Project Change

“To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.” –William James

Project Change, a pre-orientation program sponsored by the Kenan Institute for Ethics, is an immersive leadership experience in which participants live, learn, and work in Durham, competing with a team of  peers to find ways to solve the city’s critical problems. Students have fun, meet friends, and get to know the city where they’ll call home for the next four years.

The incoming freshman in Project Change spend eight intense days of taking risks, making mistakes, and meeting challenges with a select group of students, staff, community leaders, and faculty. They join a diverse team of eighteen peers and are given the adventure of a lifetime—to change the lives of complete strangers in creative and dramatic ways.

Participants pay only the cost of registration. The Kenan Institute for Ethics covers all other costs including ground transportation in Durham, housing, meals, and supplies.

Registration for Preorientation 2018 closes on June 1, 2018.  For more information or questions about registration, please call our New Student Programs at 919-684-3511.

Read more about Project Change below.

The framework

You will immerse yourself in the lives of others—forget cell phones, laptops and TVs. Every day will have new, unexpected experiences—some challenging, some exhilarating, some exhausting. You will be expected to think critically and creatively about how leaders emerge from everyday experiences to build and sustain inclusive communities that value diversity and promote social justice. Community members, faculty, staff and other students will lead large group activities, formal and informal discussions, and small group meetings that enrich the team-building challenges and intensive work days.

The challenge

Three teams of seven students will partner with local organizations to meet a “service challenge.” Your group will–in collaboration with their host organization– design and implement a project to meet a core need of the served population. You are expected to practice leadership within your team, within Project Change and within your new community to create the greatest impact.

The added benefits

You will experience a bit of the South’s living history mixing with the people that make Durham a rich and colorful city. For every challenge that you face, rewards will come by way of locals-only hot spots and the best dive diners in Durham.

The details

Open to 21 members of the Duke Class of 2022
Free to all participants
August 13-21, 2018


1. When is Project Change?
August 13-21, 2018.

2. When and where should I arrive?
Plan to arrive on Monday, August 13, between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.

3. How do I get my things to Duke?
The best way to get your things to Duke is to either have your parents/friends/family move your stuff for you, or to ship it directly to your dorm room. Project Change doesn’t have the space to house everything you’ll be bringing for move-in. So don’t bring it! In extenuating circumstances, you can contact us.

4. What does it mean that “transportation” is a covered cost?
What we mean when we say we’ll cover transportation costs is that we’ll cover all local transportation costs. You’re responsible for getting yourself to Duke. Once you’re here and in the program, we’ll take care of making sure you can get from place to place! The logic is that you were going to have to get yourself to Duke one way or another no matter what, being in Project Change just expedited the process by a week or so.

5. What should I bring? (this list may be supplemented later on)
You should bring only what you need for a week and nothing more. Bring a sleeping bag and pillow, a towel, clothes you can get dirty/work in, and some regular clothes, toiletries, sunscreen, one nice outfit, a bathing suit, and any medications you need.*

6. What shouldn’t I bring? (this list may be supplemented later on)
Don’t bring valuables, large amounts of money, computer/laptop, everything to move into Duke. Can you tell we don’t want you to bring all your stuff?

7. Do I need to bring any money?
You should bring some cash, yes. It will cost about $35-40 for a cab from RDU to the airport, if that’s how you’re getting to Duke.* And it would be good to have some spare cash on hand in case you forgot some important toiletries or whatnot, but Project Change is covering all meals, local transportation, housing, and activities. You shouldn’t need much spare cash!

8. Can I participate in other programs that week?
Sorry, no can do. We are attention hogs and require all of yours! Once committed to Project Change, you cannot do other pre-orientation programs. Nor can you do Band Camp, International Orientation, Basketball Camp, sports tryouts, etc. Really, if it’s taking place from August 13-21, it won’t fit into your schedule. The good news is, you’ll be having so much fun with us, you won’t want to be doing those other things anyway!

9. What if I want to drive to Duke?
Driving can be fun! You can park near East Campus, but you’ll need a permit. If you already have a Smith Lot permit, you’re all set. Otherwise, you’ll need to go to Parking and Transportation Services (located at 2010 Campus Drive) and either pick up your pass, or ask for a temporary parking permit. It should cost around $3 a day. Explain that you’re doing a pre-orientation program and won’t be parking there during move-in and there shouldn’t be a problem.

*If money is a problem, please let us know – we’ll work something out! We don’t want financial considerations to stop someone from doing the program!


For Applicants
Registration for Preorientation 2018 is open, now though 5pm EDT on May 23, 2018. For more information or questions about registration, please call our New Student Programs at 919-684-3511.

Contact Dan Smith with any questions not answered on the website.