A large group of students spelling out TIP on Duke University East Campus

Founded as a nonprofit in 1980, thanks to a grant from the Duke Endowment, the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) has become a leader in identifying and supporting academically talented students. Over 2.8 million students have now benefited from one or more of TIP's unique services—with many of our programs serving as models for the education of gifted students worldwide.

The first Duke TIP programs opened in 1981. They included a talent search for seventh graders that attracted just over 8,700 participants and a summer residential program held on Duke’s campus for 151 verbally or mathematically talented students. Since then, TIP has experienced exponential growth. In 1994, TIP launched a second talent search for fourth and fifth graders, which then expanded to include sixth graders in 2012. Today, the two talent searches combine to support nearly one hundred thousand new participants each year while our educational programs serve over eight thousand students each summer, with thousands more participating in programs during the academic year.

A boy smiling and wearing a medal during a recognition ceremony

2004–2016: an era of exponential growth 

Much of TIP's growth occurred between 2004 and 2016 under the direction of Dr. Martha Putallaz. During her tenure, TIP opened two regional offices to keep up with its expansion and increased full-time staff by 83 percent—a number that led the organization to move from its suddenly too-small offices in the historic Coca-Cola bottling plant near Duke’s East Campus into the renovated Liggett & Myers Power House building in downtown Durham. The move afforded TIP 70 percent more square footage to house its growing programs.

TIP's operating budget increased by 128 percent and financial aid increased by 113 percent during this same time period, while Summer Studies Program enrollment more than doubled. TIP filled a gap on the international stage as well when it began offering talent search and Summer Studies Programs for students in India and China. During this time, we also offered summer enrichment for gifted educators, both domestically and internationally, and debuted accelerated online courses. In addition, between 2004 and 2016:

  • 1.29 million students enrolled in TIP’s talent searches.
  • TIP researchers wrote 41 peer-reviewed journal articles or book chapters, many of which have been cited in the New York Times, Washington Post, Economist, and other leading media outlets.
  • Duke TIP’s Academic Year Programs welcomed 10,484 students.
  • With programs in 3 states and 4 countries, Field Studies welcomed 4,744 students.
  • Duke TIP’s Summer Studies in India program began in 2008 with 34 students and peaked at 180 students in 2015.
  • TIP welcomed 39 students to a 2015 pilot program and hosted 70 Summer Studies Program students in 2016 at Duke Kunshan University.
  • Summer employment topped 1,000 educators each summer to fill 2,350 instructional and residential staff positions. 
  • The number of TIP’s residential campus program sites expanded from 17 to 25, spanning 5 states and 5 countries.
  • TIP’s endowment doubled to $10.7 million as of June 30, 2015.
  • TIP’s need-based financial aid increased dramatically, and more than $29 million in financial aid has now been awarded since 2004, impacting the lives of 12,180 TIPsters. 
  • TIP’s Facebook page debuted and now has over 28,000 followers, the highest among all non-athletic Duke University units.
A group of students walking through a college campus on a sunny day

The summer of 2016

This past summer, TIP's Summer Studies Program took place at twelve different campuses. Approximately 4,200 young scholars in grades seven through ten challenged themselves academically with courses selected from a wide array of options while growing socially thanks to TIP’s innovative and beloved cocurricular activities.

In addition, TIP’s Summer Studies Program in China entered its second year, and TIP’s CRISIS program for fifth and sixth graders brought 1,270 additional academically talented students to four college campuses, where they teamed up to build leadership skills as they responded to "Hurricane TIP," our 2016 community challenge.

Older high school students enjoyed their own residential program with Field Studies, traveling as far away as New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch and the historic sites of Berlin. A total of 440 students in grades nine through twelve attended Field Studies in 2016.

TIP’s distance learning options continued to grow in 2016 as well. TIP eStudies, a seven-week program for seventh through eleventh graders, welcomed 825 students to its acclaimed online courses. TIP also offered eInvestigators for the first time. This new online program for fourth through sixth graders allowed 140 eInvestigators students to research and solve an online academic mystery with their classmates over a month-long term.

Going forward

Duke TIP recently added new sites to our CRISIS and Summer Studies Programs, expanded eInvestigators, and began a concerted effort to increase our talent search outreach, especially to more schools for underserved populations. If you’d like to be a part of our continued expansion and our mission to serve gifted students, please visit our Partnership section.