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July 2015

On Authenticity...

In April, I had lunch with a senior (I’ll call her Samantha) who seemed sad.  She told me that she had always prided herself on being a member of multiple groups on campus.  A recent experience had forced her to conclude that she was indeed an important member of no groups.  It turns out that, as Beach Week plans were being made, no one included her.  She felt both lonely and alone. 
 
This situation was exacerbated by calling a close friend at a nearby college and finding out that the friend was travelling this summer with “twenty” of her BFFs.
 
She forced a smile onto her face and declared, “I hope that when I look back on my college career, I only remember the good times.” 
 
We seem to have this notion that college is the best four years of our lives.  And for some, it is.  Others of us bloom later.
 
I attach this pressure to be happy to the notion of effortless perfection: the relentless pursuit of being the best, doing the best, looking the best. 
 
Sometimes life does not feel “the best.” 
 
Samantha told me that she was at a panel discussion with Duke math professor Dr. Lillian Pierce, who shared her epiphany that she had to be enough for herself.  And that can be lonely.  And uncomfortable.
 
Being lonely or sad or angry is part of authenticity.  It’s how we connect with other humans.  I know I feel closer to Samantha after our conversation, even though I could offer no wisdom or “quick fix.”
 
Her despair continues to weigh heavily on my mind and my heart.  In the midst of her sadness, she offered me a gift.  Not her usual gift of wit or brilliance but the gift of space to reflect on my own relationships.  How I can be more transparent and real with my family, friends, and colleagues?  How can I model this for our students, who are watching even when I think they are not?
 
And now I offer her gift to you…

Colleen Scott
Director
 
LinkedIn Competition Winner

LinkedIn launched the Economic Graph Challenge in October 2014 to work with the best researchers in the country to help solve some of the world's most pressing issues, using LinkedIn data.

Raj De, Baldwin Class of 2013 and current Senior Research Analyst at Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is a member of one of the eleven winning teams.

Their project is entitled "Linking Women to Opportunity: Evaluating Gender Differences in Self-Promotion."

The team will present their findings at the end of this 
year to a select group of LinkedIn staff and will be shared, as appropriate, with the public.

Congrats, Raj!
#BlackLivesMatter

The Baldwin Scholars program is proud to announce that Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, will be speaking on campus on October 28 in Reynolds Theater. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue the dialogue about race on campus and for our partners in this initiative:
  • Office of Undergraduate Education
  • Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs
  • Women's Center
  • Duke University Union
  • Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
  • Center for Arts, Digital Culture, and Entrepreneurship
  • African and African American Studies
  • Office of Civic Engagement
  • DukeEngage
  • Gates Millennium Scholars
Gifts to Baldwin

We are grateful to the following individuals and corporations for believing in our mission and financially supporting our efforts.

In May, we received a large gift honoring three generations of strong Duke women: Catherine Gordon Crowell Fuller (WC'47), Elizabeth Conrath Fuller (T'82), and Frances "Cesi" Royer Bosch (T'15, Baldwin Scholar). This generous donation will support a summer internship, alumnae programming, and events like Mother-Daughter Weekend.

AT&T (matching gift)
Shari Baker, Class of 2010 Baldwin Scholar
Danielle Beckerman, Class of 2010 Baldwin Scholar
Rachel McLaughlin, Class of 2008 Baldwin Scholar
Microsoft (matching gift)
Phyllis and Gregory Moss (parents of Class of 2010 Baldwin Scholar Rachael Moss)
Laura Ellen and Bob Muglia (parents of Class of 2014 Baldwin Scholar Flora Muglia)
Swathi Padmanabhan, Class of 2010 Baldwin Scholar
Ellie Proussaloglou, Class of 2012 Baldwin Scholar
Michelle Sohn, Class of 2011 Baldwin Scholar
Peter and Rosamaria Stafford (parents of Class of 2017 Baldwin Scholar Sofia Stafford)
 
2015 Unsung Heroine

Dr. Suzanne Shanahan, Associate Director of Kenan Institute for Ethics and advisor to SuWA, was selected as the 2015 Baldwin Scholars Unsung Heroine.

SuWA, which means togetherness in Iraqi, is an acronym for Supporting Women’s Action.  It is a student-organized community effort working to empower women refugees in Durham.  Begun in 2013, SuWA offers English classes, community building, and opportunities for small business development.

Nominator Leena El-Sadek wrote, “As the group’s advisor, [Professor Shanahan] has helped us create the most comfortable space for these women to gather and thrive.  She oversees our weekly lessons, discussion groups, logistical plans, and any activity that involves the well-being of the women or the students. But Professor Shanahan is more than just an advisor.  She has become a dependable friend to so many of us."

The Unsung Heroine Award committee wanted to recognize Dr. Shanahan for her exceptional care for undergraduate Duke students and refugee women.  They recognized the time and “heart” invested in this initiative.  One committee member, in making her case for Dr. Shanahan, declared that she should be held up as an exemplar for all Duke faculty.
 
Reunions 2015

Class of 2010 alumnae returned to campus in April for social events and a panel discussion with current Scholars
Kelley Akhiemokhali, Class of 2008 Baldwin Scholar, is a secondary educator who has taught in New York City and Valencia, Venezuela. She will be moving this month to Jakarta, Indonesia for her next teaching adventure.  Kelley blogs at immigratingwithapurpose.com, a Black Weblog-nominated blog that discusses race, travel, and the teaching profession.  

The following piece appears in The Frugal Feminista.
Four Lessons Learned: How I Paid Off $44K in Student Loans in Two Years

Let me start with a confession. In 2008, I graduated with a B.A. in English, a minor in Education, a teaching license, and over $100,000 in debt. A hard worker in school, I wanted to go to a top-notch university even though my family could not afford those top-notch prices. When the planned-for scholarships did not flow in, I turned to student loans.

This influential decision my 18 year old self made leads to the first lesson that would get me to a point where I could pay off $44,000 in student loan debt in just under two years.

Lesson #1: Get realistic about your finances.

It was clear before I ever signed on any dotted line that I could not afford the undergraduate institution that I attended. Waiting for a windfall to come in whether it’s via a scholarship or a generous relative is not a financial plan, and no financial plan is a plan for potential financial disaster.

A year after moving to the expensive New York City with two suitcases and debt, I lost my job. This forced me to sit down with my $800+ monthly minimum payments and analyze my relationship with money. Money was a dirty word for me that was a source of stress and shame. How could I rack up six figures worth of debt on just an undergraduate degree? Because of the negative feelings I had in regards to money, I would quickly end any conversations about finances just to avoid emotional discomfort.

One tool that helped me confront my debt head on was LearnVest, a financial planning company geared towards women. I found a new teaching job, tracked my expenses using the company’s online software, and attended its very first LearnVest LIVE financial empowerment seminar. I never paid for any of the company’s add-on services, but I did get the free 15 minute phone call from one of its financial planners. In the nicest of terms, this financial planner told me that I wasn’t being realistic concerning how quickly I wanted to pay off my debt, which leads to the second lesson.

Lesson 2: Set a SMART goal 

A SMART goal is a target a person sets for her future. It is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. There’s a difference between me saying I want to pay off my student loans vs. I want to pay off 25% of my student loan debt within the next year. While on a teacher’s salary in New York City, there was no way I could reach this SMART goal. Something had to change. Thus, I created a new SMART goal: to land a teaching job abroad in one year so that I would be in a position to pay off 25% of my student loan debt in a year.

Many international schools pay a teacher’s rent and subsidize utilities. This would free up at least an extra $1,000 a month for my debt payments! In July 2013, I hit my revised SMART goal when I moved to Valencia, Venezuela to teach. The school that I worked at even paid my transportation costs too. These factors coupled with a dramatically lower cost of living caused me to go from paying the monthly minimum on my loans to being able to double (sometimes quadruple!) my monthly payments while abroad.

Now, I completely recognize that not everyone can pack up her belongings and move to an international locale. I am a single woman with no kids. Yet, are there other more feasible changes that fit the current stage in your life? For example, before making the drastic decision to leave the United States I had moved to a smaller apartment, changed my hairstyle to one that was cheaper to maintain, and cut out “nece­­­ssities” such as Brita water filters. When I decided that these positive financial changes were still not enough for me, I then headed abroad. The point is to find a way, no matter how small, to cut costs and put the extra money towards the loan payments.

Lesson #3: Stack ‘em, Pay ‘em, and Track ‘em

When there’s a ton of debt to wrangle, you have to get strategic. I chose to create an organized stack of all of my loans from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. Then, I paid the monthly minimum on all of them. Any extra payments I made went towards the loan with the highest interest rate, not the smallest loan. I knew getting rid of the high interest rate loans faster would save me more money over the long term.

After stacking and paying my loans, I track them. If you’re trying to lose weight it’s suggested that you track (re: write down) what you eat. Similarly, if you’re trying to “lose” debt, you have to track how much you’re putting towards it. I created a color-coded Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet box would turn red, yellow, or green depending on if I paid at least the minimum amount that would help me reach my SMART goal. This spreadsheet keeps me accountable when I slip up and is a source of private celebration when I do well.

Lesson #4: Treat Yourself, not the Joneses 

When working hard it is important to treat yourself and celebrate the small successes. However, this comes with a caveat: treat yourself and not the Joneses. Maybe you can afford a pedicure at the local shop while Mrs. Jones goes to the diamond hotel for her pedicures. Don’t worry about it because you know what your goals are, and getting a fancy pedicure is not a part of your long-term goal.

I have to remind myself of this lesson too. As a teacher at an international school, the majority of my colleagues (re: the Joneses) go on multiple international trips a year. I try to travel within the country I’m living in and may go on one international trip because right now I can’t afford to jet set around the world. It just so happens that the year I turn 30 is also the year when I’m expecting to pay off the last of my student loans. When Sallie Mae/Navient receives its final payment, I plan on taking a multi-country tour of a region with money I’ve saved. Until then, I go to my parents’ house during the summer, apply for professional development in different locales that my school pays for, and keep my eye on the prize: living debt free.


 
Intern Spotlight: Hanan Awel, Class of 2016

1. What is your role as a U.S. Foreign Service intern at the State Department?
 
The U.S. Foreign Service Internship Program is a two-year internship program that places students at a domestic office in DC for 10 weeks. The following summer, students are able to work at an embassy overseas. I hold different roles as an intern at the State Department depending on the day. What I love is that no one day is the same. Most recently, I worked on the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) policy memos. The CSPA’s goal is to stop child recruitment and to ensure that vulnerable children are protected with the most basic human rights. In addition, I have worked on the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) policy memos. Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is the U.S. Government’s principal diplomatic tool to hold foreign governments accountable for anti-human trafficking efforts. When I’m not working on policy briefings or memos, I sit in on human rights-related meetings at the White House, discuss policy decisions with key diplomatic leaders of the country, and attend key diplomatic events at the White House, State Department, and Capitol Hill.

2.  What have you noticed about the culture for women in your work environment?
 
While there is more representation of women at the State Department than other governmental agencies, I have noticed that the number of women in positions of power and influence at the State Department is somewhat lacking. At board meetings, almost everyone at the table is male. However, the State Department is trying to diversify the workplace. There are many diversity programs that increase the amount of women in the workplace and I applaud the State Department for initiating these programs.
 

3.  How are you applying the skills and experiences from Baldwin in your job?
 
The professional development that I’ve gained through the Baldwin Scholars Program has been helpful.  I have been able to apply skills learned at public speaking workshops, networking events, and leadership opportunities in a number of different capacities. As an intern, I’m interacting with a number of different people—from Foreign Service officers to Ambassadors—so these professional skills are essential for me to carry out my duties effectively.

4.  What do you hope to do professionally?
 
As a Global Health and Public Policy double major at Duke, I hope to combine my interests in human rights, social justice, and global health to shape and frame policy. I have a strong interest in African affairs; therefore, a professional job that focuses on the African continent is most ideal. 
 
Inaugural Class Trip for Inaugural Baldwin Class
submitted by Kamaria Campbell, Baldwin Class of 2008
 
Members of the Baldwin Scholars Class of 2008 took their first class trip to New Orleans from July 17th to 19th, 2015. The weekend included sightseeing on Bourbon Street, a trip to the Voodoo Museum, and shopping in the Garden District. Throughout the weekend, Baldwins enjoyed traditional New Orleans and Southern fare such as beignets, fried chicken, po' boys, and bread pudding. The trip ended with a Jazz Brunch in historic Jackson Square. 
 
A major highlight of the trip was a goal-setting workshop with the New Orleans affiliate of non-profit Dress for Success. Dress for Success is a global not-for-profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support, and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Over 10 women from the organization’s Professional Women’s Group participated in the 2-hour workshop facilitated by the Baldwin Scholars. Activities included reframing self-limiting thoughts, externalizing fears, and developing timelines for personal and professional goals.
The workshop was a treat for both the Baldwins and Dress for Success. Executive Director Diane Riche said, “I cannot tell you how much [the women] enjoyed the content and the opportunity to network with the Baldwin Scholars.”  If you're curious about the activities, check out the Reframing tool at http://reframe.thnk.org/. We’re looking forward to the next trip!
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