening the re-entry experience for a small group of student leaders. A couple of testimonials from the inaugural cohort of preceptors:

After having eye-opening experiences during my DukeEngage Vietnam program, I wanted to help others make the best of their DukeEngage summer. Being a preceptor has been a wonderful teaching and learning experience. I love that the [sessions] are so much more than just a classroom, but a place for active discussion about how to be more aware and responsive to different cultures and people. Learning to be more thoughtful and critical of how your actions and words affect others, as well as how you let other people impact you, extends beyond DukeEngage and will continue to be useful as we encounter different people in our lives. I think it allows us to become better people.” –Thien Hoang, DukeEngage Vietnam 2017

“Working as a preceptor for DukeEngage was originally my idea of “paying it forward,” after I had grown and learned so much from my own DukeEngage experience in Rwanda…What I didn’t realize was that, although I was teaching and facilitating these courses, I also was learning so much, whether from the students I was working with, or the material that we were processing together.” –Maddie Braksick, DukeEngage Rwanda 2018

Spring semester activities culminate in a Spring Convocation, a time for the entire DukeEngage community to come together to share stories and celebrate the summer to come.

Though we were not able to hold Spring Convocation in 2021, we look forward to this event in future years.

During the fall semester, participants reconvene for a DukeEngage Reunion. During fall 2020, due to COVID-19, we got creative and pivoted to an online Symposium.

Fall 2021 Symposium date TBA.