If NC Central was in a student-growth mode this past decade, Duke was in a physical-plant growth mode.
The student body stayed roughly the same size in the 2000s, but Duke's campus didn't, with significant new facilities seen in everything from research labs to a new museum to new facilities for public policy, nursing, law and other professional programs. By the Duke Chronicle's estimate, that worked out to hundreds of millions of dollars in construction activity over the decade.
The work helped to cement in bricks and mortar the university's growing national and international reputation, something that in the bigger context is quite remarkable for an institution less than a century old in its current form, and one constantly competing with institutions hundreds of years its senior and tens of billions of dollars wealthier for the top students, researchers and faculty.
It's a move cemented in a move that started last decade, with an ambitious $1.5 billion capital fundraising effort, the "Campaign for Duke" launched under then-President Nan Keohane -- and from a quadrupling of annual giving since mid-1980s levels.
At the same time, the 2000s saw Duke launch an ambitious international expansion effort. It joined the ranks of peer universities partnering with developing countries' schools and governments for efforts like the partnership for Singapore's national medical school. And as the new decade approached, Duke turned to an even broader set of overseas expansions, with Fuqua's MBA program poised to lead the way in London, Russia, Shanghai, India and beyond -- and with press reports noting the school's board considering a significant campus partnership on a 200 acre parcel in Kunshan, China that could break ground early this year.
The decade's end saw Duke break ground on a massive expansion of its hospital facility, with a new inpatient pavilion and cancer center adding nearly 850,000 sq. ft. of space between the original Duke South hospital (today's clinics) and the 1970s-vintage Duke North tower, for a total investment of nearly $700 million and the permanent addition of as many as 700 jobs.
The decade's end brought new worries for the university as, like its peers, the stock market's crash and declines in giving during the Great Recession led to cost-cutting and reductions in staffing, efforts still underway.
Even as news reports have filled with pessimism over Duke's financial position, however, its early and historic investment in a medical and research campus have left the university less dependent on its endowment than some of its counterparts in American higher education.
Duke's growth in the past decade, and the expansion in health care and international activity set for the 2010s, marks our sixth-biggest Durham story of the past decade.