By Cameron Love
Patrick Nevins’ military experience is book ended by his two stops at Sanford.
He began active-duty service after his Duke undergraduate graduation in 2007 and wrapped up his service upon returning to Sanford for his MPP in 2014.
Nevins PPS ’07 MPP ‘16 served in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. He was deployed twice to Afghanistan and spent the latter part of his career at Camp Pendleton in California.
Photo: Nevins resting between operations in Mian Poshtay, Afghanistan in July 2009.
Toward the end of his service, Nevins began thinking about his next step.
“I never had that post college ‘what am I gonna do, what job do I want, what career do I want?’ [moment].” Nevins said. “I went straight into the military.”
He applied to public policy schools, business schools, and for a variety of jobs in California and Washington, D.C., but decided a return to Sanford for an MPP was his best option.
“I wanted to refine my policy skills around national security policy, defense policy, those types of things that I had experience firsthand during the previous seven years but get a little more of the academic background to it.”
He was offered a Carlucci Fellowship, as part of the first group of fellows. The familiarity of Duke and the Research Triangle area sealed the deal for Nevins, who grew up in Chapel Hill and still had friends and family in the area.
“It was an environment that I was very familiar with,” Nevins said.
Nevins quickly formed bonds with other veterans in the MPP program.
“There was a good veteran community at Sanford,” Nevins said. “It was nice to have some fellow veterans.”
While he enjoyed the Sanford comradery, Nevins and his fellow veteran and MPP/MBA candidate Seth Brown noticed a disconnect in Duke’s military support circles.
Both knew The Fuqua School of Business had a particularly strong veteran community. They also were aware of veterans enrolled in other areas in Duke.
How, Nevins and Brown thought, could those groups unite?
“What we want to do is create more of a broad Duke network,” Nevins said. “Because there were some disparate pockets, a couple folks over at the nursing school or a couple folks over at the Divinity School, that didn't have that sense of community and didn't have that network to rely upon.”
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Marine veteran Patrick Nevin PPS'09/MPP'16 and fellow veteran Seth Brown MPP'17 are co-founders of the Duke Military Alumni Network, an affinity group of the Duke Alumni Association. Brown (left) and Nevins (right) are watching the Duke football team play at Clemson University in 2018.
Nevins and Brown, who also had been a Duke undergrad, noticed that there was no affinity group for Duke undergraduate alumni who were veterans.
“When we come back for reunions and those types of things, there's no cohesive group to pull all that together,” Nevins said.
This led to the creation of the Duke Military Alumni Network, a one-stop shop for Duke veterans looking to network, socialize, and find community. Nevins and Brown co-founded the group from the ground up during their graduate programs.
“Luckily there was a good amount of help from from adults at Duke to get that done,” Nevins joked. “Seth and I basically bumbled our way into it.”
To start, Nevins and Brown pulled together veterans from different areas of Duke to participate in happy hours.
Clay Adams, the vice dean of students, was the key “Duke adult” that turned the grassroots movement into an officially sanctioned affinity group.
“He basically created the program from an administration big Duke perspective,” Nevins said. “Clay Adams was, and continues to be, a huge help.”
Adams and the Office of Student Veterans connected the group with Alumni Affairs to officially mint the Duke Military Alumni Network as an affinity group.
“It was years in the making from the grassroots work that fellow veterans had done over the years, just because they wanted to connect and have a sense of community [at Duke].”
The group continues to host networking happy hours and opportunities for veteran alumni. They also have planned tailgates at Duke football games, as well as participated in planning military balls.
COVID-19 caused the group to pause many of their usual events, but Nevins is looking forward to a return to form soon. The group is still available online and through email as a resource for networking and connecting with other veterans.
“There's definitely things that we want to do more of moving forward,” Nevins said. “Do [events] around Veterans Day, continuing tailgates and happy hours, continue hosting reunion type events, so that that's where we'd like to grow.”
Additionally, the group has recently begun meeting with Adams and the Office of Student Veterans to deliberately seek ways to increase veteran representation for the undergraduate population. Given Duke’s close proximity to numerous military bases throughout the state, the group wants to help Duke actively recruit veterans for undergraduate studies. Nevins and Brown are joined by fellow Duke veteran alums, Matt Jones ’09, Jon Harless BME’09, and Phil Cotter MBE’10 in helping drive this effort.
In the meantime, Nevins recently started a new position as a professional staff member for the House Armed Services Committee. His post-Sanford MPP time has also included stops at Deloitte and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
One of his favorite memories from the Military Alumni Network is the Duke-West Point tailgate the organization helped plan in 2018. The tailgate was attended by well over 100 veterans and supporters, and was a proud moment for Nevins and Brown.
“It was just a great event to see what Seth and I had dreamt, in what we had kind of hoped to put in motion back in 2014,” Nevins said. “It culminated in that event.”
To learn more about the Duke Military Alumni Network, visit https://alumni.duke.edu/groups/duke-military-alumni-network.