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About ACE

Duke University and Stanford University launched the Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement Program (ACE) in Spring 2015 to provide student-athletes with opportunities for immersive civic engagement experiences. Recognizing the challenge for student-athletes to fully participate in many of the offered campus programs, Duke and Stanford are meeting this need together by offering student-athletes greater access to civic engagement and service opportunities through ACE.

Funded by the support of David Rubenstein, Peter and Helen Bing, and Duke Athletic ticket sales, ACE enables partner organizations to work with student-athletes to create projects that serve community needs while providing full funding for them to participate in these endeavors. In a typical summer, 40 Duke-Stanford ACE student-athletes — 20 Duke and 20 Stanford — participate in one of five international service programs.

Want to know more about ACE? Read more about the ACE program history and mission.

For Summer 2023, ACE will offer two program formats for participating student-athletes – virtual and in-person. Read more about ACE Summer 2023 program offerings.

Civic engagement is action undertaken at the request of a community partner that is designed to identify and address issues of public concern.  This definition may incorporate everything from traditional service work to non-partisan political participation and includes both direct service — or “hands-on” work — and “capacity building” activities.

For 2023, student-athletes are eligible to participate in either an internationally focused virtual program or an international, in-person, three-week service program. Student-athletes will have the opportunity to serve in areas such as coaching and physical fitness, public health, education, environmental and marine conservation, sustainable development, and more.

In the virtual programs, participants will have the opportunity to serve and connect with community partners located in several different international locations.  In addition to engaging in service work, participants will engage in cultural enrichment activities and other learning opportunities focused on the particular region or community the program is focused on.

Participants engaging in an in-person, international program will live together onsite for three weeks. Participants will engage in community-driven service programs, participate in reflection, and learn about the local community through a variety of immersion and enrichment activities.

Volunteer-sending organizations (VSOs) collaborate with ACE staff to develop and operate all in-person and virtual programs.

ACE covers the expenses charged by the volunteer-sending organizations (VSOs) for each participant.

  • For in-person programs, all program-related expenses are covered for ACE participants.  These may include: travel, meals, accommodations, gym facilities (if available), vaccinations, visas, and incidentals. Please note that ACE does not cover the cost of applying for student-athletes’ passports.
  • To participate in an ACE in Place virtual program, ACE participants are responsible for providing a computer and broad-band internet capabilities.  ACE does not cover or reimburse participants for expenses associated with computers or internet access.


Program dates are set well in advance and must be adhered to by student-athletes.  For virtual programs, specific times when participants must be available for synchronous programmatic activities will be provided. Each ACE program will have its own respective start and end dates and daily schedule that apply to participating student-athletes. The first program session starts after the Stanford Spring Quarter ends (around mid-June) and the last program session finishes before the Duke Fall Semester (around mid-August).  This enables students from Duke and Stanford to participate in program sessions together.  The specific program session dates are picked with input from the coaches and athletic department staff each year to ensure that the greatest number of student-athletes can participate. Participants are not allowed to make any other commitments (including employment, volunteering, or classes) that interfere with full participation in their ACE program session.

Specific start and end dates and a daily schedule are described on each program profile’s page.

Each ACE program session runs for approximately three weeks. When the ACE program was initially conceptualized, three weeks was the longest duration that coaches recommended due to training and competition requirements.  ACE does not run programs shorter than three weeks because the program values student-athletes having an immersive experience.  This requires participants to have time to build relationships within their ACE team and community partners, learn about the community they are serving and be able to significantly contribute to community-based projects.

Training facilities vary based on location but are described in detail on each program’s profile page. If you have further questions, email the program contact listed on the profile page or talk with ACE staff. While the program’s primary purpose is to serve with your community partner, each program site has dedicated time in the daily schedule for training (often at the beginning or end of the day). Be mindful that some program sites have expectations around culturally appropriate dress when exercising. You are encouraged to talk with your strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, and sports performance coaches about what training facilities and equipment you may and how to modify workouts if needed.  Participants are encouraged to create a training plan before departure.

Virtual Programs

Initially, virtual programs allowed ACE the opportunity to continue to offer impactful summer service experiences for Duke and Stanford student-athletes in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. ACE continues to offer virtual programs to provide student-athletes who would otherwise not be able to participate in in-person programs the opportunity to engage in an high-impact, meaningful service experience. Participants will work on collaborative service projects, form relationships across the Duke and Stanford athletic communities, and connect with community partners around the world who will use their ideas to make change – all done from any location. In addition, engaging in a virtual experience allows student-athletes who previously could not commit time to a three-week location-based ACE program to participate because of other commitments such as athletic training requirements or summer school.

Without the travel component, service and supporting our community partner organizations is even more central to the ACE experience. Participants address specific community needs and contribute ideas, time, and project work to organizations committed to making a difference in their respective locations around the world. Collaboration with these organizations gives participants professional and personal experience as well as opens doors to future service experiences.

ACE in Place virtual programs offer an immersive, intensive service experience working closely with student-athletes from Duke and Stanford and community partner organizations around the world and build on the success of Summer 2021  and 2022 virtual programs. Virtual programs require participants to use their teamwork skills to form creative solutions to project work that focuses on areas such as environmental sustainability, public health, education, community development, and marine conservation.

ACE is not trying to replicate the experiences of an in-person ACE program in an online setting. Though virtual, the intercultural learning aspect of ACE is still a rich part of the experience. Participants have the opportunity to experience and enhance their intercultural learning through interaction with community partners and cultural exchange activities. Examples of cultural immersion activities participants may experience include:

  • Participating in a virtual cooking class where you can learn how to make a traditional Cape Malay curry dish from a local chef and entrepreneur living in the Cape Town neighborhood of Bo-Kaap.
  • Engaging in a cultural exchange activity in which you discuss with Vietnamese university students the intricacies of Vietnamese cuisine and the complexities of the Vietnamese new year holiday, Tet.

Both are examples of cultural enrichment activities previous ACE in Place students had the opportunity to participate in.  ACE participants thought these virtual cultural experiences were engaging, interactive, informative, and increased their cross-cultural understanding and knowledge.

In addition to the cultural learning and service aspects, ACE virtual programs provide participants with a powerful professional development experience. Participants will utilize creative problem-solving skills that directly apply to skills required in various careers. The project work with which participants will engage requires teamwork, communication, and collaboration between each other and community partners across digital platforms. Participants will gain invaluable hands-on experience across different focus areas such as environmental sustainability and conservation, education, public health, and community development. Participants will increase their intercultural competency through interaction with global community partners and better understand and value diversity in the context of global service. Through the virtual program format, participants will learn to leverage existing digital technology to ethically and effectively solve problems together, complete tasks, and accomplish goals established by the community partner.

ACE understands that as student-athletes, the summer is a time used to get ahead in classes, train, compete, or do all three. One of the advantages of a virtual program is that participating in summer courses, training, and competing while still participating in ACE are all now more feasible for student-athletes. Participants can engage in other opportunities as long as they do not interfere with the ACE program schedule and you are able to meet all program expectations including time commitments, project deliverables, and any other program requirements. ACE requires that any ACE program activities take precedent and participants commit and focus their time on their ACE experience for the duration of the program. For more information on the specific time requirements and project expectations for each ACE program, please visit the current programs page. If you have any questions about your ability to participate, please contact the ACE staff.

Immersive, collaborative learning and partnership between our student-athletes and community partners has been a core value of ACE from the beginning. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we came together with our community partners to create impactful virtual programming for the Duke and Stanford student-athlete community. ACE in Place participants work closely with program leaders based across the world who facilitate team building, encourage meaningful opportunities for group reflection, manage community partner relationships, offer mentorship and support during project work, track project progress, and organize cultural enrichment opportunities. Participants can expect to spend the majority of their scheduled Zoom time learning, working, and communicating with their community partners, program staff, and in-country experts. The extensive pre-program training student-athlete participants will experience during the spring led by ACE staff and other campus partners will prepare students to engage ethically and effectively in the remote volunteer world.

Eligibility *Updated for 2023*

Any Duke or Stanford active NCAA varsity student-athlete who will have completed two semesters or three-quarters of classes by the time their ACE program begins is eligible to apply and participate. All participants must be in good standing at their respective university to participate.  Student-athletes must have at least one semester or quarter back on campus after they complete their ACE experience, as one of the primary goals of the program is for the campus community to benefit from the shared experience of participants.

Student-athletes may participate in only one, funded in-person ACE experience; however, ACE participants who participate in one of the ACE in Place virtual programs can apply to a future summer ACE in-person program provided a student meets all ACE eligibility requirements for that program application year. Students who participate in an in-person, international program in summer of 2023 program will not be able to apply to a future summer of the ACE program.

No. ACE staff and program leaders will determine suggested language or other applicable prerequisites, which will be identified in program profile descriptions.

Yes, student-athletes in good standing who have completed two semesters or three quarters before the start of their ACE program, and who will complete at least one semester or quarter at Duke or Stanford after ACE are eligible. This includes student-athletes enrolled in study abroad before or after ACE and student-athletes who will be starting graduate or coterminal programs in the fall after ACE. If you are scheduled to graduate in May/June before the ACE program starts and will not be returning to campus for at least one semester or quarter after their ACE program, you are not eligible to participate.

Student-athletes accepted to ACE are asked to submit a statement of intent to participate within a week of receiving notification from the ACE office. If you are accepted and chose not to participate, simply decline the offer by the deadline, and you will be eligible to apply again in the future. If you do submit a statement of intent to participate and later withdraw, you will be ineligible to re-apply.

All students who participated in one of the ACE in Place virtual summer 2021 or 2022 programs are welcome and encouraged to re-apply for Summer 2023 in-person programs if you still meet all Summer 2023 ACE eligibility requirements. If you are scheduled to graduate in May/June before the ACE program starts and will not be returning to campus for at least one semester or quarter after their ACE program, you are not eligible to participate.

You should apply for a passport before submitting your application. You will be asked to list the date you applied for your passport on your ACE application. Acceptance into ACE is contingent upon possession of a passport valid for 6 months past the first day of classes of the next academic year. If you are accepted, you will be expected to submit your passport to ACE in mid-March to register for your program. ACE does not cover the cost of applying for student-athletes’ passports.


You will need to present a compelling case for yourself, including your past work and volunteer experiences, your classwork, and goals. It will take you several hours to develop your thoughts and answer all of the questions. We do not recommend waiting until the last minute to start your application; ideally, you should start your application as soon as you have determined that you plan to apply to the ACE program. As with any other written assignment, starting well ahead of the deadline will give you time to organize your thoughts, draft, revise, edit, and submit your best work. Applications are not accepted after the deadline. You should prepare to submit your application ahead of this time and not wait until the last minute.

To complete your application, you will need to provide some additional information. You will need the name and contact information of your head or position coach and contact information for your parent or guardian. If you are applying to an in-person program, you will need your passport and health insurance card. Gathering this information before you start your application can help streamline your application preparations.

If you have applied to ACE in previous years, please do not copy your exact answers from your other application(s). While you may write about the same themes and experiences that you used in your previous application(s), we expect that you will take the time to update your responses to reflect the growth and added perspective you have developed over the past year(s).

Finally, ACE staff are not able to help students with applications generally. We are pleased to help you if you have a questions such as “What is an example of an experience that demonstrated flexibility?” but we cannot appraise or edit the content of individual student applications. If you would like an outside opinion on your application, we recommend making an appointment at the Thompson Writing Center (Duke) or the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking (Stanford).

Learn more about preparing to apply to participate in an ACE program.

ACE programs take place throughout the summer and last approximately three consecutive weeks. Program dates and daily time commitments are set well in advance and must be adhered to by student-athletes. As you decide which program(s) are the best fit, we encourage you to consider any summer school obligations, team or training requirements, potential competitions, etc. that might have an impact on which dates and time of day you can participate. All students are required to participate in pre-program trainings and meetings that occur between April and June.

Yes. You must submit one coach recommendation with your application. Your recommendation can come from your head coach or position coach. You will be asked to provide your coach’s name and email address.

A student-athlete may apply to be considered for any of the programs and can apply as early as their first-year. On the application, students will be asked to preference their top two program choices.

From November to January, ACE will hold information sessions and meet ‘n greets. Notifications will be announced on our website and social media and via Duke and Stanford Athletic Department communication channels.

If you’d like to draft your application outside of the ACE application portal, we highly recommend that you use a text document like TextPad (in Microsoft). Using Word may create copy-and-paste issues with punctuation and quotation marks. We still recommend that you save your work regularly, and that you allow ample time ahead of the submission deadline to transfer your application. You may not submit a text document in lieu of an application.


Due to the number of applications that ACE receives, not every student-athlete who applies will be invited for an interview. Interviews can take place any time during the application review period and may be conducted via in-person or Zoom. In addition, some of the partner provider organizations will also conduct an interview or ask applicants for additional information to help with project placement or skills assessment. Not all programs will conduct interviews at the same time, nor will they send out all of the interview invitations at the same time.


Your chances of being accepted increase when you consider which specific ACE program locations match your skills and interests.  Do you have the skills needed by the community partner you would be serving with? Have you demonstrated through athletic participation, coursework, and/or co-curricular activities that you will be a strong contributor? Are you a good team member of upstanding character? Come to ACE information sessions and meet ‘n greets to help inform your choices. Read more about the criteria the selection committee uses to determine which applicants are the best fit for the ACE program.

Each year, all deadlines and dates are posted on our website. ACE sends acceptance notifications to student-athletes via an email to their or address approximately one month after the application deadline.

As part of the application process, you will ask your head or position coach for a recommendation.  As you are thinking about applying, we encourage you to communicate with your coach(es) about your decision to apply and any other factors you should take into consideration.  Once you are accepted into ACE, your head coach will be notified.

You are required to complete all pre-program registration requirements including visa and vaccination requirements (as applicable to your program). You must also complete all online trainings, pre-departure meetings, and ACE surveys by the posted deadlines. You can read more about program expectations and the pre-program requirements on the website.

No. If you remain an active NCAA varsity student-athlete in good standing and meet all other ACE eligibility requirements, we welcome you to re-apply the next application cycle.


You may email ACE program staff to ask how you might be able to build a better application for the future.

You may not participate in ACE and DukeEngage during the same summer. If you have participated in DukeEngage in a previous year, you are eligible to apply to ACE for an upcoming summer.

If you accept an offer from DukeEngage to participate in a group program for the upcoming summer, you are ineligible to participate in ACE in the same summer. Conversely, if you accept an offer to participate in ACE for the upcoming summer, you are ineligible to participate in DukeEngage in the same summer. Please refer to the DukeEngage website for specific eligibility and application requirements and key program dates.

If you have already done an Impact Abroad program or BOSP seminar, you are still eligible for ACE and vice versa; however, the primary challenge may be timing. Please refer to the Haas Center for Public Service or the Bing Overseas Studies Program websites for specific requirements, dates, and eligibility.

Student-athletes may be able to do both Duke Summer Session/Stanford Summer Quarter and one of the virtual ACE in Place program sessions if the program dates and ACE daily time commitment schedule allows.

Depending on the Duke University Summer School session calendar, student-athletes may be able to do both an in-person ACE program and complete summer school.

Given the Stanford University summer session schedule, it is unlikely that a Stanford student-athlete could do an in-person ACE program and summer school in the same summer. However, Stanford student-athletes could do ACE and a shorter international program like the Overseas Seminars/Faculty-Initiated Programs offered by BOSP.

Still have questions? Contact us–we’re here to help.