Skip to main content

The DukeEngage Communications team interviewed Katherine Black, Program Director for Experiential Programs & Social Innovation at Duke’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative. Katherine works with Matt Nash, Managing Director for Social Entrepreneurship, to run DukeEngage-Detroit. This profile is part of a series that aims to share how DukeEngage programs impact community members, partners, and students. Follow us on Instagram for more content like this!

What sparked your idea for a DukeEngage program?

I cannot take credit for the idea of DukeEngage-Detroit. Eric Mlyn [the former Peter Lange Executive Director of DukeEngage] was talking to Matt Nash about how they were hoping for new domestic DukeEngage programs. He asked Matt, “What do you think about Detroit?” and Matt said, “What do I think about it!? Eric! I’m FROM Detroit!”. It was serendipitous, because I was looking for a new job. Matt knew that I had worked in the social impact space at the Sanford School of Public Policy and that I had worked with Tony Brown [Professor of the Practice and co-director of the Hart Leadership Program] to start the DukeEngage-Boston program, so he brought me on board!

What do you believe students have taken away from the experience over the years?

It’s so hard to put into words all of the things I have heard over the past six summers. Overall, I believe that students leave knowing much more about what the what the social sector space really looks like. They are partnered with nonprofits on the frontlines of social change in the Detroit community, and tasked with truly instrumental strategic projects for those organizations. We use some of our enrichment activities and workshops to also showcase what companies and corporations outside of the nonprofit space are doing or have done to contribute to Detroit’s economic development and social impact space.

2019 DukeEngage-Detroit participants.

I think students often leave with a better understanding of where they might want to head in their careers. They learn that there are a variety of paths that one can take outside of the more traditional fields, and that they can implement positive change wherever they go. It’s wonderful to see students leave better prepared and inspired to become “changemakers.”

What benefit does your DukeEngage program offer the community/partners?

Our hope is to always add value and progress on strategic projects leading to improved effectiveness and increased impact in the community. We also always want to exploring opportunities to deepen Duke’s engagement in Detroit through social innovation and entrepreneurship.

What will you miss most about not running a program this summer?

I will miss the cohort dynamic and showing students one of my favorite cities. It is always wonderful to see students (who may not have ever met otherwise) become close friends and light up when they realize their potential, and when passions are ignited. I love seeing the program and summer in Detroit open student’s eyes to the side of Detroit that people don’t talk about—it’s heart, resilience, grit, and community.

What’s your advice on how to stay engaged while socially apart?

  • Ask for help and utilize FaceTime as much as possible! I have been talking to some friends and family MORE than I do during the busier times in life, so that is life-giving.
  • Do “virtual study hall” with friends via Zoom! Pick a time and hop on Zoom to study together. Even if you aren’t speaking, it’s a great way to feel less alone while working.
  • Cook or bake with friends via zoom or FaceTime. You can try out recipes together.
  • Write down your feelings during and about this time in history. It will certainly be interesting to look back on one day.
  • Try a new creative hobby (instrument, watercolor, painting, drawing, poetry, etc.).
  • Make photo books of all the memories on your phone.
  • Send snail mail to friends and family.

Matt Nash and Katherine Black.

BONUS READ: Learn a little more about Katherine Black and Matt Nash.