Duke Engage in the News

Hello Everyone

Here’s the link to an article published by Elizabeth Redden in Inside Higher Ed that talks about Duke Engage. It’s a very well written article that really exposes details about the Duke Engage experience so check it out!


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Internships: A Guide from Experience

Now it’s almost the end of the DukeEngage in Durham program. In hindsight, I realized that I did well in some parts of the program but not as well in some other parts. I found there are several factors that are important to a good internship experience but are sometimes neglected by people.

Be motivated

Motivation is what drives you to overcome obstacles and improve yourself during internship. The easiest way to stay motivated is to do things that you are interested in. Following your interest at work makes work a fun job. It keeps you awake at night to contemplate on the project you are doing and pulls you up early in the morning to prepare to implement your idea from last night. However, the reality is not all the work you do is interesting, especially as an intern.  Then you need something else to motivate you. To me it is a sense of urgency. You want to learn more about yourself; you want to learn more about the organization and the people there; you want to learn a new skill; but you only have a limited time to do all these! The urgency that you experience when you are pounding on the table because you suddenly realize that only one week is left in your internship but none of the objectives you outlined 2 months ago are reached will definitely pushes you hard, but try to have this feeling early and utilize it to drive you.

Choose being good over looking good

As an intern, I often found myself in such a situation: I have a question about something, but it seems everyone else around me knows the answer. If I ask the question, I will know it once and for all, but I may seem dumb to my coworkers. Should I ask the question? I think of this situation as a choice between looking good and being good. If I keep quiet, I will not risk revealing my ignorance, therefore looking good; if I ask the question, I will improve myself and become good. Choosing being good over looking good is an imperative step to gain the most from an internship. It is hard sometimes, but it is an unavoidable growing pain before real advancement.

Conform first

Most groups have their own culture. To respect the culture of the group in which you intern in will help you build benign relationships with your coworkers. These relationships are often the biggest sources of learning. To respect the group culture often involves conformity. Often times you need to embrace the group norms to be fully accepted by a group.

Start networking

Networking is one of the most beneficial parts of an internship. However, it is frequently overlooked. Especially if you are a goal-oriented person, it is tempting to spend all time on projects and try to finish them quickly, with little time left for networking with people. Talking to people has given me more knowledge and influence than my projects have. To gain knowledge from projects, you need to generalize from a large amount of information; from other people you can directly tap into their knowledge base that has been condensed over years, sometimes even decades, of life and career experience. Other people can also offer different perspectives and vast opportunities that are seldom present in projects.

Be mindful, be reflective.

It is easy to get lost during the internship: before internship, you had a list of objectives to achieve during the program. Not far into the internship you were given a long list of projects, and you want to finish them as soon as possible. So you worked hard on them without thinking much about your objectives. However, near the end of the internship you found you hadn’t get what you want from the projects. “I should have done something else with my time”, you said to yourself with regret. Therefore it important to be mindful of what you want to get out of the internship and constantly question yourself: will the things I’m doing help me reach my goals? If the answer is “no” for too long, you should consider finding a way to use your time on things that are more meaningful to you.

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Beneath the Veil

As our eight weeks come to a close, I cannot find it within myself to simply walk away from Urban Ministries of Durham. This is not because I feel I have yet to make a significant contribution; on the contrary, it is because I cannot help but feel as though it is still not enough. Given that homelessness is such a multifaceted and vast problem, there is no easy fix. While providing meals, clothes, and shelter is of the utmost importance, this is not a long-term solution. Ideally, prevention of homelessness is the goal—yet currently there is no easy way to reach such a lofty goal. Nevertheless, UMD fights daily to reduce homelessness, one person at a time.

Urban Ministries of Durham is one of two homeless shelters in Durham; as such, there is a clear need for UMD in Durham. According to UMD’s website, it is estimated that 3000-5000 people experience homelessness in Durham annually—and this number is only increasing. UMD both assists those who are homeless and aims to prevent those on the cusp from becoming homeless. In order to truly focus on how to prevent homelessness, one must inherently ask—how do people become homeless in the first place? What causes homelessness? Obviously there is no one right answer to this question. Homelessness can be caused by various different factors (both individually and collectively). For some, underemployment is the root cause of homelessness; for others it is addiction, eviction, disabilities, illnesses, fleeing from abuse, or even recent release from prison. Despite the vast array of primary causes of homelessness, many people still have a very narrow misconstrued view of what causes homelessness. In order to truly penetrate the issue of homelessness, all previous misconceptions must be discarded. Hopefully once we as a community truly grasp the countless causes of homelessness and also begin to identify with our homeless neighbors, greater strides will be made to provide our fellow brethren in need with the services necessary to escape the vicious cycle of homelessness.

In fact, when one truly understands homelessness, it soon becomes abundantly clear how quickly and easily one can find themselves homeless in this day and age. Underemployment can and has catastrophically damaged peoples’ lives. Living without income makes it quite difficult to pay your bills or to provide for your family. Living with a life-threatening disease that requires a lot of medical attention often depletes all your funds quickly. The examples are endless. The point is clear: homelessness is, in many cases, unavoidable.

Working on the front line helping individual after individual truly makes me feel like I am making a difference. The difference does not always have to be a large one. Working with the homeless is not a popular job and quite frankly, I never would have imagined how much I would become attached to these people and their various causes. These are people, many of them not much different from you or I, struggling just to survive and stay off the streets. I cannot express the absolute heartache that comes when you simply cannot help someone in need. For instance, a desperate mother comes in with four children and asks for a place to stay. However, we have a waiting list of more than forty families. After calling all of the shelters in Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh, I find there is no room for this family anywhere. The only place that does have room will not accept her family because she has a son that is 13. How does one come to terms with the fact that we simply do not have enough rooms to accommodate the numerous homeless families in and around Durham? Where do these families go when they walk out that door? In most cases, they have nowhere to turn. This mother began to cry. I knew that there was nothing more I could do to help her other than to pray that her family would be safe and find somewhere to stay. I wish I could say that this mother’s experience is a rare one—but the truth of the matter is that her experience is far from unique. This type of helpless situation happens all the time. No one should have to endure the daily hardships that are inherent in homelessness, especially not children. The immeasurable damage that homelessness has the potential to do to a child (or an adult) is frightening. Something more has to be done.

– Bekah

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Burn Wise

Here’s the draft of a video that Edison and I have been working on
this summer at the Environmental Protection Agency.  It’s designed to
teach viewers how to use a moisture meter, so that they can use better
burn practices and avoid some of the harmful effects of wood smoke.

–  Rory

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Falling for Durham

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While sitting in my apartment sick this week, I began to reflect on my experience with DukeEngage this summer.  My day as a human biohazard gave me some much needed free time to consider what this experience has meant to me.  I came to the conclusion that, overall, I’ve enjoyed being in Durham this summer.  DukeEngage gave me the chance to really explore a city that I’ve lived in the past two years.  Before this summer, I had only been downtown once or twice.  I had never experienced the amazing food at Dame’s Chicken and Waffles (which was 100x better than the KFC on Eggos that I was expecting), seen the unique vintage clothes at Dolly’s, or gone to a show at the reasonably priced and hip MotorCo.  Like a lot of Duke students, I didn’t really take advantage of what Durham had to offer during the school year.  Now that I’ve had a chance to explore, I have to say that I’ve fallen in love with Durham.

Granted, Durham has its faults, the largest of which being the obvious socioeconomic divide.  Driving to work every morning, it is striking how quickly you leave the upper scale restaurants and shops of downtown and journey into a residential area that is obviously less affluent.   Durham is going through the typical growing pains of a developing city.  I can only hope that, as it continues to mature, the socioeconomic disparity will be addressed and lessened.

While I was initially apprehensive about staying so close to home this summer, I’m really glad I did.  Even though I didn’t travel to a foreign location, I did learn about a place that I had never really had a chance to visit before and I helped a population that needed my assistance.  I hope to be able to continue working with the nonprofit I have interned with during the year.  DukeEngage has renewed my excitement about being at Duke in Durham.  I can’t wait until August when I can show all of my friends all of the great new places I have learned about.

–   Cassidy

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Catering Technology

This summer, I’m working as a Mentoring in Technology intern at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle (BBBST). While I’m not planning on pursuing a career in information technology, I was deeply influenced by an IT camp when I was in middle school and I want to give back through my DukeEngage experience. There are 3 projects that I’m working on this summer. My primary responsibility is to develop 2 summer computer classes for all the kids who are either enrolled or waitlisted in the BBBST program. The beginner class, consisted of 8 to 11-year olds, is learning about word processing and presentations. The intermediate class, consists of 12 to 14-year olds, is learning about web and graphics design. Each session is 2 weeks long and the classes are held 3 times a week. I just finished teaching the first session of classes last week. So far, the kids enjoyed the classes and the levels of difficulty is fairly appropriate for each age group.

My second project involves working with a web developer from Denver, Colorado and training the BBBST staff members to communicate through a private social network (PSN) site. Since BBBST currently has three offices (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill), ineffective communication can be a problem. To solve this problem, the organization has implemented 2 solutions. First, all 3 offices will merge into a central office in Morrisville, NC. Second, staff is strongly encouraged to use the PSN to share documents and communicate with mentors. Currently, less than 40% of the PSN users are producers, the rest are consumers. The goal of the PSN is demonstrate the benefits of online communication, including: electronic archive, access control, and centralized database.

The third project that I’m helping with is the Big Give Discount Card. Occasionally, Bigs (adult mentors) have to spend money when they are spending time with their Littles (mentees). In order to reduce the cost, BBBST is looking for businesses that would offer discounts to Bigs and Littles. Since there isn’t a full time marketing staff that is in charge of the project, this project is mainly done by interns and volunteers. I will be working with one of the members of the Volunteer Resource Committee to build partnerships with local restaurants and recreational activity centers.

Overall, I like the variety of projects that I was assigned to work on. I hope my projects will increase the awareness of information technology in Durham among children and adults.


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Durham – City of Medicine

It’s hard to believe that there’s less than three weeks left of Duke Engage in Durham. Time definitely flies by fast, and there’s always so much to do. I guess that is the great feature about summer enrichment programs; working full time for eight weeks is a lot better than only being able to work here and there during the school year, and despite all that time there is always something to improve, something to work on.

This summer I am working at Duke HomeCare and Hospice (DHCH), a branch of Duke University Health System that deals with an important feature of healthcare that is not very well-known. DHCH works to alleviate the stress of end-of-life time period for both patient and caregiver. Also, DHCH works to provide many medical services in-home, basically eliminating travel time for the patient. Medicine in pop culture is often portrayed as graphic emergency room surgeries or a self-centered doctor determining some outrageous cause of disease in the last seven minutes of the show after 3-5 wrong guesses. However, so much healthcare and care does not involve the doctor and DHCH is a large part of this other side. As my future goal is to become a doctor, I really enjoy learning about what goes on outside the hospital.

My project this summer is to create a marketing plan for DHCH. So far DHCH has a community of clients who greatly feel the services offered are top-notch and exceedingly rewarding. However, this circle is small, and DHCH wants to bring their services to more people within its service area of a 50 mile radius of Durham. DHCH has gotten great reviews regarding its services. Hopefully a plan can be implemented to increase awareness that a) Services like Hospice and HomeCare actually exist and b) DHCH is a leader in providing these services.

My first task was to create a Presentation just detailing general features of DHCH. The goal of this presentation is to have it be used in speaking engagements with community groups. DHCH does have volunteer and staff go to different public groups and present topics not only about DHCH, but also about general caregiving and stuff of that nature. My presentation will have all the basic information centralized so the presentation can be used whether a group wants a talk about DHCH in general or about effective communication in end-of-life time period.

My current goal is to start implementing a marketing plan to reach out to the community. I think something like DHCH has a very personal and heart-felt message that can only be communicated in a similar manner, not through a small ad space in the 3rd page of the newspaper. Thus, I plan to use direct marketing to community groups (churches, service clubs, senior living centers) to target the appropriate audiences. However, my goal is to have these groups want to invite DHCH speakers to come and talk about issues like end-of-life care or stress coping in general. Another feature I am working on related to social media. A large number of homecare and hospice programs utilize social media, and I think this can be a really effective way to communicate DHCH, almost like a real-time, interactive newsletter. Although I won’t be able to implement all my ideas or see the results of direct marketing fully in the next two weeks, I hope to be able to construct everything I can and see where it goes from there.

–   Eason

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