The hashtags #DukeIsEverywhere and #ForeverDuke have always seemed to me, nothing more than a marketing scheme used by Duke’s student life and alumni offices. I understood the former within the context of students traveling to extravagant and far away places only to post insta-worthy pictures, and the latter as a catchy way to solicit more alumni donations. It wasn’t until I worked in D.C. that I understood the true breadth of the university’s reach and the true connections that alumni have, and always will have with the school.
I work among a cluster of cubicles on the 7th floor of the huge National Academies Keck Building. My first day there, I was overwhelmed by the size of the building and the number of people scurrying around. Little did I know, there would be 2 Duke alums sitting within a couple cubicle’s radius from mine. One worked on my project, the NAM Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience and the other worked on a Cancer Forum Policy project. The Duke alum from my team took me under her wing right away and quickly took on the role of a mentor, except she was only a few years older than I, and always treated me as an equal and a friend. Our only connections were Duke and working on the same project, but aside from making herself available for questions (which I had a lot of) and for advice on completing tasks (which I needed a lot of), she deliberately initiated those extra conversations around how I was enjoying DC, how I was getting along with the people in my program, what I thought about Duke, and goals I wanted to accomplish after college. I also enjoyed hearing about her time at Duke as well. Upon reflection my experience at my NAM internship has undoubtedly been influenced most heavily by her mentorship and companionship. Although she will not be there for my last 2 weeks of my internship due to her vacation break, I am confident that I will connect with her again–if I have learned anything, it is that the Duke network is not only tight-knitted but also always enthusiastic.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend many panels and speaker series featuring Duke alumni here in D.C. such as Sanford on the Hill and a breakfast with alumni congressmen. I’ve spoken with alumni working in a vast array of issues from pharmaceutical companies to social policy institutes, natural resources NGOs to jobs on the hill. Although their experiences, passions, and path to where they are now all vary greatly, the one common shared factor among them all is there willingness and eagerness to engage with current Duke students. On campus, I am 90% of the time surrounded by students of my own age and rarely think of the relationship that I will have with the school upon graduation. Since being in D.C., that has changed. I will be excited to join in the diverse ranks of all that Duke alumni are doing around the world, and I can’t wait to engage with the current students of that time to see what they are doing around the world.