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Class of 2018 - Message from the Vice President for Student Affairs

Dear Parents and Families of the Class of 2018,

We’re excited to welcome you and your sons and daughters to campus in less than a month. This has been a summer of far greater activity than most with renovations and construction projects seemingly at every intersection. Several will be of interest to you and your students. The West Union project to be completed in spring of 2016 will be state-of-the-art dining and social space to West Campus and the Perkins Library project will complete a multi-phase enhancement to our complex of library buildings. We’re renovating the historic Page Auditorium and hope to break ground this spring on a new Student Health and Wellness building. These are exciting improvements that will enhance your students’ experiences, but they also bring occasional inconveniences, which we’ll work hard to minimize. If you want to track some of the details on these projects, go here (http://fmd.duke.edu/guidelines/active/).

I also want to address what you may be reading about as a national topic of higher education conversation. The issue of sexual misconduct is of utmost importance to us and we take very seriously our responsibilities to keep your sons and daughters safe. We have redoubled our efforts to educate all members of the Duke community about our obligations under Title IX and you and your children can expect to hear more during orientation and through the year. In this newsletter, you’ll see an invitation for you to take AlcoholEdu, the online alcohol training we require of all new students. That training also includes a module called Haven which addresses sexual misconduct. I encourage you to go through both trainings and have a conversation with your sons and daughters about these issues.

The year ahead will be exciting for you as well as your students. We are delighted to welcome them and you to our Duke family and will be corresponding regularly with you about campus life, various topics of importance and the many expected and unpredictable moments that make Duke such a special place. Don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have a question or need and know that we are honored to have your trust and confidence as we work together in support of your amazing sons and daughters. I can’t wait to meet all of you!

Forever Duke!

Larry Moneta

Vice President for Student Affairs


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Duke's Sigma Nu

Duke's Sigma Nu receives multiple honors. 

Sigma Nu honored as ROCK Chapter
The Sigma Nu chapter at Duke University was honored as a Rock Chapter award winner last weekend. The award goes to the Top Sigma Nu chapters in the nation.  To earn the award, a chapter must achieve a rating of "Excellence" in 85% of chapter operations categories over a three-year period. This is the first time the chapter has received the award since 1992.

Sigma Nu honored as Gallagher Cup Winner
The Sigma Nu chapter at Duke University was honored as this year's Gallagher Cup winner. The award goes to the chapter that has the top g.p.a. of all the Sigma Nu chapters in the nation. The chapter earned a 3.64 g.p.a. in the Spring 2014 semester.

Jack Riker honored as Alpha Affiliate
Class of 2014 graduate, Jack Riker, was named an Alpha Affiliate last weekend at Grand Chapter, Sigma Nu's biannual conference.  The Alpha Affiliate program recognizes the ten most outstanding graduates each year who have impacted their chapters, university communities and Greek communities. The term Alpha refers to the original Sigma Nu chapter on the Virginia Military Institute campus. It is the highest honor that a collegiate member can receive.

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The Help

Most people do not like talking about their problems, whether they are academic, financial or emotional – especially at a place like Duke. The stigma attached to mental health issues do not mix well with the Duke community. Things become a lot more daunting when there are unrelenting expectations to be the perfect student with an immaculate academic record; this quickly tears away at one’s self-esteem and life.

When I first arrived on campus, two years ago, I was ambitious and ready to tackle whatever was thrown at me. However, following my first semester, I realized that things were not fine. I used to conquer school, but now it was conquering me. I had no one to talk to about what was going on inside my head. I thought, ‘people have their own issues to deal with’. I did not want to be a burden. Speaking about how poorly I was doing in my classes would be humiliating. In addition, being 3,000 miles away from my home did not help my situation.

No one ever thinks that they will suffer from depression until it actually happens. Before leaving for college, I always thought that I was healthy and happy with my life. I never thought that my life would spiral out of control. I isolated myself from everyone because I did not want to be perceived as crazy. I found myself unable to escape the clutches of my bed. If it was not for a close friend of mine recommending CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) to me, I am sure that I probably would have been kicked out of school.

CAPS is a beautiful thing- it really is. Before ever walking in to my first appointment, I thought that I was going to be bombarded with questions by a psychologist that thought I was crazy. That was not the case. I was asked to talk about everything that was bothering me: school, family, money, etc. I was given the opportunity to vent to someone who I knew would not judge me - they just listened and gave advice. As I continued to visit regularly, I began to feel a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I was able to breathe throughout the day with ease. Most importantly, I started to do well in school again.

If I could offer any advice to an incoming student, it would be to make an appointment at CAPS if they are ever going through some tough times. I know that the easiest thing to do is to bottle up your emotions, but that will only make things worse. Remember to always take care of yourself first.


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Giving to Gain

Hello Class of 2018! My name is Gabrielle Sawyer and I am a rising junior studying Public Policy and Markets and Management. I have just returned home to Washington, D.C. after spending a very eventful semester in SoCal with Duke in Los Angeles. In addition to taking courses with USC and Duke professors, I interned at Overbrook Entertainment on the Sony Pictures Studio lot. The decision to trade in Durham for Hollywood was an uncanny one given my calculated nature. Before leaving, I was a straight-laced pre-med student wary of exploring my lingering interests for film and media. Given the traditional nature of Duke, I never thought it possible to make a living in the entertainment industry. My perspective began to change as I connected with Duke alumni that work as successful producers, agents, and journalists. 

Giving up pre-med has been one of the most uncomfortable and stressful decisions I have made so far at Duke. Giving up the security of a stable career track has really pushed the boundaries of myself and of my family. I sometimes worry that by not becoming a doctor, I am throwing away this extraordinary opportunity to study at such a prestigious university.

Finding that spark and that passion may not come as easy for some. I am evidence of this. It is okay to be fearful of the future. Just don’t let that fear keep you from building a life full of vigor and energy.  The worst possible thing you can do during your four years at Duke is to choose a career path that does not make you happy nor challenges your abilities as an intelligent and creative human being.
This is YOUR time. Live these four years up AND make wise decisions. Have fun!

On that note, I can’t wait to meet you all! Enjoy the rest of your summer.



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Duke's Noelle Cunningham ('14) Voted Collegiate Soror of the Year:

Congratulations to class of 2014 graduate, Noelle Cunningham, on receiving the Collegiate Soror of the Year award at her sorority's 26th South Atlantic Regional Conference.  Soror of the Year is a regional award given to a single undergraduate who has exhibited constant dedication to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., her chapter and the community and has exemplified the Nine Cardinal Virtues of Delta Sigma Theta in her daily interaction with others.



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AlcoholEDU for Parents

Dear parents,

Welcome to Duke!  We are busy preparing for your students arrival and look forward to the contributions that you and the entire Class of 2018 will bring to the campus community.  I am writing this letter regarding an issue that worries many parents and one that we consistently try to manage at Duke University, the issue of alcohol. 

We expect each member of the Class of 2018 to complete AlcoholEdu® for College, an online, science-based course used on over 500 campuses nationwide, before they arrive at Duke.  Your student has will be sent instructions on how to complete this course. AlcoholEdu® provides detailed information about alcohol and its effects on the body and mind.  Whether you drink or not, the goals of the course are to help your student make well-informed decisions about alcohol and address the drinking behavior of peers.

Students are encouraged to speak with their parent or guardians about AlcoholEdu® and how they will handle decisions involving alcohol while at Duke. In order to assist you in the conversation with your student we are offering AlcoholEdu® for parents. Please follow the instructions listed below to log onto the course. 

AlcoholEDU for Parents
Go to this website: http://parents.alcoholedu.com and use the Log-in ID: P198419PARENT.  On the registration page you will have the opportunity to create your AlcoholEdu® account before continuing on to the course. 

We encourage all parents to take AlcoholEDU® and to speak with their student about how s/he will handle decisions involving alcohol while at Duke. We know based on research that students rely on their parents advice for serious decisions such as this.

Please note all survey responses are strictly confidential. The course includes three surveys that measure students' alcohol-related attitudes and behaviors. The school will only receive information about the student body as a whole and will never see individual students or parents answers.
Need Technical Support?
Should you experience any difficulties or require support, the AlcoholEdu® Online Technical Support Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Simply click on the "Help" button located in the upper right-hand corner of every AlcoholEdu® screen. You do not need to be logged into the course to access the Help Site. You may also call the AlcoholEdu® Help Desk at 1-866-384-9062 and a support representative will be happy to assist you.
We look forward to seeing you on campus. Thank you for your contribution to all of our prevention efforts, and enjoy the course!


Thomas A. Szigethy

Associate Dean of Students and Director

Duke Student Wellness Center

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True Blue Gloria Adedoyin

Hey folks! I'm Gloria Adedoyin. I am from Greensboro, North Carolina, and I have one older sister who graduated from Carolina. I'm a Biology/History double major with dreams of becoming a pharmacist when I graduate. I really love history especially American and pre-modern Russian history so if you are interested in that kind of thing come talk to me! I played lacrosse in high school and still love to play. I'm director of programming for DukeAfrica so stick with me, and I'll show you some really cool events we have planned related to the Continent. I am also a member of Brownstone Selective Living Group.

My experience at Duke has been incredible so far. I've had the opportunity to study abroad for two summers in both Germany & Australia, respectively. Travel is another one of my biggest interests; being able to visit new places and get credit at the same time was great. When you visit different countries or even interact with different kinds of people you find that the things that seem to be large differences between you are really only subtle nuances. It's really enlightening to find that we are all a lot more connected than we might first anticipate. ALSO, If you happen to travel to Berlin, Germany I highly recommend you visit Mustafa's for the best döner you've ever had.
Fun Fact: Until I received my acceptance, I was a total UNC fan. Please forgive me for my long-term lapse in judgement. I was corrupted by my sister. However, after visiting Duke on Blue Devil Days and discovering the magic that is the Gothic Wonderland, I soon realized how wrong I'd been. Aside from how pretty the campus is, East Campus and Duke's position as a leading institution of biological research were two other, major factors contributing to my decision to come here.

I remember watching True Blue as a freshman and being somewhat skeptical about the performance. I've seen enough adults attempting to convey serious messages to teenagers in "cool" "hip" or "relevant" ways only for it to come off corny and silly rather than informational. True Blue surprised me though. Students were delivering the message. Students were leading the discussions. Students that had personally (or through friends) experienced first-hand the things they were talking about and talking about them in a fun, casual way. That resonated with me a lot more deeply than some of the other information about college I'd received. And, for once I could ask questions about things I was too embarrassed or too nervous to ask. For me, True Blue delivered the most relevant advice and information because it came straight from students like me and you. I joined the True Blue cast so I could actively help in shaping that message. True Blue is there to provide you with information to make informed, decisions.

Long story short: True Blue exists to help you have the most kickass freshman (and future!) experience at Duke in the safest, healthiest way possible.


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Eating on Vacation

Vacation-time to relax and indulge, right?  Relax, yes.  Indulge?  Somewhat.  If you use this time to feel like you can really let go, then perhaps you want to ask yourself, “what is it that I want to let go of?”. Because our days are often overscheduled and demanding, we look to our vacation as a time of no scheduling and no demands -- including food.  Although doing this for a day or two may be fine, a whole week or more of “freedom eating” might present its challenges. It’s important to exhibit balance, which includes some indulgences that you like, to meet your nutritional needs.  To continue good habits while traveling, here are a few tips.

·         Aim for balance.  When eating, try to include some protein so that your meal or snack is more satisfying.  If you can include some vegetables, that’s an added bonus!  Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions once in a while (raw or cooked vegetables or fruit salad as a side, etc.).

·         Don’t “save” your calories.  It’s important to eat healthy throughout the day if you’re planning on having a heavier meal later.  If you allow yourself to become too hungry beforehand, you’ll likely overeat.

·         Be aware of portion distortion.  Many servings at restaurants are much larger than what we need.  Listen to your fullness cues and eat until you’re satisfied, not stuffed.

·         Alcohol counts!  If you remember from our previous blogs, alcohol can be a significant source of calories.  Limit the amount you’re consuming by setting a drink limit before events.  If you need more than 2 drinks per hour, you may need to reevaluate why you’re drinking.

·         Include exercise.  Tour a town you’re visiting by foot, go for a stroll at sunset on the beach or swim in a pool or body of water for physical activity.

·         Stay hydrated.  Traveling in general can be dehydrating and warmer climates only exacerbate that.  Carry a water bottle with you and drink throughout the day.

·         Think of the 80/20 rule-if 80% of your overall diet is pretty healthy, it’s fine that 20% consists of higher calorie or “fun foods”.

Eating is all about balance-meeting your nutrient needs while including items that you really enjoy.  You can “recover” from an unhealthy day by getting on track the next day-eating meals that include all the food groups and being physically active.  Have questions?  Make an appointment with one of the dietitians at Student Health by going online or calling 919-681-9355.


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Casper Suite Apple (iMac, MacBook, iPhone, iPads) Users

Student Affairs ITS has completed full testing of the Casper Management Suite for the Apple platform and is excited to be sending the system into live production this Wednesday (July 9th, 2014).  The system will greatly aid SA ITS' efforts with the following topics:


Software and content distribution

SA ITS will provide on demand software and applications to users with completely silent installations to create low impact distribution methods to minimize workflow interruption.

Compliance and security

We will build upon our already secure enviorment by implmenting and enforcing settings, profiles, encryption auditing, and passwords based on compliance requirements (HIPPA, FERPA, PCI, etc) in different departments across the divsion of Student Affairs.

Inventory and Reporting

Casper empowers SA ITS' ability to run metric reports on everything from hardware models to software licenses and operating system versions.  These reports will leverage the information to ensure that SA ITS has a high level reporting tool, all while the grainular needs of who, what, where, when, why and how are met when required.


You will begin seeing the following prompt, after acknowledging the prompt nothing more needs to be done.  The system auotmoates changes dictated by SA ITS as necessary without any interaction from the user. You should expect to see this notification on a weekly basis.

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Going from internship ambiguity to internship OPPORTUNITY!

My first internship was incredible. It didn’t start out that way, but I was able to turn it around. Here’s the thing. I like structure…okay…I love structure. My first internship? Zero structure. I was interning at a small documentary production company in New York City, working with an award winning filmmaker – she was a genius, and needed assistance, but wasn’t quite sure what to do with me. So the first couple of weeks I did a lot of grunt work. Getting coffee, organizing computer files, answering an email now and then…it was a snooze-fest, and I was getting frustrated because I didn’t feel like I was learning anything. I also worried that I was frustrating my supervisor because I wasn’t meeting her needs. It was total intern ambiguity, and I didn’t like it at all. But, like I said, I was able to turn it around – here’s how I did it.

Look, listen, and learn. – The first glimmer of hope came when I started observing what was going on in the office—noticing challenges that continually popped up and were discussed. I noticed my supervisor was running around Manhattan most of the day picking up equipment and completing errands, while her email inbox grew at an astonishing rate. On several occasions I overheard conversations that more grant money was needed to complete the projects that were currently in production.  I also noticed communication challenges between the associate producer and the crew regarding call times and locations. All of these challenges meant opportunity for me as an intern.

Create solutions. – It’s easy to find problems; the hard part is finding solutions. I knew that if I could help solve some of the challenges my supervisor was having, I’d be an intern superstar, so I created a list of the challenges I noticed with my proposed solutions and scheduled a meeting with my supervisor to discuss them.

My solution to the wasted time my supervisor spent on the road running errands? I asked her if I could do them for her—that way she could stay in the office, answer important emails, and make calls to possible funders. I wanted to learn the city better anyway and make some connections with production equipment rental companies, so it was great solution for both of us. 

The grant money issue? I went into grant research mode, and created a list of high potential grant funding opportunities along with deadlines and application requirements. This was such a wonderful learning experience for me as I learned how most documentaries are funded, the best resources to use and how to prepare grant proposals.

The communication issue between the associate producer and crew? I created and utilized a password-protected web calendar for everyone to access and edit as needed. This solution worked much better than making separate calls multiple times a day—we could access the calendar, in “real time,” any time of day to get the information we needed. The associate producer was so impressed she called a couple of her colleagues and connected me to some freelance production assistant gigs throughout the summer (more great experience and some extra money!).

By paying attention, understanding critical challenges, and creating solutions (skills employers highly seek) I was able to create a structured and meaningful internship experience. At the end of my internship I was offered a full-time job and was told I was the best intern she ever had. 

For more tips on internship success, check out the Career Center Internship Guide.


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True Blue Peer For You

Hi Class of 2018! Congratulations on your recent graduations – now all that’s standing between you and Duke is a few months of summer!

My name is Ali Preston. I grew up in Tampa, FL, and graduated from Plant High School. After a freshman year spent taking Political Science, Religion, Finance, and German classes, along with an amazing Writing 101 class, I decided to dive – blind and headfirst – into a Psychology major and haven’t looked back.

I’ve recently placed myself in a somewhat unusual situation. I arrived at Duke with the Class of 2016, but I will leave with the Class of 2015. I decided that my college experience was meant to be shorter than the usual college experience, for a variety of personal reasons that have very little to do with the quality of my priceless Duke experience and very much to do with me and my future plans.

No matter how much time you spend at Duke, this chapter of your life can be absolutely incredible and simultaneously challenging/stressful – both academically and socially. I want to help you take advantage of everything Duke has to offer while preserving or even improving your physical and mental health. The mental health side of this mission is especially close to my heart. I am on the leadership team of Peer For You. We not only provide an anonymous messaging service through which students can share stories of struggle and receive empathetic (if not also helpful) responses from Peer Responders, but we also try to reach out to students on a daily basis with messages of resilience, empathy, and hope, all in an effort to transform campus culture to promote trust, vulnerability, community, and connection. We are here for you from the very beginning. (I’m a TED addict, so I just thought I’d include one of my relevant favorites for your viewing pleasure.)

Through True Blue, I hope to give you some tools to make your time at Duke into the best experience of your life thus far. Know that part of navigating your Duke experience is figuring out what the “best experience” means for you.  I’m very excited about and thankful for the opportunity to welcome you all to Duke, beginning this summer and continuing through Orientation Week. Looking forward to meeting you all in August.


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4th of July Recipes

Check out this Duke Today article for some 4th of July recipe ideas, featuring Duke Dining Chefs Darelle Bey, Wallace Burrows and Gloris Daniels! 4th of July Recipes


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Dreaming is envisioning

My parents told me that when I was a young toddler, I wanted to be a doctor, dancer, writer, flight attendant, singer, and actor all at once. I was constantly envisioning myself as a new person each time I came up with a new profession; I was always living in the future. I could never pinpoint what I wanted to do. Duke changed that.

Duke, what’s up?! My name is Hanan (rhymes with the bomb.com), and I’m a dreamer.

When I dream, I not only escape my reality, but I imagine my life in a new way. I like to stretch reality—why can’t I be a dancing doctor who writes while being a singing flight attendant that acts on the side? The truth is—I can do all of these things, and it all begins with a simple dream. I find dreaming incredibly empowering—I am in complete control, I decide, I conquer, I achieve.

Dreaming is envisioning. While my future is still a bit fuzzy, it’s slowly manifesting itself. As a Public Policy and Global Health double major at Duke, I see myself using my health policy education to become a global citizen in the world. I hope to utilize the skills I’ve gained in the classroom to contribute to our ever-changing world. My main interest lies in humanitarian work, with an emphasis on social justice/human rights issues, women’s health, and global development.

My heart lies in Africa. I’ve traveled to Africa six different times and traveled to four different countries in the continent (hopefully more countries in the future). While some may feel like they know Africa, in reality, many people’s understanding of Africa is very limited, due to the media’s negative portrayal of the continent. Mass media fails to provide a dynamic perspective of the continent, and instead unfairly emphasizing the dysfunctions of Africa. As Mos Def once said, “if Africa stands in good stead, then the globe will be positively affected.” Thus, it’s vital for people to realize the beauty of the continent, and not be so wrapped up in the media’s narrow portrayal of Africa. Africa has a special place in me—I love its rich history, culture, traditions, and diversity. It’s why I constantly find myself gravitating towards the continent; I enjoy spending weeks on end in African countries at any chance I get.

Duke helped wipe the mist off the foggy lens that is my future, but spots of fuzziness still remains. I’m confident that things will clear up by the end of my time at Duke. And your future will clear up to; everything will work out the way it should, when it should.

Stay dreamin’


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Diversity, Change, and You

Hello! First, I would like to give you a warm welcome into the Duke community and congratulate you for making the best decision of your life by choosing to call Duke your home for the next few years.

My name is Milton Padilla, and I am originally from the greater Philadelphia area. I am a rising sophomore double majoring in Economics and Public Policy with every intention of going to law school and running for political office (Padilla 2032!). I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel across the country and compete with Duke’s Mock Trial team and I am so excited to be a member of the True Blue cast this fall.

College both attracts diversity and breeds change. I used to consider myself as diverse as they come; I’m Puerto Rican and Scottish, I live in a suburban town a stone’s throw away from one of the biggest cities in the country, I listen to everything from rap to alternative, yet I was amazed by the diversity of Duke’s student population. At college, you are exposed to so many different people, ideas, and interests that your worldview will assuredly change.
So for me, True blue is not just about sticking to your core values and beliefs, but also being open to the good kinds of change that college fosters. I emphasize “good” because attending college brings just as many temptations as it does freedoms.

Pressures come frequently, and even from unexpected sources. I can remember several Saturday nights when I chose to stay in and finish homework while my parents and friends back home were messaging me things like “Where’s the party tonight?” or “I’m sure you’re out with friends.” The stereotypes surrounding the college experience will stress you out at one point or another, and that is why the Duke Wellness Center is here, to support your efforts to stay healthy and balanced while you traverse the rigorous landscape of college.

It will NOT be easy, and it will test your character and your beliefs, but if you stick to your True Blue, I can assure you it will be rewarding, and a lot of fun! Good luck!


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Career Development, the U.S. Job Search, and International Students

CHALLENGE: Lack of understanding the U.S. job search.

I see it over and over again. Students from across the globe begin their U.S. college experience thinking that the job-search process will be just like it is in their home country. Most of the time that process is something like: make great grades, study hard for the final test, and the higher your test score (and grades), the better job you get. And the employers will come to you! It is all about grades, and working toward being top of your class. There is little to no focus on networking or getting hands-on experience (though many of my Chinese students acquire a one month “internship,” which is more like an observational externship experience). Many international students have no idea about the U.S. job search, and that it is focused more on professional experience and relationships than grades.

Read more.


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Be brave, be persistent and be myself: Walking on the road to my dream career

As a person who wants to study policy related to mental health and make a change back in China, I felt that I needed some advice on my career development from experts. This led me to the Duke Career Center where I met Paul Miceli.
I came from mainland China, and I received my M.A. degree in Economics in Fall 2012. After years of being a full-time student and planning to pursue a Ph.D. in public health, I preferred to take a gap year to explore my real interests while also preparing for my Ph.D. application. 

I joked with Paul that I was on a road less traveled because I was not interested in finding a full-time job but, instead, collaborating with faculty members to do research on mental health. This is particularly challenging for a student whose background is economics! I made appointments with Paul about once a week for almost three months, and we carefully discussed all my options and strategies.

At the beginning, Paul and I worked on looking for a lab with a focus on mental illnesses. I found out that I would need many of the same skills as someone looking for a full-time job or internship. Sometimes you really need to be brave in order to network with people and ask for informational interviews. I contacted my psychology professors and asked for information about their colleagues who are interested in the study of serious mental illness. I read professors’ websites, emailed them, and luckily received many responses. I went to their offices with my questions and research interests. I participated in conferences and I even found out that one professor randomly sitting next to me had similar research interests. I asked him for his contact information and followed up afterwards. Many times I felt nervous and even shaky before I walked into an office and handed out my resume and answered the question, “Why is a Master of Economics interested in mental health issues?” Through those conversations though, I developed a better understanding of the field I really wanted to make a difference in.

Along the way I’ve found that it is very important to have an advisor to be accountable to, and this is especially true for me because I had a big plan but no idea how to prioritize my actions. I tracked all my actions with a spreadsheet and asked for suggestions from Paul. Paul is very insightful and always straightforwardly pointed out the naïve points of my plan, but was also always encouraging.

Life is just like a puzzle game. You need to get many pieces and put them together, and surprisingly I’ve found my beautiful picture. That is, my desired destination. The most important thing is to be brave - do not be shy! A professor at Duke told me not everyone is clear about their dreams, so if they know a person who finds their dream and has passion for it, others usually are happy to help that person chase his or her dream. I have found my dream, and I know that many people are eager to help me achieve it.

Over the past year, extensive networking and perseverance has led to a coauthored academic article, a research position in the Department of Psychiatry, and many useful connections and relationships. I’ve also become the founder of an organization committed to helping depressed persons in mainland China. The skills and tools that I’ve utilized over the past year have been invaluable to getting me where I am today, and I know that I’ll continue using them throughout my career journey, wherever that may lead me.


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From a small graduating class to Duke

Hi! My name’s Brooke Beason and I’m a rising sophomore from Alabama majoring in political science.  I’m super excited about being a part of the True Blue team this year. True Blue is something unique to Duke that supports freshmen through the transition to college life.

I came to Duke not really knowing what to expect at the beginning of freshman year. I had read my Blue Book and had kept mostly up to date on (read: checked constantly) the Class of 2017 Facebook page, but that didn’t prepare me for how I would feel when I arrived on campus August 20th.

Coming from a high school graduating class of 17 students (Yes, you are reading that correctly.) to a new class of 1,700 was the single most drastic change of my life. I remember looking around the first day of orientation week. I wondered to myself how some people already seemed to have surrounded themselves with new friends while I had only met my roommate and RA.

It took a little bit of time for me to adjust to college life, but eventually I settled in and had a better first year than I ever could have imagined. As classes started, I realized that having the most (or least) orientation week friends wasn’t going to make or break my Duke experience. I got more involved in the performing arts community in Pegram and made some of the best friends of my life.

That’s why I am so enthusiastic about True Blue. I remember True Blue as being a time when older students reminded me that everyone has their niche at Duke. The True Blue program tells students about transitioning into all facets of college life; it’s not just a program about alcohol safety and sexual health, although those things are important, too. It promotes a healthy lifestyle by encouraging students to eat healthy food, be active, and get enough sleep (arguably the most difficult part of college). I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to present this information to incoming freshmen and to support them as they begin their Duke careers. See you in August!


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A Red-Headed Devil Turned Blue

My 9th grade history teacher would tease me by calling me a “red-headed devil” due to my energetic personality, and the fact that I have curly, red hair.  …Plus, he had my brothers before me - you younger siblings out there know what I mean -, but I DIGRESS!  Little did I know that three years later I would go from being a red-headed devil to a Blue Devil.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Fate?  Yes!  Just like it is fate that you all were chosen to come to Duke!  Welcome Class of 2018!

To introduce myself… My name is Morgan Irons, and I am a rising sophomore.  I hail from the Historical Triangle, specifically Yorktown, Virginia, where all you see are trees and people dressed in 18th century garb!  If you ever need to know about colonial history, I got you!  Currently, I am deciding between a biophysics and an environmental science major to go along with my premed track.  I also participate in many activities on campus, from TEDxDuke to the campus beautification organization I created called The Campus Keepers.  However, even with everything that I do on campus, I still find time to hang out with friends and explore the Durham and Raleigh areas.  I promise you, you will feel more at home if you explore your surroundings.

Coming to Duke is a scary, intimidating transition, especially after you hear current Duke Students talk about all the stuff they do.  But, do not give into the insecurities and doubts that come with a new environment.  Life at Duke is more than what GPA you have, or how many activities you can pack into your schedule.  Believe me, I found myself wondering how I was chosen to attend Duke after hearing about my fellow classmates during Orientation Week.  But, my first year led me to find new meaning in my life.  I realized that who I become as a student, person, and friend is defined and created by me and my actions.  Just as you are coming into the time of your life where you can make decisions about your future, you now have the power to take the quirks and talents that you have and shape them into the version of yourself you want.  It may seem cliché to say, but no one is alike and that is one reason why you were chosen to come to Duke.  You are bringing something to the table that only you can bring.

True Blue is here to help you realize your potential and show you the wonderful Duke community you are entering.  We want you to have the best times of your life!  Just as I heard my first year when I saw the True Blue cast:  no matter the decisions you make or the pressures you feel here at Duke, stick to your True Blue!  Welcome to a place where your dreams become reality!  (That sounded mildly Disney-like.)  See you soon!


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Recent Ph.D. alum talks about her successful job search

Starting at an early point in the course of my Ph.D., I was very aware that I did not want to pursue an academic career path. In fact, I had a good idea of this before I even started graduate school. During the final semester of my senior year at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, I took a science policy course that involved directly lobbying congressional offices for a chosen scientific issue of personal interest. Cold-calling and meeting with legislative assistants for some of the biggest names on Capitol Hill was an intimidating process, but it was also eye-opening for me. To my surprise, people listened to us, and my group was actually able to get our issue, which was a grant program to promote green buildings on academic campuses, included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. That experience brought to my attention a whole different side of science: the policy and administrative side.

When I first applied to graduate school, I was probably guilty of doing so because, like many of us, in some part I did not know what else to do with myself after college. I had done bench research throughout my undergraduate career and enjoyed it, and thought it would be great to get more research experience, but I don’t think I had a good grasp of what a Ph.D. could realistically do for me. However, as I entered Duke in the fall to get my Ph.D. in molecular genetics and microbiology fresh off of my flirtation with science policy, I was invigorated by the fact that there were clearly many avenues available for a trained scientist. In retrospect, I think that knowing early on that I probably did not plan to enter academia was rather freeing; when you are narrowly focused on an academic career, it can be a hard process to let go and consider other options, as I saw with people around me.

As I transitioned from a first-year to a senior graduate student, I felt extremely fortunate to be at a place like Duke: the graduate school made constant and tangible efforts to expose students to alternative career paths, whether in non-academic research or other roles. I was also lucky to have an advisor who was very supportive of me having a non-academic career. As my sixth and final year approached, I started to frequently attend seminars, career fairs, and information sessions for companies. I also started to work with the Duke Career Center to develop my resume, explore job possibilities, and find out more about interviewing. As I worked with my career counselor, consulting came up on my radar fairly quickly and initially seemed quite attractive to me as a great way to implement the analytical and creative thinking skills that I had acquired in grad school in new and different settings. My career counselor and I combed through consulting job listings, and I also spent time on the Duke eRecruiting site to find openings. I identified a number of possibilities, had my resume reviewed and tailored by my counselor, and enthusiastically applied to several companies including some of the “Big 3,” a healthcare consulting firm, and a niche pharmaceutical consulting company. I was surprised to find that I got interviews with two companies, but I was also quite worried, as I had no background with case studies. I conducted practice case study interviews at the Career Center ahead of my interviews, which was a very useful prep tool, although one that should be utilized starting far in advance of potential interviews to give plenty of time for multiple sessions and studying. I interviewed with very nice people at both companies, but I knew walking out from both that I was unlikely to get an offer, and furthermore I was unsure whether I’d want one. However, I chalked up both interviews as good learning experiences.

Soon after those interviews, I started writing my thesis and getting ready to defend in the spring, and I knew that the job search needed to get serious. Having learned a lot about how to conduct a job search through my time at the Career Center, I looked into various science policy positions, and knowing that I liked scientific writing and editing and had a strong background in both, I also applied to several editor jobs at scientific journals as well as scientific and medical writing positions. On the advice of my career counselor as well as my thesis committee, I had a few informational interviews with people in the scientific writing field to find out more about potential opportunities that weren’t immediately apparent to me, and I was interested in a potential career in that direction, but I wanted to look at other options too.

Right after I defended, I had a fortuitous opportunity find its way into my inbox. My advisor, who was very enthusiastic about helping me find a job, forwarded me an internal email from the Duke Human Vaccine Institute  (DVHI) that mentioned they had one or two scientific management positions open and were looking for newly-defended graduate students who wanted to start a non-academic track career. As soon as I saw it, something clicked. I had always enjoyed the administrative roles that I had taken on in the lab—keeping things running smoothly was very fulfilling to me—and I hadn’t ever considered a science management position before because, despite all my exposure to alternative career paths, I didn’t realize that jobs like that existed for new Ph.D.s. Additionally, for personal reasons I was keen to stay in the Durham area, and loved the idea of remaining at Duke. I immediately emailed the head of the DHVI to express my interest, and I was told that day that they’d like me to come in for an interview within the next week or two. One month later, I started at the DHVI.

I am learning how to manage large-scale grants, which entails tracking experimental progress, financial progress, coordinating members of the consortia associated with each grant, coordinating shipments of materials, helping to plan studies, and many other tasks. The skills that I will acquire in this job are incredibly useful and applicable in any management position, and I am very confident that I made the right choice to go in this direction for my first job and to build a strong foundation for my career. Overall, by far the most important part of my job search was finding someone, in this case my advisor, who was connected into a network and could send potential jobs my way. Additionally, I found that it is important to consider job avenues when they come along that you might not have realized you were interested in. You never know how various aspects of your graduate career, in this case some of the laboratory administrative work that I was involved with, turn out to be the tasks you most enjoy and want to pursue.

Samantha Bowen is currently the Program Manager at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.


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Body type or Body Hype?

Reading the Huffington Post this week, I found yet another diet plan making its rounds.  This strategy asks that the user decide what type of body they have and then follow the recommendations of what to eat before, during and after a workout depending on his or her goals (weight loss, muscle gain, etc.).  So really it’s a diet plan masked as an exercise plan.  Now deciding on body type isn’t the most straightforward thing.  On a “good day” you may feel like an “ectomorph” but on the days where you don’t like your weight as much, you may estimate that you’re an “endomorph”.  Leaving it up to each person to make this decision leads to a wide range of recommendations.  There is certainly truth to the fact that certain types of bodies may have different nutrient needs because fundamentally this has to do with muscle mass. Some types are more prone to be muscular and because muscle burns calories far better than fat does, it would make sense that lean individuals may inherently eat a bit differently. Having said that, there are pros and cons to everything so after discussing with the nutrition team, here is what we’ve concluded.  We’ll start with the positives.

  • It emphasizes eating whole foods.
  • It isn’t a “one size fits all” proposition, but rather accounts for some variation in body type.
  • It encourages portion size using realistic measurements rather than focusing on calories.  For example, using your palm to measure protein and your thumb to measure fat accounts for larger individuals having larger needs.  Think of it as nature’s measuring cups!

Here are a few points that we’d like readers to be wary of:


  • Each person’s needs are highly individualized.  Unfortunately, much like the old Blood Type Diet, we can’t fit everyone into 3 or 4 categories.  If you’re unsure of your needs, speak with a student health dietitian and we can make a plan specifically for your needs.
  • This diet, like most, is not age-specific.  Most college students are at the age where they’re still growing, maturing, laying down bone mass, etc., so they have higher needs than the general public.
  • The plan is low in starches, which are important for energy for your muscles as well as your brain.  Starches also aid in allowing tryptophan to go through the blood brain barrier which then becomes serotonin and can positively affect mood.

So what’s the take-home message?  Unless you’re following a plan that is made specifically for you, generalized diets can be lacking in nutrients and do not address dietary preferences, cultural diversity and economic constraints when it comes to meal planning.  We’re all different, thank goodness – let’s stop trying to label us or put us in categories but rather celebrate our differences.


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