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“What Now?” Program

phone: 919-660-3033 | email: |

The Duke Guide to Happiness, Purpose & Well-Being

What if your classes not only shaped the way you thought but also the way you lived? What Now? The Duke Guide to Happiness, Purpose & Well-Being offers seminars designed to help you develop the tools and capacities to thrive at Duke and beyond.

Research across multiple disciplines suggests that students—and working adults—perform best when they are authentically connected to their work and to the people around them. What Now? classes are an opportunity for every student to consider what drives them, to learn habits that may help them succeed, and to have fun along the way.

Each seminar is a discipline-specific window into how to be happy, purposeful, or well. Explore the philosophy or social science of happiness; think about the meaning of belonging through Spanish literature; or consider how we communicate while learning about global health. These offerings give insights into different academic disciplines, but they also provide lenses through which to consider some of the fundamental questions that face each of us: What makes you happy? Why are you (or any of us) here? How do you choose the right path for you? What Now? offers a space not only to begin to answer those questions, but to live better in the process.

What Now? seminars are linked together through a commonly scheduled experience in which many classes meet at the same time. During this flexible “lab” course, students try out some of Duke’s best resources to support intellectual growth, wellness, and stress reduction. The course also features faculty-facilitated conversations in students’ dorms, creating opportunities for students to get to know more professors and engage with scholars in a relaxed setting.

For course information, see

Through the What Now? Common Experience course, students and faculty meet each week for a session designed to help students best take advantage of what Duke has to offer. In these sessions, the program thoughtfully mixes students and faculty across the network of courses. We not only talk about how to have a great Duke experience, we also frequently organize activities that research suggests will make your experience here richer, more balanced, and potentially transformational.


  • First-year focused experience
  • Experience builds academic inquiry, community & wellness practice
  • Fulfills Seminar or Writing 101 requirements 
  • 50 courses in 2023-24 academic year
  • Courses offered Fall & Spring
  • Earn 1.5 credits

How to enroll

What Now? seminars are offered in many different departments and are open-enrollment. There is no need to apply to be part of the program; simply sign up for any seminar with space. 

You can find a complete list of available seminars each semester at Participating courses all begin with the phrase “What Now?” in their long titles.  

Participating courses are all first-year-only (transfer and international students are also welcome). While most What Now? courses are first-year seminars (e.g., 89S), some are Writing 101 courses. 

When you register for a What Now? class, you’ll be prompted to join a section of the What Now? Common Experience course, Ethics 189. In this .5-credit course, you will make connections with additional faculty, students who live near you, and work towards defining your trajectory at Duke. In other words, you’ll move towards an individualized answer to the question, “What now?” 

This is a great opportunity to make friends who share your interests and connect with multiple faculty–all through enrolling in a course that fulfills requirements for first-years. Courses may also count towards majors, certificates, and minors. 

2023-2024 Seminar Disciplines

  • African & African American Studies 
  • Biology
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Computer Science
  • Education
  • English
  • Ethics
  • Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies 
  • Global Health 
  • History
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Public Policy
  • Religious Studies
  • Sociology
  • Romance Studies
  • Theater Studies 
  • Writing