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Campus as Lab


Campus as Lab (CAL) is a Sustainable Duke program that seeks to develop the relationship between Duke University faculty and student research and its own campus. The CAL program views Duke University and its campus “at Home in the World.” This partnership utilizes the campus as a living laboratory to study and solve the on-campus manifestations of global sustainability issues. These issues are constantly researched in traditional laboratory settings, but interacting with these same problems in a non-traditional laboratory setting offers unique possibilities. Through scientific research, academic learning, and existing campus experience, students are better able to understand complex, global issues and their effects on the campus’ sustainability. The CAL program encourages students to work towards new ideas that have the possibility to not only transform the Duke campus, but also the World.  

CAL- Endorsed Sites

Duke University has buildings, initiatives and projects that are working to combat the same problems that the world is also combatting. CAL-Endorsed Sites are specifically chosen on-campus sites that are exemplary models of the Campus as Lab program ethos. These sites are a representation of the CAL program’s goal to bridge on-campus issues and their solutions with the global issues they represent. The CAL program hopes that by tying world issues to a tangible on-campus site that students will be able to connect their course learnings and campus experiences to better understand world issues. A CAL-endorsed site serves as an excellent starting point to learn about global problems, to be inspired to complete a CAL project, or to even appreciate the Duke campus a little more.

CAL Academic Resources

The CAL program has also created academic resources that classrooms can use to integrate relevant on-campus sites into course learning. The CAL program has pre-made PowerPoint slides available that explain global issues in a scientific and historical sense. This lecture material then explains how that same issue is combated by certain on-campus sites or CAL projects. By explaining how Duke is addressing various issues, professors will be able to relate new material to familiar and tangible parts of campus. By anchoring an academic topic to places on campus, the CAL program will help students think critically about how each site combats various ecological problems.

CAL Projects

The CAL program financially supports projects that seek to carry out experiments, test new ideas, and implement solutions on the Duke campus (CAL Grant Projects).  Students apply knowledge from their academic courses as well as  their existing experience with on-campus sites while working on a CAL project. Every CAL project includes students, faculty, and operational staff to build a diverse stakeholder team. By bridgeing theory with practice and working in collaboration with various stakeholders, CAL projects enable students to make tangible changes to campus life. All projects employ both fieldwork and data-driven analysis to arrive at an implementable method of campus improvement. Duke can benefit from discoveries that help mitigate the university’s environmental impact, while students gain valuable academic and career insights into how the world wrestles with complex environmental problems.