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Greek News

Check out the recently published fall 2014 newsletter from Duke's Mu Kappa chapter of Chi Omega.  Read More.

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CSGD Welcomes New Director

Bernadette Brown has been named the new director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (CSGD) at Duke.

“She brings strong management skills, expertise in LGBTQ issues, theories and perspectives,” said Zoila Airall, who oversees CSGD as VP of Campus Life for Student Affairs at Duke. “Her colleagues describe her as someone they will miss because of her encyclopedic mind, engaging sense of humor and commitment to social justice issues.”

Throughout the Fall semester, “Queering Duke History” has commemorated a turbulent 50 years of LGBT life and progress on campus. Brown’s arrival on Jan. 5 will be an integral part of the next chapter of this story.

“Duke has a very interesting social justice trajectory, especially pertaining to race, cisgender women, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE). The LGBTQI community here, in particular, has a rich history,” Brown said. “CSGD, the LGBTQI undergraduate and graduate student groups, the LGBT Task Force and the LGBT Alumni Network all have had, and will continue to have, a profoundly beneficial impact on the lives of the LGBTQI community at Duke and beyond.”

Brown has dedicated much of her professional career to advancing social justice, with particular emphasis on those who exist outside the heteronormative and/or transgress gender roles. Most recently with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, she has been co-managing the “Improving Permanency for LGBT Youth” project that works to improve stability for LGBTQI youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice system in California.

“My work is really about facilitating interpersonal and institutional relationships that will create equity and inclusivity for the LGBTQI community, and doing this with an intersectional lens so that none of our identities (e.g., race or ethnicity, SOGIE, religion, immigration status, socioeconomic status, veteran status, physical and/or mental abilities) are ignored,” Brown said

Stephanie Helms Pickett, director of Duke’s Women’s Center, met with Brown during the lengthy interview process. “I found Bernadette to be excited about building upon the foundation and powerful history of the work of the Center through engaging with the community,” Helms Pickett said. “Personally, I am excited about the depth and expertise I believe she will bring to the Campus Life team.”

The excitement Helms Pickett refers to comes through in Brown’s own words. “I'm tremendously excited about working with everyone to continue this work and explore new paths to promote and support LGBTQI inclusion,” Brown said. “Many LGBTQI students come here struggling with accepting their SOGIE, some are trying to determine if they are going to be "out" with respect to their SOGIE, some are dealing with family conflict around their SOGIE, and some are trying to reconcile their religious and/or political beliefs with their SOGIE. The same is true for many of Duke's faculty and staff. These are serious concerns and CSGD is here to support them as they move through this journey.”

Brown comes to Duke from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in Oakland, California, where she focused on LGBT youth and welfare within the juvenile justice system. She has held numerous positions around the country focusing on social justice for a variety of communities. Brown holds a juris doctorate from Boston University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Columbia University. She has conducted numerous trainings and presentations on social justice and the LGBT community, including LGBTI Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) trainings for The National PREA Resource Center, a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, for those seeking to become certified PREA auditors by the US Department of Justice. Brown was raised in Detroit. She has one son, and is obsessed with gargoyles, which is yet another reason she can’t wait to get to Duke.

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Duke Common Experience, Class of 2019

Nominations are now being accepted for the Class of 2019 Duke Common Experience. As a piece of the coming changes to Orientation this summer, we have decided to enhance our Summer Reading program. While we will still have a book the incoming class will read, there will be a variety of programs connected to the book both during the summer and over the course of the fall semester. These will include:

  • ​Virtual content sharing of key themes and ideas over the summer months
  • Connection with Alumni Affairs in reading the selection
  • Speakers and programs during the year connected to the selection
  • One over-arching theme that connects the selection to programs here at Duke during the year

However, the biggest change is the format for hosting the author and discussion about the book and what we seek to do over the summer.

When students come to campus, instead of relying solely on FAC chats, our plan it to co-host a program at DPAC. We are excited about this new programming opportunity and see it as a chance to enhance our current DPAC program, add to the intellectual experience of the summer reading, and allow us to choose different types of books that can then be highlighted and/or performed for the incoming class.

As a reminder, the text selected for The Duke Common Experience is designed to give incoming students a shared intellectual connection with other members of their class. The selection committee who will choose the text is comprised of faculty, staff, and students.
In addition to being readable, enjoyable and engaging, the selection must:

  • Enrich the intellectual life of students
  • Promote a shared/common experience among first-year students
  • Prompt stimulating debate and lively discussion outside of the classroom
  • Foster interaction between and among peers

Suggestions for books can be made online at the fo​llowing website:
https://duke.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_dmsg2fhSFgUAHwV

Nominations will be taken through Friday, November 15th. Please feel free to suggest as many books as you'd like and pass along this message to students, faculty and other staff.

Thank you for your support of Duke's continual development of Orientation Week, the first year experience of our students and our collaboration with campus and community partners.

​Jordan Hale and Simon Partner
Co-Chairs, Duke Summer Reading Committee

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Our Voice: An Interview with Nandhini Narayanan

Our Voice is a monthly series that highlights students and alumni by Rinzin Dorjee, a student programming assistant at the CSGD. The goal of Our Voice is to create a space for conversations related to LGBTQ issues and the Duke experience from the perspective of students and alumni from different social, cultural and political backgrounds.  For October’s installment, Rinzin interviews Nandhini Narayanan from Chennai, India pursing a Masters in Engineering Management.

 

Rinzin: Hi, I am really happy that you agreed to have this conversation with me. I know we have met before but for our readers, could you introduce briefly, where you are from, where you grown up, etc.?

Nandhini: Sure! My name is Nandhini. I am from Chennai, India. I grew up in a lot of cities in India and I speak about four different Indian dialects. I love India because of its unique culture and food! I enjoy reading and usually read a book ever week. Being here at Duke is extremely hectic but I am not going to give up reading.

 

Rinzin: What kind of books do you read? Is there one you’d particularly recommend to our readers?

Nandhini: I like reading science fiction. I think I’d like to recommend “The Fountain Head”. It proved a wonderful read. Everyone should read it.

 

Rinzin: So, I understand that you are a graduate student here at Duke. What is your stroke? What do you enjoy during your free time? (I doubt anyone here at Duke has it!)

Nandhini: I enjoy meeting new people and Duke is a great place for that. I am into my first semester here at Duke now and so far, it has been great. I will be studying engineering management for the next 18 months of my stay.

 

Rinzin: What was your first impression of Duke?

Nandhini: Gorgeous campus, friendly people who would hold door for you and say hi despite being complete strangers.

 

Rinzin: How is being here at Duke different from your previous institution in India, especially as relates to the LGBT community? Have you any experience with LGBT individuals at your previous school?

Nandhini: Yes, there is a huge difference. I worked with HIV positive men while I was in India for some time and I realized that there isn’t really an open discussion or a discussion of any sort that would bring attention to these kinds of issues. And these things really need to be talked about in an open discussion! I think people back home still associate the term “Gay” with being happy and the like. We are still in that state, probably at least 50- 60 years behind in terms of our knowledge regarding LGBT issues. People are still not aware of what it means to be an LGBT individual or if such an individual exist in the society at large or in their family. Kissing someone you love is still seen as an aberration. I honestly think that we are 60 years behind. It is quite sad in that sense.

 

Rinzin: I was born in India and I have lived there before leaving for the UK. I had the impression that a lot of adolescents are developing an interest in LGBT issues, if not the wider Indian society. What is your opinion on this?

Nandhini: Yes, this is true. A lot of youngsters are learning about these issues directly from US TV series such as Glee, which for one is quite US centric but it deals with LGBT issues to some extent and because it is such a popular show in India, it has its perks. There are several LGBT related organizations in India such as LGBT India that support groups in elevating the level of education regarding LGBT issues, exposure, awareness and what it means to be an LGBT individual.

 

Rinzin: So, now that you brought up this important point. What does it mean to be an LGBT person in your opinion?

Nandhini: I personally think being an LGBT person means being absolutely no different from a straight person.  For the individual, it would mean coming to terms with his or her or their own skin, that this is who he or she is or they are. In the US, you have actual space to do this and people living here are fortunate in that way. Like I said earlier, being an LGBT person means nothing different from being a straight person. You do not wake up in the morning and become a straight person, an LGBT person, a dinosaur. You are who you are and everyone should respect you for your being.

 

Rinzin: Why do you support LGBT rights? Why do you think it is important?

Nandhini: Because it is human to stand up for it. A hundred years ago, people discriminated against people because of their skin color and look where we are now. We have so much to learn from each other if we overcome our differences.  There is no reason whatsoever why someone should isolate or discriminate against someone who is different, who has a different sexual orientation. I think I am just being human when I say I support sexual and gender diversity. I need to and have to associate with someone who is different, who has a story to tell. This is one of the reasons I left India so that I’d be exposed to more cultural openness and understanding. I am a biologist. I tell you one thing – homosexuality exists in nearly all mammals but homophobia exists only in humans.  What does this say about us? Come on, we can be so much better! Like I mentioned earlier, shows like Glee has played a big role. Its popularity among the youngsters has sparked a lot of awareness and discourse, have led to many political statements. I mean in India, even heterosexual relationships are under scrutiny, let alone homosexual relationships.  Important issues related to the spread of AIDS and different types of STIs are not very much talked about. It’s considered taboo. What is education and awareness in this country is seen as taboo there. How can I emphasize this enough? In India, people get disowned because some parents do not approve of their partners and these are heterosexual relationships. My cousin married someone of a different religion and she was disowned instantly. So, you get what I mean when I say we are about 60 years behind. On the bright side, many Bollywood movies such as Dostana brought discussion related to LGBT issues to the dining table. My friend who took his family to see this movie was able to discuss homosexuality with his parents after watching it. Dostana had a huge reception at the LGBT community in India.

 

Rinzin: It is always very interesting to hear what someone from a different cultural background has got to say about being an LGBT individual in a different cultural context. It is insightful in that it gives a picture, very different from the US centric one that we are aware of. To wrap up, could I ask what is one of your favorite quotes?

Nandhini: There are quite a few. Do you know this one – “it is not the mountain ahead that wear you out, it is the pebble in your shoes”. Again, this relates back to how it is crucial for people to change their mindset and try to look at the world differently. Respect everyone for who they are irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation and learn from their personal experience. We have so much to learn from each other.

 

Rinzin: Lastly, what is the one most played song on your Iphone?

Nandhini: Adam Lambert! His voice is made in God’s design studio. I love what he stands for – being bold and different. When he competed in American Idol, his style was deemed too theatrical and despite being predicted by judges that he will not stand a chance, he kept forging ahead and pulled it off in the end. His voice is so powerful. It gives me chills.

 

Rinzin: And, your most embarrassing moment so far at Duke?

Nandhini: Ordering food anywhere on campus!

 

If you would like to be featured in an issue of Our Voice please contact the CSGD at csgd@studentaffairs.duke.edu with the subject title : "Our Voice"

 

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Eating Healthy on a Budget - CLG at IHouse

Do you enjoy grocery shopping - getting lost in the maze of various aisles, trying to decide what to buy - fresh or frozen produce, generic or name brand, organic or not, wondering if healthy means expensive? No? I thought so. At this week’s CLG, hosted by Seun Bello Olamosu of IHouse, Duke Student Health Dietitian Toni Ann Apadula answered all these questions and also gave us the perfect recipe for a healthy, delicious meal on a budget.

Balancing your Plate
It is always good to start with a plan. Establish a budget, plan your meals and snacks for the week, and remember:  
½ of your plate should be fruits & vegetables – for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber & carbohydrates
¼ of your plate should be grains – for fiber, B vitamins and carbohydrates
¼ of your plate should be protein – for protein, fats and iron
Healthy Fats – for essential fats to enable the body to work properly.

Then make a grocery list. Be sure to check out the store’s ‘Weekly ad’ for what’s on sale, look for digital / printable coupons and at the store, ask about a loyalty card. Seems quite simple, doesn’t it? Let’s go grocery shopping!
Shopping Strategies – What are your options?

Fruits and Vegetables: Try to make your selection as colorful as possible – it is not just for looks but to get the full spectrum of health benefits. You could choose between Fresh produce which is most expensive vs Frozen which is not so pricey, nutrition content is intact and has longer shelf/freezer life vs Canned which is least expensive, but may contain more salt that can be reduced by rinsing. If you are not able to decide whether to buy Organic, the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” gives you some help. Fruits & vegetables are freshest and taste best when they are bought in season (www.ncagr.gov/markets/availabilitychart.pdf).

Grains: Try to choose whole grains. You could pick Name brand which is more expensive vs Store brand which costs less, but usually tastes the same and may have the same ingredients as name brand.

Protein Foods: Try to choose a leaner option. You could buy Animal protein which are most expensive, provide “complete protein” but contain more fat vs Dairy / Nut based protein, which are not so expensive vs Plant based protein / eggs which are least expensive and contain low fat & more fiber.

Is your shopping cart almost full? Before rushing to the billing counter, let me add a few more tips from Toni, as garnish.

Unit price – Compare unit price per lb/oz of various sizes. Larger sizes are often a better buy.
Nutrition facts – This label tells you the % Daily Value of various nutrients in each serving.
Ingredients – The ingredients are listed from most to least. So, if the first ingredient is salt, then you may be in a pickle.

Psst! – Stores stock most expensive items at eye level; so look at higher and lower shelves.

There was never a dull moment. It was amazing to see the active involvement of the participants, asking the most perceptive and interesting questions, and Toni’s patient and informative responses. If you have an appetite for more, try chewing on this.


 

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Trip to Historic Hillsborough - CLG serise at IHouse

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” – St. Augustine

When we make travel plans, we often look at the most popular destinations while missing the hidden gems close by. One such destination is nearby Hillsborough, just 20 minutes away. As part of the CLG series, SangHee Jeong of IHouse, organized a trip to this quaint little town, rich in history, culture and beauty. It was a grey, cloudy morning so we trooped into the vans armed with umbrellas, rain jackets, cameras and the itinerary for the day.



Guided Walking Tour
Our trip began with a guided walking tour of Historic Hillsborough. The town was founded in 1754 as the Orange County seat. It is located where the Great Indian Trading Path crossed the Eno river. The tour started at the Alexander Dickson House (1790), known as the “Last Headquarters of Confederacy”, which also serves as the Orange County Visitors Center.

After trying to assimilate more than two and a half centuries of history through maps and exhibits, we headed to the Regulator Marker, the hanging site of colonial protestors. Then, we visited the Hughes Academy (mid – late 1800s), a small private school whose graduates were accepted at UNC without examination. We walked past William Reed’s Ordinary (1754) that was a tavern, the old County Courthouse (1844) that has a clock tower and the old Town Cemetery (1757), where William Hooper, who signed the Declaration of Independence was buried.

Our final stop was the Orange County Historical Museum. On entering, one can see the Orange County Timeline of important events from 1650 to 2000. Then, a quick stop at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, owned and operated by artists. After 1½ hours of sightseeing, legs and stomachs started complaining. So, we split into groups and headed in different directions to try out Hillsborough’s unique dining and shopping. I lunched at Weaver Street Market (their Vegan chocolate cake is delicious), which is a “community owned cooperative grocery store”.

Tour of Ayr Mount Historic Site
After lunch and a little rest, we headed straight to Ayr Mount Historic Site that includes a 19th century house museum and almost 300 acres of woodlands. Some of us took a guided tour of the house, while others enjoyed the Poet’s Walk, which is a one-mile trail that runs along the bank of the Eno river.


Ayr Mount is a federal-era plantation house built in 1815 by William Kirkland, and later purchased, restored and donated for public benefit by Richard Jenrette. Our guide, Bill told us about the ancestry of the owners and the archaeology of that site. In the house, the brick construction, high ceilings, transverse hallway, ornate fireplaces, huge mahogany tables, walnut shelves, grand piano, old time wavy glass windows, the various portraits and artwork (etchings of North Carolina architecture including Duke Chapel) all vie for attention.


We left Hillsborough with the satisfaction of having seen new places and made new friends.

Thanks, SangHee and Annette for making this trip so enjoyable.
   

        
 

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HOW TO MAKE AMERICAN-STYLE SMALL TALK - IHouse CLG workshop

“I like your boy’s haircut”, said the Duke bus driver to me, and thus began a very delightful conversation about school, teens, peer pressure and before I knew it my stop had come. I am sure all of us have been in similar situations, but we may become tongue-tied because we are shy. At this week’s CLG Workshop, the host Paige Vinson of IHouse helped us to become “conversant” with how to recognize attempts at small talk, start a conversation, maintain and end it politely.

Paige broke the ice by introducing herself and then gave the participants a chance to practice among themselves. Like many people, I used to think that small talk is just that – talking. Now I know that it could be the start of some meaningful conversations and wonderful friendships. Even people who enjoy talking, may be at a loss for words when they want to start a conversation with someone. Through the presentation, we learned some interesting opening lines. Some of my favorites are:

  • Hello/Hi/Hey, I’m Paige – Nobody can go wrong with this.
  • Nice weather, isn’t it? – This one is evergreen.
  • I really like your scarf/necklace – Makes me feel good about my choice.
  • I haven’t seen you for ages – Wow! She still remembers me.

Once you have picked up courage and started a conversation, how to keep it going beyond the initial exchange?

  • Find a meaningful topic
  • Give extra information
  • Pay close attention to what is said and how it is said
  • Use active listening, Trial and Error

Before you start making small talk, prepare yourself by identifying some “hot” topics like books, movies, restaurants, hobbies and travel. And, some topics to be avoided are: Personal, health, money or family problems, death, crimes, moral values, or any social, economic, political issues.

While it is important to make a good beginning, it is equally important to end the conversation on a positive note. During the course of the workshop Paige explained the difference between Ritual Interactions and Literal Invitations. In her inimitable way, she also gave us some useful tips and tricks on what to do when you don’t remember somebody’s name or if someone doesn’t respond to your attempts at making small talk. By the end of the workshop, I saw the participants eagerly practicing their conversation skills with each other and ending it on the right note too, with invitations to meet again.

Good-bye, or shall I say “Let’s keep in touch”.
 

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Service Information for Alexander Rickabaugh and Kaila Brown

Student Affairs will be arranging transportation to the funeral and memorial services of Alexander Rickabaugh. We hope to accommodate all students who would like to attend these services via chartered bus.  In order to meet transportation demands please complete the following questions to reserve a spot:
https://duke.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_dhBDLU8uCZJY9KJ

We are working out options for food on the bus for the way out and back, but if you have specific dietary needs, please bring food with you.

Services will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Details below.

Friday, September 26th:
The funeral service will be held at Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem (646 W. 5th St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101). The family will receive friends following the service.

The schedule will be as follows:

  • Bus staged at 4:00pm
  • Bus departure time from the West Campus Bus Stop at 4:45pm
  • Funeral at Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem at 7:00pm
  • Bus leaves from Winston-Salem at approximately 9:00pm
  • Bus returns after the funeral to the West Campus Bus Stop at approximately 10:30pm

Saturday, September 27th:
Memorial program at Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, NC
If you would like to attend this memorial program please note the following. Bus transportation will be provided for students interested in attending, leaving from the West Campus Bus Stop at 8:00am.

The schedule will be as follows:

  • Bus staged at 7:30am
  • Bus leaves at 8:00am
  • Memorial Service at Forsyth Country Day (5501 Shallowford Rd., Lewisville, NC 27023) 10:00am
  • Bus leaves from Forsyth Country Day at 11:30am
  • Bus arrives back on West Campus at approximately 1:30pm

Sunday, September 28:
Additionally, On Sunday morning at the start of the 11am worship service in Duke Chapel there will be a silent procession of roses for Alex and Kaila. This is a way of remembering them, honoring their lives and providing a space for community grief in the midst of Duke’s weekly Chapel service.

We have not yet heard anything more about memorial plans for Kaila Brown. I'll be sure to let you know if we do.

We will continue to do all we can to offer support and comfort to all. I urge each of you to take advantage of all opportunities for care should you or anyone you know be in distress. All students can contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 919-660-1000 and in an emergency, please call Duke Police at 919-684-2444 or by dialing 911.

You can also contact DukeReach (http://studentaffairs.duke.edu/dukereach1) at 919-681-2455 or at dukereach@duke.edu.

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Kimberly Jenkins Speaks at Greek Convocation

GREEK CONVOCATION SPEECH
Kimberly Jenkins
September 16, 2016

Thank you for that introduction. I’m honored to be here tonight. I’ve been to the chapel before. I even got married in this chapel many years ago. 

But I’ve never been at this podium.

I teach classes, run programs and give speeches at Duke all the time, but I’ve never had a chance to speak to so many students at once and certainly not in the chapel. 

So this is a new experience for me. I mean it when I say I’m honored to be here tonight with all of you. 

I hope to honor you back by sharing with a few stories and lessons learned from my life.  I hope to give you something to think about, something to talk about with your friends and perhaps something that will influence your life here at Duke and life beyond Duke.

The story that resonates most with all kinds of people dates back to the years shortly after I graduated from Duke, a time when I was just a few years older than you are now. 

I was fresh out of Duke, had just moved to Seattle. I did not have a job, but I had a passion for mountain climbing so I moved to the best place in America to climb mountains. 

I needed to support my climbing and backpacking habit so I had to get a job.  That was a fairly drawn out process, but the bottom line is that I ended up at a little, no-name company called Microsoft. 

There were 300 employees at the time and I was hired as a designer of programs that would teach people how to use Microsoft software without opening up a manual. My office was in among all the programmers who were working on these products. 

After a few months there, something interesting evolved.  All the programmers had paper over their windows, even interior windows. They lived in a climate of secrecy because they were working on confidential stuff: the development of the first software for the Macintosh. 

Immediately, I saw how powerful this could be for a market I knew a lot about: colleges and universities.  I knew that software could be a powerful teaching and learning tool. 
Seems obvious today, but back then not one software company was thinking about the education market. Apple and IBM were but software had to be part of the solution. And I wanted to help Microsoft get there.

I used what I call my two manila folder strategy.  My boss was Steve Ballmer, who for many years was president of the company. 

I went in to meet with Steve and handed him one manila folder. In it was my one page proposal for starting an education division at Microsoft. I wanted to sell off the shelf software to colleges and universities. 

Well, Steve Ballmer is big in stature and big in personality. He listened to me for a few minutes and said “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. We’ll never make any money in education.” 

So I handed him my second manila folder, my resignation letter. 

Steve puffed and blustered a bit and told me to sit right there while he went in to talk to Bill, as in Bill Gates. So I sat there and in a few minutes Steve came back. 

He said “Bill thinks that’s the stupidest idea he ever heard.  Microsoft won’t ever make any money in education.” As I was getting up to leave, Steve said “But he loves your chutzpah. He wants you to stay. You can’t have any headcount. You can fly anywhere you want, but it’s just you.”

That was February of 1984. By the end of our fiscal year, December 1984, education sales accounted for 10% of Microsoft’s domestic revenue. With the salary of one person and a lot of airplane tickets! 

You can believe that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were happy that Microsoft was making money. They then gave me the resources to build a real team. 

I can talk for hours about how this illustrates key principles of innovation and entrepreneurship. 

But what does this story have to do with empowerment? In thinking about this, I remembered the questions students typically ask me about this story:

1. What do you do when your boss tells you your idea is the stupidest thing he ever heard?

2. How did I have the courage to resign a good job when I had no money and not much of a resume to get a new job?

3. What made me think I was smart enough and talented enough to put my job on the line for something I didn’t really know would work?


I’ve come up with a framework and a few stories that attempt to answer those questions and address the issue of empowerment.

1. I believe in myself

2. I live my own life script and don’t allow others to define me

3. I make intentional, deliberate choices about how to live my life

 

1. The foundation for being bold enough, risk oriented enough to put my job on the line with Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates was this: I believed in myself. 

A big part of my sense of self originated with my family.  My parents talked about and lived values that all of us in the family adopted.  Kinda had to in order to be at our dinner table. 

They consistently told me that I could “go for it” and “be anything I worked hard enough to be.” And they challenged me with questions about what I value in life and how those values translate into how I treat others.

I had to work hard to “own” all of this myself: the high school achievements, a Duke education, graduate school and experiences in all the jobs leading up to Microsoft and beyond. 

When I did the hard work at school and in jobs, leveraged my core values, and took in inspiration and lessons learned from others, I grew to know and respect myself.

After all of this, I finally realized and embraced that I know what I know. In this situation, I knew how the needs of educators could turn into a major opportunity for Microsoft to make money.  I believed enough in myself to work hard and realize the pretty clear goal that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer put out there for me.  I knew my passion for education. 

 

2. I create my own life path, I don’t let others define me.

There’s a universal need to belong and to be loved.  We all want to be heard, known and accepted by others.

This desire to be accepted exists within the very real context of powerful cultural forces. We live with strong messages about what it takes to be liked by others and to belong to the group.

This is especially true when it comes to what it takes to be a “real woman” and a “real man.” Too often we give up our true selves and yield to cultural forces that might allow us to be accepted by some, but often at a huge cost to ourselves.

Carol Gilligan of Harvard and James Mahalik of Boston College, in separate research work done over the past decade or so, point out the fairly strict demands that all of us live with in this culture. 

The script we give boys starts super early in life. Typically around the age of five boys are told what it takes to be a “real man.” 

-Masculinity often implies a willingness on the part of boys to stand alone and forgo relationships in order to maintain power and voice.

-Men are valued for money, status, power

-They have to fit into a norm of being all knowing, successful, financially ambitious, and dismissive of others who are “lesser than,” especially women.

-Boys and men must show confidence. They can’t cry, can’t ask for too much nurturing, can’t have too much empathy. They must sacrifice self in order to fit in with the group.

-Boys and men must have a physically imposing presence, show some athletic ability or be avid sports fans.  Boys and men are punished for being perceived as “weak” which is typically associated with being feminine or gay.

Last fall I co-taught a course at Duke called Media and Innovation.  One day at the end of class, the students wanted to talk openly about life at Duke.

One guy said that whenever he interacts with girls here he is almost always impressed. They tend to be smart, fun, engaging people he’d like to know better.  He likes a lot of the girls at Duke!

But when he goes back to his fraternity, he engages in group-talk that dismisses, demeans and degrades those very same girls. But here’s the part that’s most interesting to me: he really doesn’t like being that way.

This guy was courageous enough to say to a class of his peers that too often he regrets how he talks and behaves when he’s with the guys in his fraternity.

Other guys in the class agreed. They too had the strength to say that they don’t feel better about themselves when they denigrate others.  

As you might imagine, the girls don’t like this deal either.

Everyone is feeling like the stakes are incredibly high in the social environment here at Duke. So we go on behaving in prescribed ways that don’t really work for anyone.  The guys, the girls, everyone is feeling pretty disconnected and bad about themselves in this environment. It’s a losing proposition for all. 

Girls are given a few more years than boys to be whomever they want to be, but by the age of 11 or 12, acceptable female behavior means girls are:

-nice or sweet
-relationship oriented
-nurturing to others
-physically attractive and continually focused on looking thin and pretty
-submissive, and
-deferential to men

As I mentioned earlier, I had a desire to fit in and find acceptance and love just like everyone else.  I had enough of the required feminine qualities and attributes to belong and be accepted as a woman.

But somehow I didn’t get the memo on being silent, submissive or deferential! 

I didn’t spend too much time on my hair, make-up and clothes. I spent my time being an athlete, enjoying real friendships with men and women alike, and building companies that make a difference in the world. 

I didn’t engage in self-deprecation that is so common among women. I embraced who I am, including my imperfect body or bad hair days or whatever.  When I liked myself “as is”, I found that others, including men and other women liked me better too. 

I refused to be silent. I spoke up when I had something worthy of saying.

When someone said the “b-word” to my face or behind my back, I wasn’t without some feelings, but I tried hard to let it roll off my back. I saw this as a reflection of their insecurities or their own sense of inadequacy.  I refused to give my time or energy to people who stoop to name-calling or criticizing others for sport. 

I didn’t defer to men, I gravitated to the really good men who are out there and collaborated with them.

I wasn’t submissive, I made a point of working with, dating and marrying men who valued me as an equal and wanted to connect with me at a real level. 

The payback that I’ve enjoyed by following my own path in life is this: I’ve enjoyed money, power and choice in what I do with my life. 

I have respect in the business community and a lot of freedom about what I do professionally.

I have great friends who are there for me and vice versa.

I have the love of my husband, sons and extended family. 

People know who I am because I engage with people as authentically as possible, with all my warts and wonderfulness.

They don’t all think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread, but they relate to the real me. And if they don’t, I move on to focus my time and energy on the many kind, fun, authentic, simply awesome people who are out there.

I feel compelled to say one more thing about all of the cultural pressures and hoops that women and men jump through.  In fact, I get pretty wound up about this stuff. 

After more than a few decades of wrestling with these standards and expectations myself
as well as watching my sons, husband and good friends deal with all of this,
I’m convinced that this is utter nonsense. 

It’s nonsense to buy into these concepts, to try so hard to please others, to aim to be perfect at standards that are ridiculous from the start and to give up who you really are in order to fit in.  To all of you I say: please don’t engage in nonsense.  Life is truly too short. 


3. I’m intentional and deliberate about the choices I make in life.

My life has not been one series of great adventures that have hugely happy endings. 

Some of this wisdom is hard earned stuff and I rarely got it right on the first pass.

The best way I found to get through the tough times is to be as thoughtful and intentional about life choices as possible.

I have one more story for you.  In the last few years, especially in business circles, the power of teamwork has become celebrated.

Many leaders are now fond of touting the NOAH rule. For those of you who haven’t heard this one yet, it translates to “No A-Hs” allowed on the team. 

Since I’m in the chapel, I’ll go with the phrase “no jerks.”  Jerks can be disruptive and sap the life out of any team.

I recently met with a friend who is an experienced venture capitalist and all round great human being.  I often turn to him when I want either business or life advice. 

Just a couple of weeks ago I was pitching my next new business venture to him and with some confidence I said “I’m all about building a great team of people. Of course, we’ll follow the NOAH principle.” 

He stopped me cold with a brilliant response. “Kimberly, it’s not about ‘no jerks.’  It’s all about choosing to be with only awesome people.”

That’s a seemingly small change of words and it took me awhile to really get it.  But once I did, I realized this is what it’s really all about.

I won’t waste my energy focusing on the negative like how to avoid jerks. I intentionally surround myself with awesome people.

-I intentionally look for and focus on the positive

-I listen and really hear others

-I have empathy for those who don’t feel good about themselves but I don’t give them my energy or attention if they aren’t interested in being open and fair to me or others

-I try to give myself a “timeout” and self correct if I’m not being my best self

-If I blow it, especially if I blow it big time, I take a close look at my mistakes or whatever pain I’m experiencing and I work hard to move beyond that.


I’ve been here for a few minutes sharing my stories and my lessons learned in life.  Now it’s my turn to ask something of you. 

I’m asking you to take a few minutes, ideally soon, maybe even tonight, to find a place where you can be by yourself.

For a few minutes put aside the grades, the groups you belong to, what people think of you, what you think of others, the aspirations you have here at Duke or your goals for the future. 

Ask yourself three questions:

1. Who are you inside?

2. What are your core values?

3. How does your behavior align with who you are and what you value?

It might help to get a little more specific on that last one:
 
What jokes or stories do you tell?
Do you laugh along when others tell stories that bother you?

Do you participate in the parties your sorority or fraternity holds with themes that don’t really reflect who you are? 

How about rush? 
Does your sorority or fraternity go about rush in a way that is aligned with who you are?

Do you ever drink so much alcohol that you no longer take responsibility for who you are? 
What would it feel like to socialize in ways that allow you to be true to yourself and still have a good time?

These days there's a lot in the news about rape on college campuses across America.
How do you feel about creating a campus free of rape here at Duke?
What might your fraternity or sorority do to put an end to date rapes? 
What might you do as an individual?

Who are the awesome people in your life right now?
Make a list and think about them for a few minutes.  
How might you avoid the jerks in life and focus on finding more awesome people?
How might you build deeper relationships with those awesome people?
 


The way you go through Duke is formative for the rest of life.

It is much harder to change the bad habits you build here than it is to develop and cultivate effective and positive ones to take with you after Duke.

How you treat others now does matter. The choices you make now powerfully influence the choices you are likely to make later.
If you can be courageous at Duke, you can be courageous anywhere.

Thank you again for this honor of sharing some time with you tonight.

Audience: 

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Live Jazz at the Mary Lou

Weekly Jazz Wednesdays add music to study sessions and coworker meetups

John Brown perched on a stool, his fingers flying across the thick strings of his bass. He closed his eyes as the drums, piano and trumpet conversed with each other, taking turns carrying the melody.

Across the room at Duke’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, students studied notes on laptops and visitors watched the jazz ensemble, bobbing their heads to the beat.  The tradition of “Jazz @ the Mary Lou” is 10 years old, and Brown, director of the Duke Jazz Program, brings different musicians to the center every Wednesday evening, from professional performers to up-and-coming high school students.

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IMAM ADEEL ZEB NAMED MUSLIM CHAPLAIN AT DUKE

Imam Adeel Zeb has been named Duke University's new Muslim chaplain and director for the Center for Muslim Life, beginning September 20.

He succeeds Imam Abdullah Antepli, who is taking on a new role with the university.

"I am thrilled to be able to make this important announcement," said Zoila Airall, associate vice president of campus life. "We have made significant strides in serving our growing Muslim student population over the past few years. I have great confidence that Adeel is the right person to continue this growth and serve our Muslim community."

Zeb said he is committed to building what he calls "interfaith, intrafaith and inter-university bridges" to create opportunities for productive dialogues. He has led interfaith immersion trips and spiritual retreats to Trinidad and Saudi Arabia, and hopes to continue such work with students and colleagues at Duke.

"The students at Duke exude ambition and seem ready to make authentic and positive change globally, starting of course locally here at Duke University," Zeb said. "The Duke community is full of energy, intelligence, and passion. These three components seem to be a common thread in the framework of this exemplary institution. With the current setup of three Muslims in distinct leadership positions across campus, Duke’s Muslim Life has the opportunity to be the gold standard in America, and that’s my hope and vision for the near future."

Zeb is coming to Duke from Trinity College and Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and prior to that served the Muslim community at American University. In those positions, he designed and delivered successful programming and outreach that met varied Muslim student needs. His academic research has focused on Jewish and Muslim chaplaincies on college campuses.

"Imam Zeb brings with him a unique combination of knowledge about Islam as well as skills in counseling and student development," said Li-Chen Chin, director of intercultural programs for Student Affairs at Duke. "His rich and diverse life experience -- for example, initially wanting to be pre-med as an undergraduate, then finding his calling after a visit to Mecca -- will serve as an inspiration to all students."

Zeb is a graduate of the Master’s in Islamic Chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Baylor University, and a bachelor’s of science degree in Islamic studies from Arees University. He has earned multiple certifications in interfaith conflict management, conflict analysis, and negotiation from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). He was the first Muslim Chaplain student at Children’s Medical Center’s Clinical Pastoral Education Program in Dallas.

Zeb has spoken at Islamic centers, universities, hospitals and Muslim conferences throughout the United States and has delivered Friday Khutbah prayer on Capitol Hill. He has published works in the Washington Post, and Temple University’s Journal for Ecumenical Studies.

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Zoila Airall talks Title IX to Parents During Orientation

Zoila Airall, Ph.D., is Assistant Vice President of Campus Life for Student Affairs. She gave these remarks during an evening session for parents of arriving first-year Duke students.

As many of you may be aware, we sent every member of this year’s incoming first-year class two on-line trainings--Alcohol Edu and Haven. Haven is higher education’s first compliance-based program for primary sexual assault prevention. We carefully monitored student participation this summer because it is important to us that each member of this class understand definitions of sexual misconduct, the effects of alcohol on relationships and the ethics of relationships.

We also sent the two trainings to all parents. I will not ask for a show of hands about how many of you actually took the training or how many of you who took the training engaged your son or daughter in a conversation on the topic of sexual misconduct. If you did, you receive a BLUE STAR, because at Duke we do everything in blue and not gold!
But if you did not, there is time before you leave to have a conversation with your son or daughter.

Let me tell you why this is critical. Sexual misconduct is no longer misbehavior that remains silent on college campuses. In March 2013, the Sexual Violence Elimination Act--known as the Campus SaVE Act--was signed into law, requiring that college campuses provide transparency, accountability and education on the topic of sexual misconduct. And the Office of Civil Rights developed Title IX compliance guidelines for colleges and universities across the country.

There has been a national dialogue among government officials, scholars, educators and activists. This summer, Dean Sue, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students and I attended a national Sexual Assault Summit at Dartmouth with 300 colleagues from colleges and universities across the country to address best practices in prevention and intervention efforts.

Be assured that at Duke every undergraduate and graduate student, faculty and staff member will receive ongoing training and education during their tenure at this institution. We are encouraging open dialogue on the topic of sexual misconduct because students need to understand the range of sexual misconduct behavior, their rights and options, and the expectation to report all acts of sexual misconduct. Our sexual misconduct policy may be found on-line and in every Duke Community Standard Guide Book.  My colleagues in the Women’s Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Duke Wellness Center, and Student Conduct are prepared to work closely with victims and perpetrators of sexual misconduct violations.

It is not my intention to frighten you. It is my intention to assure you that at Duke we take this issue seriously. We are committed to providing the best prevention and intervention practices and procedures because we care about all of our students.

And because we care, it is our expectation that as parents, you understand the important role you have in joining us in this national movement to address sexual misconduct on college campuses. 

We welcome this partnership.

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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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The Caged Bird…A Song Well Sung

Maya Angelou entered my life at a time when I very much needed to see someone who looked like me, both in body and in spirit, doing and being something unconventional. I remember reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and hanging onto every word. I was in my first semester of college, at Pace University in New York, and dealing with a particularly trying and debilitating trauma that had recently occurred in my life. A dear friend had recommended this text to me. I didn’t know then that it would serve to reconnect me to pieces of myself that had been silenced/I had silenced. 

I felt daring as I read her words. I saw this woman speaking truths that were mine, in ways that I felt had been forbidden to me. She spoke of pain as though she had conquered it…stood on its neck and reminded it who she was in a world that would tell people who look like me and her otherwise. Maya was unapologetic as she revealed parts of her that were more easily kept covered…private…unseen. There was a communal shame associated with some of the realities that she shared and, rather than embracing that shame, she sang. Sang inside of the cage of racial disparity and cultural invisibility…she sang beautifully. Every now and then I could hear my own muffled voice adding a harmony or timidly carrying the melody while she moved fearlessly on to the next verse of our song. This was one of my first glimpses into what freedom could look like. Speaking…truth to power, words in spaces that preferred silence, poetry as activism…finding and owning my voice.

When I came to Duke University, I was a part of the last class of January Freshmen that Duke admitted, in January 1989. I had no idea that, the fall of that year, I would find out that Maya Angelou was the convocation speaker for the incoming class of freshmen. This, to me, seemed to be divine providence. I had been finding own my voice by listening to the beckoning of hers. Because of Maya Angelou, I was a phenomenal woman before I ever believed it. Because of Maya Angelou, I knew that I was the dream and the hope of the slave in spite of the intimidating voices that said that I didn’t belong here at Duke. These words and truths accompanied me through a harrowing 12 year journey that finally, in 2000, resulted in me proudly finishing my Duke undergraduate degree with my children at my side. 

The power that Maya Angelou gave to words and the fact that speaking was a conscious decision for her gave me the inspiration to speak and act in activism, and social justice advocacy. The universal truths that governed her understanding of being human and loving humanity continue to remind me that there is a responsibility that comes with a poetic gifting. There is a responsibility that comes with choosing to speak and being intentional about that which you articulate for others’ consumption. That freedom is often a journey through which community is developed. That there will be struggles, difficulties, issues and pain…that there will be cages and that cages will never be a reason to stop singing.

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Thank you, Dr. Angelou, for clear eyes

It is a special cohort of students that is able to claim itself as Literature majors at Duke University, and I consider myself extremely lucky to call myself one of that small group of ten that graduated from the department just two years ago. However, I must warn you - though I am proud to call it mine now, it wasn't always so.

As a lowerclassman, the struggle to manage my family's expectations of a traditional career path and my own interests had brought uncertainty into what should have been an easy decision. I was confused and torn by my passion for the art (and the academic enjoyment it fielded me) and the internal guilt I harbored for not following the path my family had mapped out.  

This is about when Dr. Maya Angelou came into the picture. Like many Duke students, my first brush with her was through assigned readings in grade school and then her annual Convocation keynote during Orientation Week. I had always loved her poems and even as a freshman, I was in wonder of the inspiration and fresh perspective she instilled in the students though she had been doing the keynote for decades. Even so, it wasn't until I was an upperclassman in Delta Gamma sorority, which hosted Dr. Angelou at the event each year, that I was afforded the incredible opportunity to meet her.

We were in a back entrance of the Chapel after ushering another fabulous talk, and though her son conveyed that she was exhausted by the experience, she was still waiting for us and excited to meet. She greeted all of us, shook our hands, and gave a bit of personal inspiration there to our sisters in that little nook. I may be a little selfish when I say that I felt like her words were spoken directly to me, but being in her presence with my academic background made me truly awestruck and reflect on my current circumstance.

All in all, I credit my brief meeting with her for jolting me into the realization that there was nothing wrong with my love of the written word, and it was time to release myself from my self-constructed cage of doubt and guilt. Without her, I would have continued my studies with a clouded head (and heart) and been unable to fly free and wholeheartedly enjoy my academic career so much.

So, thank you, Dr. Angelou. It would have been impossible to absorb the amazing teachings I was so lucky to experience from our renowned faculty without the clear eyes you gave me.

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"I am yours, and you are mine"

Each day this week, a member of the Duke community will share their memories of Dr. Angelou.

I was 11 years old in the sixth grade, and I needed something new to read for silent reading time at school. Looking through my family bookshelf, I came across a tiny book that looked pretty well-worn, and its author was someone I’d heard of before: Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  My mom had written her name inside the front cover, and it looked like it was a book she had read multiple times—so I grabbed that one and brought it to school.

I couldn’t ask my mom what her opinion was on the text, at that point, because of the stage of her illness. My mother was diagnosed with brain cancer six years prior, and was in a difficult place at that point in her life. Her name in the book’s cover was all the recommendation I needed to trust her judgment on the quality of this autobiography.

Sitting at school reading the book, I remember wondering whether this content was too mature for me—perhaps, I thought, I should choose something less heavy, like Holes or something. I remember raising my teacher’s eyebrows that I was tackling it at all. Who knows how much actually resonated with me at that point in my life, but I stuck with it, and I never forgot the power of Maya Angelou’s words. I remember trying to hide the tears in my eyes during the difficult moments of sexual assault in the text. I remember my indignation as a young, white female that this young, African American female recalling her autobiography could have faced such a different life than I had. These feelings stayed with me as I got older. Later in my life, I would read Toni Morrison’s novels, and I’d find myself drawing connections back to Maya Angelou’s writing. These books sparked an early anger in me, and were fundamental to my wanting to pursue work in social justice.

This book also left a connection in my head that only a sixth grader could have between Maya Angelou and my mother. That I could ever have connected my mom, a white, Jewish, Canadian woman, to Maya Angelou at all feels a little strange. But for me, I saw reading this text as a way to spend time doing something my mom had done at a time when because of her illness we couldn’t do much together. My eyes following the same words that my mom’s eyes had followed, reflecting on and connecting with the same moments she had read. Whenever I read Maya Angelou again in the years to come, my thoughts would always come back to my mother. I thank Dr. Angelou for being able to connect not just me and my mother, but so many women through the beautiful power of her language.

You could have never convinced me as an eleven year-old that someday I would meet the poet that had inspired me so much. Flash forward to my junior year after I was elected president of Delta Gamma at Duke, where our organization had partnered with Dr. Angelou for 20 years to bring her to campus for Freshman convocation in the Chapel.

I remember sitting with Dr. Angelou before the event in a side room in the front of the Chapel. We were left alone for a few minutes to spend some time together—she could probably hear my heartbeat over where she was sitting. To break my obvious nervousness, she asked me what I was studying. I told her I was a double major in Spanish and History, and a minor in political science. “Ah,” she said, “ ¿hablas Español?” she asked me in a thick accent. And there it was: Maya Angelou and I were speaking in Spanish. (Little did I know, she spoke over half a dozen languages!) Sitting in that room, Dr. Angelou told me she had hoped my introduction of her wouldn’t be a list of her accomplishments, as she found those so boring. I assured her mine wasn’t, and that she could trust me. With my heart beating so fast and my blood rushing a million miles per hour, how could I even begin in that moment to share with her the connections in my head I had between her and my mother, that I’d drawn courage from her for almost 10 years of my life. This moment of spending time with the poet I admired so greatly was unreal. All I could say was that she’d have to let me know afterward what she thought of the introduction.  She told me “buena suerte,” good luck, and that she would let me know.Dr. Angelou spoke so beautifully that summer day in the Chapel. She told the freshman class, “I am yours and you are mine,” noting that she didn’t live far away over by Wake Forest, and they could write to her anytime. Sharing herself with the world was Maya Angelou’s part of her power as a poet. I had considered her words mine since I first read them, and before then her words were my mother’s. Now this incredible woman was offering to share herself with over a thousand more people—I wonder how many letters she got following the event.

After the speech concluded, and the freshmen boarded the parade of C-1s back to East, I stepped outside with my Delta Gamma sisters and my father to meet back up with Dr. Angelou. She greeted us outside with a smile, open arms, and embraced me and said, “Becki, you were so smooth!” I could have fainted.

The world lost a beautiful mind last week, and the Duke community lost a piece that was shared with us for so long. I am incredibly privileged to have met and spent time with Dr. Angelou, a woman whose writing will be a part of me for the rest of my life, and created an eternal connection to my mother. May she rest in peace.

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Collaboration & Change for a Common Good

 

Collaboration & Change for a Common Good
A Reflection on Collaboration in Campus Life
India Pierce and Sean Novak

 

One way that we can work effectively to create change for a common good is to work collaboratively across communities. With this in mind, India Pierce from the Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity (CSGD) came together with Sean Novak from the Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA) to create a program that explored the intersections of race and sexual orientation. As part of the CMA’s En/Countering Racism series (E/C), they created a program for students to gather and explore intersectionality. This was done in order to deepen participants’ understanding of themselves and others as a means to building stronger coalitions for social justice.

En/Countering Racism is one part of the CMA’s Race Speaks Initiative. The series aims to provide a safe space for people to share their experiences encountering racism and build participants’ capacity to effectively counter it. The more we explore intersectionality, the more we will see that life is much more complex than our politically polarized times might suggest.

In the beginning, the focus was on doing good works and providing students the opportunity to enrich their understanding of themselves and others. However, in the midst of the project the true essence of collaboration became apparent. As much as they wanted the students to leave anew, they walked away from the experience impacted themselves. The project became more than just another event to host or dialogue to facilitate. It was a lesson in how to successfully collaborate. On the heels of the recent rollout of the Student Affairs Leadership Development model, India and Sean thought to share some insight regarding their experience.

Sean’s thoughts…

I had the pleasure of collaborating with India this past semester for our En/Countering Racism Series. I approached her with a very broad idea. I felt there was a need to host a program that explored the intersections of race and sexual orientation. I came to India with that basic starting point and little expectations. I know that I desired for the program to primarily be geared toward stimulating ideas for how and why individuals and organizations should work across communities (Ex. Black community and Asian Community) and movements (LGBT justice and racial justice movements.)

After a few brainstorming sessions, we came up with a concept about “challenging the face of privilege.” As we talked, India and I found a common desire in challenging ourselves to think about our privilege. On the surface, you can assume that I am White and I am male. Additionally, you can assume that she is a woman and Black. I knew from conversation that we had a similar social economic background, coming from a poor and/or working class background. With our education and current profession, we are both experiencing relative mobility in that aspect of our life. However, both of us are more than just this. As we talked, it was clear that we both acknowledged that we have multiple and intersecting identities. We both acknowledged that we needed to consistently bring our whole selves to the table and not just our racial identity, or sexuality, or gender identity, or class background, etc. We both believe that no aspect of our experience pertaining to our identity operates in isolation of other identities. It all intersects. We thought it important that we all explore our privilege instead of just pointing fingers at those who we perceive as “the privileged.”

In my opinion, what worked so well with India and I was that we were both willing to be open, honest, and vulnerable. We threw ideas around. We had a level of trust built that allowed for us to brainstorm without worry of being ridiculed for our ideas. Neither one of us had ulterior motives. This wasn’t a case of either one of us putting together a collaborative program in order to build our professional portfolio. We did this for the love of the work. India appeared to have a common desire for creating and expanding community and empowering students to work for equity. We had a common goal of providing people a space to explore the complexities of their lived experience not only to see how unique and distinct those experiences are but also, how we might be able to find common interests.

Next, I feel that we had mutual respect for and were resourceful with one another’s strengths. Instead of positioning ourselves against one another, we just focused on the work. I love the work I do. That’s why I committed to it. That’s why I chose this as a profession because I had a deep desire to work particularly with racial reconciliation and justice. It was obvious to me that India had a similar passion and commitment. After observing her track record in the short time she has been here at Duke and the conversations that we’ve had, India had similar motivations as I to embark on this journey together.

Additionally, what worked so well with our collaboration was a mutual willingness to compromise. India may have had an idea and I may have not initially agreed or thought differently. Instead of resisting, I discerned her suggestions. Sometimes, I might come back and say, “I think we should do this instead.” She agreed at times and disagreed at other times. Nonetheless, it was never personal. We had built a strong foundation from the start so we had a common goal. There were no suggestions that intentionally led us off course from that goal. Compromise can be a long and tedious process when you’re trying to organize a collaborative effort. I could easily have taken this program on myself (as could she) and created all the content. It would have been quicker and easier in the short-term. However, I am a firm believer that when you build bridges with weak foundations they are bound to collapse. Compromise and equitable collaborations are absolutely necessary for a sustainable initiative or program. If I wanted something for my professional portfolio, I could have just thrown it together and advertised it. In my opinion, compromise in collaboration is the difference between (1) being seen as a leader and (2) being a leader.

The last item that I will touch on is that we both put in our work. There was a mutual effort. We delegated duties and when one of us thought the other was taking on more than they should, we expressed it. After all, how could we take an inequitable approach to developing a program partially geared toward empowering participants to be more equitable? That wouldn’t be establishing a solid foundation. Sometimes, I was caught up with other projects or was simply slacking. I was open and honest about it with India. She was honest with me when she was falling behind as well. We made adjustments and knew what we were working with most of the time.

It truly was a pleasure working with India and I am going to enjoy working with her to build a larger initiative off this collaboration.

 

Thoughts from India…

I have been at Duke for a little less than a year but it did not take me long to understand how much of a buzz word “collaboration” is for folks around here. Yet, it seems to be at times easier to talk about than it is to do. Call it newbie naivety, but I believe that if us Student Affairs folks could figure out how to succeed with our collaborating efforts we will all win. I remember sitting down with my supervisor early on during my time here, sharing with her all of my ideas for how we could work with other identity/cultural centers. Encouraging of my enthusiastic spirit she encouraged me to consider every opportunity that presents itself.

Unwavering in my opinion, that’s exactly what I did when I embarked upon a wonderful collaborative project with Sean. He approached me about creating an event that would work for the CMA’s En/countering Racism series and I don’t want to brag but the experience was the stuff dreams are made of. I say this because I have often been approached about collaborating on events where the real intention was simply to use our space or for us to provide financial support. I wasn’t being asked to be a partner in the creation of an event, most of the time the planning for the event was already completed. In those instances I can’t help but feel a little confused because that is not how I see collaboration working. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot and do not want to collaborate on everything. However, what I am normally asked for is to be a sponsor of an event not a collaborator on the creation of an event. It would have been easy for Sean to fall into the same pattern, as En/countering Racism is a series that he plans on his own. He could have come to me with a vision and plan for how we would work together and what the event would be, leaving very little room for me to interject; I appreciate that he did not do this.

Our first few meetings were us just talking about the issues that are important to the students we serve. We discussed the types of programs that were the most successful in each of our offices and sought to take some of those elements and include them into the work we would do together. I can’t remember how we came to the topic of privilege but when we got there everything seemed to fall in place.

Working on this project showed me that there is a clear difference between working with people and collaborating with people. In any working relationship there are some pretty basic expectations that one has for their teammate, like completing tasks and meeting deadlines. However, successful collaborations go beyond the logistics…beyond the things on paper. Successful collaborations push and cultivate the growth of us as individuals. Our project focused on challenging the traditional notions of privilege, a topic that could not be taught to others until we did a little of the work ourselves. We had numerous conversations about the spaces in which we felt we had privilege and those that we didn’t. For both of us, we discovered that it is important that we bring our whole selves into our work. In order to do that we must first see beyond the check boxes of identities and see ourselves as the complex individuals that we are. At first glance it doesn’t seem that Sean and I would have much in common, aside from the fact that our home sports teams were rivals, Michigan and Ohio State.  Despite Michigan’s inferiority to Ohio State, we found out we’ve had some similar experiences in certain aspects of our life and others that were completely different. It was on those things that we were able to build a strong foundation for our work. I didn’t feel the anxiety that I’ve felt when working with others where I had to do x, y, or z otherwise it wouldn’t get done. Most importantly I was able to be myself, I admitted when I didn’t know something or was swamped with other things. It was our flexibility and openness that helped Sean and I work well together. We discussed how we approach creating events and when we’re at our best so we could support one another where we were and not where we would prefer the other to be.

At the center of every collaboration must be trust, and it is probably the hardest part of any true collaboration. We by nature are looking for ways to save our own butts. We expect the worst in others and over compensate for bad things that haven’t even happened yet. Those approaches are a disservice to those who we are committed to serve. I am of the belief that the best collaborative experiences often look like magic. Magic is something that can be taught, you teach it by encouraging people to think outside the box and embrace the process of stepping into the unknown. If we want our division to be one in which we are truly collaborating and creating meaningful programming for students we must first start by teaching the skills that people need to be successful at those things like emotional intelligence, communication skills, and effective management skills.  I believe that these skills helped cultivate a healthy working relationship between Sean and I. I look forward to what happens next as we build off this collaboration.

Sean and India closing…

We had a wonderful time working together. This started off as a one-time program to explore the intersections of race and sexual orientation and it is now developing into a half-day workshop. We plan to restructure and expand this program to provide an opportunity for students to engage even deeper into the complexities of intersectionality. One of the primary purposes will be to galvanize and equip students to work across identities and movements. Additionally, we will be altering this workshop to provide a professional development opportunity for colleagues to consider an intersectional approach to advising student organizations as well. As advisors, we think it is important for students to work collaboratively and not always in isolation from other organizations and communities.

In closing, we believe that collaboration is a vital component for us to provide the best service possible for our students. It is difficult to be influential in encouraging students to work together if we are not setting the tone for what it looks like. One of the most powerful things we can do to increase our ability in advising students is to first advise ourselves. Working collectively can be a daunting task with competing interests. However, we believe that enduring the struggle and fighting through the dissonance can produce sustained initiatives that will prove to serve students and ourselves well.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

India & Sean

 

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2014 Greek Awards

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Rubenstein Gift to Enhance Jewish Life at Duke

Duke University trustee David M. Rubenstein is giving $1.9 million to Jewish Life at Duke to expand programming, fund building renovations and enhance the college experience for Jewish students.

Most of the gift -- $1.5 million -- will fund new initiatives and staff positions for a Jewish student population whose needs and interests are changing, said Rebecca Simons, the center's director. New programs are expected to reflect an increasing student demand for information and resources related to globalization, leadership and community, she said.

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Making Choices

Social life?  Sleep?  Good Grades?  It seems we can only ever get two of these at a time here at Duke.  Even after countless time management lectures, and many hours spent on schedules, I struggle to find balance. The careful plans I make always seems to fly out the window within a matter of hours.  An exciting social event will come up, assignments will take longer than I expected, or an unexpected wave of exhaustion will wash over me as I grow tired from trying to keep up.  Life can certainly be chaotic here, especially at the end of the semester.  The stresses of Duke have a great influence over the choices we make on an everyday basis. Should we eat dinner with friends or get an extra hour of studying?  Is it worth an all-nighter to study math?  Pressure comes from parents, other students, teachers, and even people we don’t even know. The future employer, the kid in the class who destroys the curve, and the thought of our own future selves looking back on Duke all add to the stress of making choices here at Duke.

As a sophomore this year, I am already looking back on my freshman year and making changes to my life accordingly.  There isn’t usually much free time to reflect carefully at Duke, but two years have already gone by and before I know it I’ll be graduating.  While some freshmen saw college as a new start, I arrived here intending to hang on to my high school identity for as long as I could.  It was a safety blanket, and I felt comfortable defining myself a certain way.  I had excellent grades, I ran track, and I played in the orchestra.  I defined myself by the activities I participated in and placed importance on my skills and abilities.  I was also quiet and introverted, and a little bit dorky.  These bits of my personality have certainly stuck with me through college, but what I thought were my most defining characteristics evaporated when I set foot on this campus.  I didn’t know how to describe myself to others; My grades here aren’t anything special, I’m not a student-athlete, and I haven’t played my violin in two years.  Coming to college, freshmen have to redefine themselves, and for a lot of people that’s refreshing, but for some it’s uncomfortable and scary.  Making choices during orientation week seemed life-changing.  Do I go to Shooters, or not?  Will I have any friends if I don’t?  Looking back now it seems ridiculous to base long-lasting friendships on such an inconsequential choice.

Throughout freshman year I fell back into the habits of high school.  I felt the same pressures to achieve academically, and I stayed in a relationship with my high school boyfriend (who was still in high school at the time).  I couldn’t seem to let go of anything from the past and grab hold of life in college.  I spent most nights in my room doing work or talking to old friends and family.  I chose good grades and sleep over a social life.  Other freshmen chose social lives over sleep or grades, or grades and a social life over sleep, but I did know one thing for sure: I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have it figured out. 

This year, however, I’ve been better at balancing academics, health, and friends.  I look back on my freshman year and regret spending more time with books than with people.  I had unrealistic expectations of myself; 4.0?  Double major and a minor?  Shooting for the moon may land us among the stars, but it can also isolate us from the people and community at Duke.  Goals are important, but many times it’s the journey to achieve it that teaches us the most.  Duke is an opportunity I’ll only have this one time, for two more years.  I want to remember it in a positive light, and over-stressing about grades and achievements isn’t going to make many happy memories for me.  As a sophomore, I’ve focused more on making choices that will result in my mental well-being.  I want to have friends to catch up with and crazy stories to tell when I graduate.  Of course, I also want to have decent grades, but I don’t want to define myself on my academic abilities all the time.  Sometimes it’s ok to have a little fun, especially in college!  One of the hardest parts of Duke is actually being accepted into the University.  When the going gets tough, it’s time to think about all the wonderful opportunities we have had as students here and make choices that will truly benefit us.  Staying happy and healthy is just as valuable as an A+.

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