Spring Breakthrough offers Duke undergraduate students a free and unique experience led by Duke faculty and staff for 3-4 days during Spring Break (March 11 – 15). Students enroll in non-credit courses designed to explore intellectual interests in a fun and refreshing way led by members of the Duke community.  

Courses are offered in a range of topics, and participants are encouraged to explore new ideas and interests. There are no prerequisites, grades or credits. The only expectation is that students engage meaningfully with fellow students while exploring their intellectual curiosity. Participation will be noted on transcripts as a POE - Practice-Oriented Education.

What is it?

  • A range of enriching, active learning experiences for undergraduate students spanning 3-5 days over Spring Break.  
  • The course and program is free. Meals are included during the duration of the specific course, students live on-campus.   
  • No prerequisites, grades or credits.  
  • No applications. Students sign up when Spring 2024 registration opens on November 1st, 2023 by filling out a short Qualtrics form and enrolling directly in DukeHub.

When is it?

  • March 11 - 15, 2024, during part of Duke's official spring break.
  • Classes will run 3-4 days.
  • Classes usually run from the morning into the early evening, with meal breaks. 

Where will it be held?

  • Takes place mostly on campus unless otherwise noted, with different unique activities and experiences.

What are the course offerings?

Expand each of the accordions below to learn about the courses offered for Spring Breakthrough 2024.

Led by Ginny Ramirez-DelToro

March 13 – 15 (max 20 students)

During this Spring Breakthrough, we will nurture our humanity by spending time in nature and by exploring science and history. We will walk through Duke Gardens, hike the Al Buehler trail and other trails along the Eno River, and spend time in several museums. To round out exploring local communities, we will sample sweet and savory treats from Durham spots, too. Enrollment limited to 20 students. 

Led by Linda Daniel and Sue Wasiolek 

March 11 – 14 (max 12 students)

Durham has a complex and fascinating history. Durham has grown from the place where the largest number of Civil War troops surrendered, to the site of Black Wall Street, to a cornerstone of blues and jazz music, to being both the Bull City and the City of Medicine.  A closer look at the city where you live and study will give you a better understanding of economic development, community health, race relations, and food cultures.  

Students will explore places that show Durham's unique history through walking tours, hearing the stories of people who worked to make Durham a better place, talking with artists, community leaders, and educators to understand the city's development, listening to the music and musicians that entertained and empowered its Black and Muslim communities, and sampling foods that reflect Durham's Southern heritage and vibrant ethnic identities. Enrollment limited to 12 students. 

Led by Steven Espinosa 

March 11 - 13 (max 20 students)

Ever had an idea for a mobile app, but didn’t know how to build it? This course is for you. This is a hands-on class intended to give you the basic skills necessary to build your very own mobile app for iOS devices (iPhones & iPads). Attendees will be introduced to the theory and get straight into the practice of designing, developing and publishing their own mobile apps using Apple’s latest development tools. Enrollment limited to 20 students. 

Led by Jodi Psoter 

March 11 – 14 (max 12 students)

This Breakthrough experience takes place in Beaufort, NC. Drive three hours east from Durham and you arrive at Pivers Island, home of the Duke Marine Lab and the Pearse Memorial Library.  You will stay in dorms on the island as we explore this unique area from a literary, historical, and scientific point of view.  We will read about the town, visit a maritime museum, and identify seashells you collect from the beach.  We will explore Duke’s connection, influence, and impact on the area while gathering resources to help celebrate the library’s 50th birthday. Activities are weather dependent and subject to change.  Round trip transportation will be provided between Durham and Beaufort. Enrollment limited to 15 students.  

Led by Emily Bilcik, Maia Matheny, Kati Henderson, Maggie Heraty, Jason Elliott, Colleen Nieto, Sophia Masciarelli

March 11 – 14  (max 20 students)

Students will engage with Duke University's Office of Climate and Sustainability and visit several of Duke's interactive learning laboratories (Duke Forest, Duke Campus Farm, and Sarah P. Duke Gardens) to explore examples of how sustainability and climate action are threaded across Duke's mission and commitments. Students will broaden their sustainability and climate knowledge and reflect on how they can contribute to a more sustainable future and healthier climate through their personal interests at Duke and beyond. Many activities will take place outdoors with the opportunity for students to get their hands dirty. Enrollment limited to 20 students.

Pending weather, activities may include…

  • A climate negotiation role-playing game, where students will work together as international actors to curb emissions and prevent global warming.
  • joining Duke Forest Staff for a guided hike along the Shepherd Nature Trail and visit a research site to collect data on herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) in the Forest. In early spring, salamanders emerge from their winter underground habitat for breeding season, and we're sure to get a peek at a few of these beautiful, sensitive animals. The data that you'll collect will contribute to a wider community science effort that helps our staff better understand how to protect their vulnerable populations. Don't miss this opportunity to get out in the woods and learn about studies in climate change and wildlife conservation.
  • making farm fresh pizza on the outdoor grill and experiencing field/farm activities in the fresh air at the Duke Campus Farm.
  • Practice thinking of community at small and large scales, including people and beyond-human members, outdoors in the garden. You'll learn about the history of this land, including the peoples who have lived and worked here before it became Duke. Together we'll reflect on what our communities need today, and begin explorations of what work is needed to make those communities healthier and more sustainable.

How do I register?

Registration for Spring Breakthrough 2024 has closed.


Please email fsengagement@duke.edu