Duke Immerse: 

A signature education initiative of Duke University

at the farm
Duke Immerse: Imagining the Future of Food students studying at the Duke Campus Farm.

Imagining the Future of Food

Fall 2021

Bringing scholars in the natural and social sciences and the humanities together to explore how food is grown, who grows it, how we talk about this, and why it matters. Curricula includes intensive training in Environmental Life Cycle Assessment and travel throughout North Carolina and northern California to study components of the food system. There are a couple spots open;  Duke Immerse will consider late applications on a case by case basis. Please contact Morgan Barlow (morgan.barlow@duke.edu) for more information and to apply.Farm

"Imagining the Future of Food has it all: constant learning, immersive travel, delicious food, and the best professors at Duke. I look back on my Immerse semester as the absolute highlight of my time at Duke," says Annie Roberts, T'21. This Duke Immerse takes the premise that cultural narratives have real world impacts and that increased extreme weather events associated with climate change must be addressed in part through changes in the food system. Imagining the Future of Food combines coursework, experiential learning at the Duke Campus Farm and travel throughout North Carolina and northern California to ask: 

  • Where will our food come from in the year 2071?
  • Will we have what we need to nourish a growing global population?
  • How will climate change impact how we feed ourselves?
  • How do food choices and food practices affect our food system and social wellbeing?
  • COVID-19 has deepened the existing cracks in our food system. What are the opportunities to tackle food insecurity, health disparities, and work toward equity?

Making dinnerThe challenges of the present agrifood system are complex and inherently interdisciplinary. They require scientific and technological expertise and understanding, as well as complex critical and systems thinking. Food, more than most other commodities, is a marker of personal and cultural identity that connects us to complex natural and social ecologies. Our choice of food represents our social and cultural values and is not easily shifted. As such, a nuanced understanding of the cultural, as well as agricultural, context of food will be needed if we are to change the way we eat.

Imagining the Future of Food takes five interlocking approaches:

  1. Through an introduction to basic plant ecophysiology, students will examine the growth response and yield of plants in changing climatic conditions.
  2. Experiential learning at the Duke Campus Farm will allow students the opportunity to put science into practice and enact alternatives to the current industrial agrifood system.
  3. By critically examining food and farming in literary texts and other in forms of cultural production, students will critically consider the relationship between narrative representations of food and farming and the concrete ways in which we work to produce, share, and consume.
  4. By learning and applying the concepts and methods of Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to the analysis of alternative food choices, students will gain an understanding of the environmental impacts of each stage of the food supply chain and will appreciate the dimension of the challenge of tackling these impacts through technological and policy solutions.
  5. Through participant observation and reflection, students will learn how to think critically about food as a reflection of social, political, and cultural phenomena and analyze the role of food in forging identity.​

Prerequisite: Writing 101

Learning on the Duke Campus FarmApplication: Duke Immerse will consider late applications on a case by case basis. Please contact Morgan Barlow (morgan.barlow@duke.edu) for more information and to apply. If you have access issues with the portal application, please email Duke Immerse (immerse@duke.edu) to request an alternative format. All students who are interested, regardless of documentation or citizenship status, are encouraged to apply.

Travel & Timeline: Travel this fall will be shaped by Duke policy and safety considerations. Current timeline includes work sessions at the Duke Campus Farm (late August & early September); travel to northern California in mid-October and eastern North Carolina early November. This webpage will be updated with exact travel dates and activities as these details become clearer late summer and throughout the semester.

visiting chicken CAFOProgram fee: $1,000; Duke provides additional grant aid to cover the cost of any program fee for all students receiving financial aid. The program fee offsets the cost of all curricular and co-curricular experiences in this Duke Immerse and is in addition to tuition, room, and board. Contact Duke's Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support (finaid@duke.edu) for more information. 

Note: All students participating in Duke Immerse fall 2021 are expected to follow Duke's guidelines and policies for undergraduates regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, masking and social distancing. For more information, check out Duke United or contact Duke Immerse Program Director, Morgan Barlow

Lead Faculty

Saskia Cornes
Assistant Professor of the Practice, Franklin Humanities Institute; Program Manager, Duke Campus Farm
Luciana Fellin
Professor of the Practice, Romance Studies
Jean-Cristophe Domec
Visiting Professor, Nicholas School of the Environment
Dalia Patino-Echeverri
Gendell Associate Professor of Energy Systems and Public Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment

Contact Saskia Cornes (saskia.cornes@duke.edu) or Duke Immerse (immerse@duke.edu) for more information.


Number Title Crosslistings Notes
ENVIRON 228S-01 SEM How Plants Feed/Fuel the World: Nuts & Bolts of Plant Growth & Production NS, STS BIO 228S-01 Fall 2021
ENVIRON 338S-01 SEM Food System Life Cycle Analysis NS, R, STS Fall 2021
GSF 290S-03 SEM Special Topics: Land and Literature ALP, CCI, CZ, EI, W Fall 2021
ROMST 388S-01 SEM Food, Culture and Society CCI, CZ, EI, SS CULANTH 389S-01, ITALIAN 388S-01, SOCIOL 388S-01 Fall 2021