Gift Impact.

Interdisciplinary Education & Research

Family support for American Grand Strategy

Political science major Kristen Merlone ’10 loved the American Grand Strategy (AGS) program and the teaching of its director, Peter Feaver. AGS is an interdisciplinary program that blends education and scholarship for students interested in national security policymaking.

Kristen had an opportunity to introduce her father, Peter Merlone, to Feaver, and her father was also impressed with Feaver’s AGS work. Kristen decided to join with her father on a $300,000 expendable gift to AGS. The flexible gift provides the operating support AGS needs to continue offering students opportunities to meet with prominent speakers in small group settings, to participate in experiential learning such as field trips, simulations, and battlefield visits, and to work summer internships or research projects related to American Grand Strategy.

Analyzing massive amounts of data for the common good

The Information Initiative at Duke (iiD) brings together faculty and students to make sense of “big data”—information characterized by tremendous volume, variety, and rapid change. The iiD is the cornerstone of the Information, Society, and Culture theme of Bass Connections, another Duke initiative that encourages student-faculty collaboration on issues of global importance.

Duke received an anonymous $6.67 million gift that leveraged matching funds from Bass Connections for a total of $9.75 million. The sum will endow iiD professorships, graduate fellowships in engineering, and educational programs on data-driven problem-solving.

Math department chair Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn ’14 collaborated on an innovative iiD project, developing a mathematical model that shows how tweaks to North Carolina’s gerrymandered congressional voting districts could affect election outcomes. The researchers calculated possible outcomes of the 2012 U.S. House of Representatives elections by redrawing the state’s districts with nonpartisan boundaries. Not once in 100 attempts did they get the split of Democratic and Republican seats seen in the actual election. The researchers hope the study will bolster calls for redistricting reform.