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The University Scholarships Program


Designed to stimulate an interdisciplinary, inter-generational community of scholars, the University Scholars Program was created in 1998 by the Office of the Vice-Provost of Interdisciplinary Studies with a gift from Duke University Trustee Emerita Melinda French Gates and her husband Bill Gates, through the William H. Gates Foundation. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional school University Scholars are selected for their ability to explore new academic horizons. They represent a range of personal and intellectual backgrounds and share an excitement for original research, collaborative thinking, and innovative scholarship.

Benefits and Opportunities


Scholarship Funding

Undergraduate University Scholars

Undergraduate University Scholars receive a University Scholarship providing full-tuition plus a stipend towards room, board and mandatory fees for eight semesters. Summer sessions at Duke are not covered by the scholarship, but eligible students may apply for additional support through the Office of Financial Aid. Additionally, Duke University will meet 100% of the demonstrated need of all admitted University Scholars who are U.S. citizens or non-citizens eligible for student aid. University Scholars can expect that any additional demonstrated financial need beyond the costs covered by the scholarship will be covered by grants, not loans. For example, Financial Aid will also provide grants to cover the cost of health insurance for those students who cannot afford it on their own or round-trip travel to and from Duke and home.

Graduate and Professional University Scholars

Graduate and professional school University Scholars receive the equivalent of one year’s tuition as calculated by the Graduate and Professional Schools. Many University Scholars graduate students also have J.B. Duke funding, the Dean’s Graduate Fellowship or other additional funding sources from individual professional schools, as well. The scholar’s individual department or professional program determines how the funds will be distributed and what eligibility standards (departmental service such as a research assistantship or instructorship, for example) accompany the funding, if any. Graduate and professional school University Scholars are expected to remain involved in the University Scholars Program for the duration of their tenure as students at Duke to ensure continuity of mentoring as well as sustained commitment to the intellectual development of the USP as a whole.


Grant Funding and Internal Awards

Undergraduate University Scholars Summer Enrichment Program

Undergraduate University Scholars in good standing may receive support up to $7000 for an intensive internship, research experience, or summer abroad. Typically, students receive such funding for the summer following their third year, although in some cases, students have received permission to use funding sooner. Students eligible for summer enrichment funding must demonstrate active participation in USP seminars and events, in addition to being in good academic standing.

Students must submit a proposal, a letter of support from a faculty advisor, and a detailed budget (guidelines are available online on the USP Sakai site). Upon their return, students must submit a brief report summarizing the experience and lead a USP seminar to discuss their projects with other University Scholars.

Conference Funding for Graduate and Professional School Students

Each year, graduate or professional school University Scholars who have already utilized departmental or school funding for one conference may apply for funding for up to $500 to support a second presentation at an interdisciplinary conference or a conference outside of their primary discipline. Students who are not yet eligible for departmental or Graduate School funding (prior to passing their preliminary exams) are also eligible. Students must submit a conference paper abstract and a budget to the director for approval of the use of USP conference funds. Request forms for conference funding are available via a form-fillable PDF: USP GRADUATE AND PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL CONFERENCE TRAVEL AWARD APPLICATION.

Once approved and after travel has been completed, students may apply for reimbursement up to $500 for their conference travel either via Duke@Work or via paper form submissions. Students in PhD programs who are beyond their 1st year may be in the Duke@Work system. Click here for a step-by-step PDF instruction guide: Duke@Work Miscellaneous Reimbursement Instructions.

1st year PhD students and professional school students are often NOT in the Duke@Work system. In that case, you can submit the paper Miscellaneous Reimbursement form along with along with a PDF or JPG of your receipt(s) and submit them to the USP Director via email. Click here for a step-by-step PDF instruction guide: Miscellaneous Reimbursement Instructions.

USP Graduate Consul Award

All graduate and professional school University Scholars who have completed their first year are eligible to apply for a position as a Graduate Consul with the program. Graduate Consuls receive a generous fellowship of $4000 per year and the opportunity to substantially shape the program’s development. Graduate Consuls may reapply to serve for more than one year and are encouraged to do so. Grad Consul responsibilities include coordinating mentor relationships, working with undergraduates who need advice, organizing coffees, coordinating and attending USP seminars as their schedules allow, supervising symposium committees, and assisting the Director with other requests.



University Scholars Seminars

These informal seminars, held every two weeks, bring together graduate and professional school University Scholars, undergraduate scholars, and interested faculty, as well as distinguished visiting scholars, scientists and artists. There are typically six seminars per semester, and topics depend on the guest speakers’ areas of expertise. Students of all levels are encouraged to lead a seminar on their own work-in-progress or on a topic of particular interest to them. Faculty and student seminar hosts share their ideas with a lay but intellectually engaged audience from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and discuss how interdisciplinary perspectives can impact the issues presented.

University Scholars Mentoring

An informal, intellectual mentoring program offers interdisciplinary research possibilities, helps to shape multidisciplinary interests into an interdisciplinary program, and encourages collaborative thinking and intellectual risk-taking. Mentors can also provide insights on life experiences, job searching, or applying for graduate or professional school.

University Scholars Coffees

These entirely student led discussions bring University Scholars together in the casual setting of campus cafés to talk about matters ranging from the practical to the esoteric.

Cultural Programming

Duke Performances offers reduced price student tickets to live music, dance, and other arts events on campus. Students often have the opportunity to meet with the artist(s) before or after their performance in small seminars or discussions


Annual Symposium

Each year, University Scholars will showcase their research and scholarship in a symposium to which the entire university community is invited. Symposia feature a keynote speaker invited by the University Scholars and group presentations featuring undergraduate, graduate and professional school scholars working together to present their ideas. Previous Symposia include:

“Fundamentals” (2015)
“Reason(s)” (2014)
“Futures: See What Lies Ahead” (2013)
“Puzzles” (2012)
“Taste: Determining, Modifying, Consequences” (2011)
“Legacies: Commemorating 10 Years of the USP” (2010)
“Two Cultures: 50 Years Later” (2009)
“Recycling: Ideas, Materials, & Experiences” (2008)
“Interdisciplinarity in Practice” (2007)
“Cities in Evolution: Imagination and Reinvention” (2006)
“The End of the World (As We Know It)” (2005)
“Truth Lies Within <-> Within Lies Truth” (2004)
“We Will Remember It For You” (2003)
“Exposing Privacy” (2002)
“Perspectives on Political Change: South Africa and USA” (2001)
“From Faust to the Future: The Costs & Rewards of [too much?] Knowledge” (2000)


Interested in becoming a Univertsity Scholar?

Copyright Office of Undergraduate Scholars & Fellows 2017