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Scott Huler spoke to both past participants and Peter Lang Executive Director Eric Mlyn to capture the evolution of the DukeEngage program in his article, “DukeEngage’s Decade of Student Learning by Doing.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Students go, encounter the reality of making the world a better place, and return changed—each changed in his or her own way. According to DukeEngage statistics, 70 percent say they grew personally; 80 percent say the experience influenced their career plans. Like Jennifer Heffernan ’08, one of the original 2007 DukeEngage cohort, a then-premed student who spent her summer in New Orleans, cleaning up from Hurricane Katrina. She was shocked at how much still needed to be done years after the levees breached: ‘City hall was kind of in mayhem,’ she recalls of her time helping with the city’s public-health department.’We didn’t have desks. We brought our own computers and set them up on filing cabinets and used other filing cabinets as our chairs.’ She says she definitely arrived naïve—shocked by the social and institutional problems she witnessed, and thinking ‘that by showing up at a protest for two hours, a cute little Duke kid, I was going to help.’

Her time in New Orleans left her not overwhelmed but inspired. She realized that changing the world was going to take a lot more than knowing statistics about injustice—and that thinking on a more global scale was her strength. Instead of the one-at-a-time approach of medicine, she realized, ‘I’m much better equipped to work at more of a macro scale,’ so she left being a physician behind. Today she’s an administrator with Health Care Service Corporation, the largest customer-owned health insurer in the United States. ‘Take a little bit of politics, a little bit of common sense, put it together with behavioral economics,’ she says, ‘and it’s health care.'”

Read the full article here