Katie Becker credits DukeEngage-New York (aka, the Moxie Project) with influencing her career path and helping her find lifelong friends. Since completing the program in 2014, she’s returned to work with her community partner through RIPP-Engage, spent a year in Mexico as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, and is currently using her Spanish language skills to help address issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Katie’s next step? Moving to Ireland to pursue a degree in Global Security and Borders as the 2020-21 recipient of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Peace and Reconciliation.
Why did you choose your DukeEngage program?
I remember reading the descriptions of the different internship placements, which convinced me that DukeEngage New York (which we called “the Moxie Project”) was right for me. The Moxie Project gave us opportunities to work on domestic violence, campus rape, labor rights for domestic workers, street harassment, and reproductive justice. Each host organization was clearly advancing the rights of women and girls through an intersectional framework.
I interned in the Development and Communications department of Sanctuary for Families, a prominent New York City nonprofit offering legal, psychological, housing, and economic support to survivors of gender violence. I represented Sanctuary for Families at community events and generated content for their social-media feeds.
What are you doing now academically/professionally?
After graduating from Duke in 2017, I spent one year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Mexico before returning to the Triangle. I currently work as a Bilingual Program Assistant at UNC Law in their Clinical Programs department. I help administer the law school’s ten clinical programs, which serve low-income North Carolinians. I also interpret and translate on behalf of our Spanish-speaking clients. I am one of the organizers of the statewide CARES Act Eviction Information Line for Spanish-speaking tenants. I am also currently working on a project related to unemployment benefits during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In September, I plan to move to Belfast, Northern Ireland to pursue a master of arts in Global Security and Borders as the recipient of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Peace and Reconciliation. In 2021, I will begin studying at Yale Law School.
Did DukeEngage influence your academic or career path? If so, how?
Absolutely. Through my work at Sanctuary for Families, I met attorneys doing cutting-edge work on immigration, gender violence, and economic empowerment. That summer, I began imagining a career as an attorney working with immigrant communities, which is still my goal.
What was the most meaningful part of your DukeEngage experience (personally, academically, or professionally)?
I made great friends that summer; I am still in close contact with several of them. The Moxie Project experience was intense. It bonded us together through shared experiences and tough conversations.
Do you have a specific lesson learned from your DukeEngage experience that still holds true today? If so, what was it?
The Moxie Project taught me how to build relationships across difference and how to disagree respectfully. The women in my program discussed sensitive subjects related to gender, violence, sexuality, and race. When we disagreed—and sometimes we disagreed fiercely—we took care to remember that we were friends first. The Moxie Project fostered an environment where we were able to connect and communicate across our differences. I think many of us changed our minds and perspectives over the course of that summer.
I continue to use those communication skills in my professional and personal life.
Are you still connected to DukeEngage? If so, how and why?
When I was at Duke, I served as a DEAL (DukeEngage Academy Leader) each year. In 2016, I returned to my initial host site for a second summer internship working directly with clients on their immigration applications. Now that I’ve graduated, my main connection to DukeEngage is through my relationships with friends I made that summer.
Do you think DukeEngage is an important program? Why or why not?
Absolutely. I think DukeEngage can open professional doors for students. Through the Moxie Project, I got to have a meaningful, structured internship in New York City as a nineteen-year-old. My placement was part of what has become a nearly decade-long partnership between the Moxie Project and Sanctuary for Families. It was a privilege to be part of that partnership and legacy of work to end gender violence.
What’s one thing you want people to know about DukeEngage—in general or about your particular experience?
DukeEngage does not have to be just a single-summer job or trip. In my case, I was a Research in Practice Program (RIPP-Engage) Summer Fellow, which financed my return to my initial host site for a second summer.
I know that DukeEngage now offers even more opportunities, such as the Brodhead Fellowship and Duke(Re)Engage, to stay involved with community partners and issues after returning. I am excited that DukeEngage is developing and expanding these opportunities.