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Throughout the DukeEngage program, we had various enrichment activities after work and on the weekends. Although the majority of my time was spent at work, I learned a lot from the activities outside of work, too.

As part of our speaker series, we had the opportunity to hear from a wide range of perspectives on the integration of science and policy. On Wednesday we spoke with Dr. Andrew Aghapour. As a religious studies professor, Aghapour provided insight into the intersection of science, religion, and policy.

One of the most interesting points was about the inaccuracy of the conflict thesis. The conflict thesis states that there is an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science. Aghapour explained some of the fallacies in this argument and highlighted various examples of religion as a proponent of science.

The Smithsonian plans to launch an exhibit in a few years on the history of science and religion in America. Aghapour had a particular interesting perspective as he is working as a consultant for this exhibit.

In addition to Aghapour’s expertise, it was interesting to hear from the other students in my program. Although I didn’t agree with everyone’s opinion on science and religion, it was a beneficial experience, as it made me develop better rational for my own beliefs.

Another enrichment activity that I found particularly stimulating was our volunteer work with the Capital Area Food Bank. One Saturday we spent our morning volunteering in the middle of a street in D.C. We participated in the Capital Area Food Bank’s Community Marketplace.

When we got to the street, nothing was set up, just an empty street and a line of some 200 people waiting. Then, a semi-truck pulls up and begins to unload it’s contents: tents, tables, and absurd amounts of produce. Hundreds of apples, potatoes, onion, and much more. Even with 40+ volunteers we spent at least an hour separating the produce into portioned bags.

Then, the people began to file in, stopping at each tent to pick up their serving of each of the different produce. All of them extremely appreciative, with just a few people who would try to snap an extra portion of apples.

We ended up spending over 4 hours volunteering. Throughout the day, I’d look down the line to gauge how many people we had left, it seemed never ending at times. At the beginning I assumed there would be ample left over produce. But, by the end we had passed out most all of the produce, with only a few items like onions and radishes left over.

The need for access to healthy food in D.C. is larger than I ever realized. This experience helped me to be more cognizant of my own privilege and more compassionate toward those in need.

Overall through a wide array of enrichment activities, the DukeEngage D.C. helped me to expand my definition of science policy and open my eyes to some of the disparities that are worsened by policies that don’t account for the needs of everyone.