On March 9-10, the Duke in DC program welcomed 18 program alumni to an Alumni Conference in celebration of the program’s 10th anniversary. The conference was hosted by the Duke in DC students from the 2023 cohort, who engaged alumni through four virtual and in-person speaker panels and at an evening reception to learn more about their professional journeys and impact.
Life After Duke Panel
Scott Jones (T’20), Anu Warrier (T’17), and Ernest Britt (T’16) spoke candidly at the first panel, “Life After Duke,” about how their Duke in DC experiences shaped their career choices after graduation, including returning to DC after the program, choosing to pursue graduate studies in Law and in Health Policy, and electing to pursue a career in the private sector to gain more experience. The panelists also described how changing contexts influenced the choices they made post-college.
“I moved to DC during the Obama era, and a lot of the jobs that went to people like me went away [in 2016]. So I thought about where I could make a difference when it comes to organizing, political building…which led me to move back South.” - Ernest Britt (T’16)
“The way that I think about my work is to think about where I can do the most good. Where can I put my passion, interest, and expertise to work?” - Scott Jones (T’20)
“Context changes so much. Now that I’m in this [health policy] space, I can get that kind of training and re-enter the policy world by finding policy shops that work with the programs and people directly… navigating the space using the skills that I picked up along the way.” - Anu Warrier (T’17)
Life as a Young Professional Panel
Benjamin Tardif (T’21) and Jabril Wilson (T’21), who were both in the 2020 Duke in DC cohort, shared their experiences working and studying in Washington, DC, in the second “Life as a Young Professional” panel. They gave the 2023 cohort insightful advice about how to network and find mentors in the workplace, as well as shedding light on the divergent pathways they have taken to law school.
“Duke in DC opened my eyes a lot. [The program] brought me to DC… it let me work and interact with people here and got me comfortable with the capital. I didn’t know where to go to law school, but the Duke in DC program piqued my interest in DC and solidified my interest in coming back. The transition helped a lot because it was my introduction to a professional world…that helped with the transition to working at a law firm last summer” - Jabril Wilson (T’21)
“I met Paul Teller [T’93] through the Duke in DC program and kept his name card from my time in the program. He has helped me a lot… Professor Brian Hook too, whom I have stayed in contact with. These are direct mentors from the Duke in DC program who helped me when I moved to DC, but you also need to advocate for yourself. There’s a huge network at Duke, but you need to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and advocate for yourself.” - Benjamin Tardif (T’21)
The 2023 cohort concluded the first day of the Alumni Conference with a dinner reception at the Duke in DC office space. Eight alumni attended the reception and connected with the 2023 cohort about their Duke in DC experiences and careers after Duke, from working in the Navy to working at think tanks and policy shops and pursuing graduate degrees in Foreign Policy.
Duke Gives Confidence
The third panel, hosted on the second day of the conference, saw five speakers in attendance. They include Martina Tiku (T’17), Elle Eshleman (T’20), Camile Peeples Varone (T’14), Michael Harris (T’14), and Annie Helbling (T’14). The panelists shared how their experiences at Duke gave them the confidence to pursue wide-ranging journeys in law and working in public policy after graduation, as well as gave the 2023 cohort a glimpse into their day-to-day work and academic experiences in graduate school.
“[In law school] I saw how things I was learning as a Duke in DC student and Public Policy major [helped] in being an advocate and working in policy this way.” - Martina Tiku (T’17). Martina is an assistant general counsel at the NAACP.
“Public Policy and Law complement each other. Public Policy is about what rights you want to fight for; law is about enforcing rights and making sure people get those sorts of rights.”- Elle Eshleman (T’20). Elle is a third-year student at Yale Law School.
“Thank you, Duke, for teaching me how to write a memo! I’ve written bills and enacted laws and helped Congress members do so, thanks to my memo skills. Duke in DC also taught me to not just look at policy but political contexts” - Michael Harris (T’14). Michael is Legislative Affairs Advisor (House) at the U.S. Department of Energy
“The Public Policy degree that Duke gives focuses on the practical. Being a strong, concise, writer, being able to communicate and convey your intent effectively – they are like elevator pitches that a Program Manager must make. You have 15 seconds to get funds for your project, read a room – that was a huge aspect that I could fall back on in terms of this program which I have leveraged for my work now.” - Annie Hiebling (T’14). Annie currently works as a Technical Program Manager at The Carlyle Group
Our last panel was a discussion with Giuliana De Mendiola (T’14), who shared about her career as an Urban Specialist at the World Bank and her work in countries such as Honduras and Haiti. Giuliana shared candidly about how she came to take an interest in international development, as well as the various challenges that she faces in her day-to-day role.
Thoughts on the Conference
The 2023 Duke in DC cohort shared their thoughts on the two-day Alumni Conference:
“This conference helped me realize that I don’t need to rush into law or grad school and that it’s perfectly ok for me to take a gap year…I was honestly super impressed by how well the conference turned out. I learned a lot about event planning, but more importantly, I learned that everyone’s career path looks different, and everyone struggles with different things on that journey, so I need to be more forgiving to myself as I figure everything out” - Samia Batchelor (T’24)
The 2023 Duke in DC cohort extends its gratitude to the 18 alumni who took time out of their busy schedules to join us: Ernest Britt (T’16), Elle Eshleman (T’20), Scott Jones (T’20), Benjamin Tardif (T’21), Anu Warrier (T’17), Jabril Wilson (T’21), Martina Tiku (T’17), Camile Peeples Varone (T’14), Michael Harris (T’14), Annie Helbling (T’14), Giuliana De Mendiola (T’14), Natalie Ecanow (T’21), Mina Kim (T’16), Masha Stoertz (T’19), Zara Porter (T’21), Sandra Kendall (T’20), Geoff Schoonmaker (T’20), Alina Pak (T’18), and many more who were unable to attend the Conference, but nonetheless graciously offered to connect with the cohort in other ways.
The 2023 Duke in DC cohort would also like to thank the following individuals, without whom this conference would not be possible: Professor Kristin Goss, Professor Natalie Goldring, and Mr. Eric Shipley.
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