DegreeGlobal Health and Psychology ’22
My first exposure to education as a field of study was in my first year when I participated in the Knowledge in the Service of Society (KISS) FOCUS cluster. We dissected the themes of higher education, public schools, leadership and the pursuit of civic engagement. Our exploration narrowed in on Duke University and Durham Public Schools (DPS), introducing me to a complex history that I was unfamiliar with as a first-year student. Since then, my passion for increasing access to education has grown and driven my subsequent endeavors. Education became the path through which I connected with Durham.
From my first day in the Bull City, I recognized that Duke had the capacity to influence surrounding communities in ways I could not fully understand. Even when I was technically “off-campus,” the Duke name followed me on streets and buildings, bleeding into several aspects of Durham. Given this widespread visibility, I thought critically about what the Duke name felt like to students, staff, faculty and members of the broader community. What were the existing relationships between Duke and Durham, and how could we foster positive ones? My enrollment in the university meant that I had adopted a new identity as a Duke student and, by extension, all that was associated with the large institution and its history.
Grappling with my perspective of Duke, I was drawn to the Bass Connections project Strengthening Partnerships Between Durham Public Schools and Local Universities. As a member of the 2021-2022 team, I had the amazing opportunity to work in partnership with leaders at Duke and North Carolina Central University, and interdisciplinary departments at both institutions. I worked most closely with the health subteam to evaluate how community schools and local universities can provide broad health services based on community needs. Throughout the year, our subteam conducted a literature review of significant health needs in Durham; identified high-risk schools based on free or reduced lunch percentages and distance from a health center; and recruited an influential parent to lead a focus group discussion at Glenn Elementary School. We initially set out to conduct parent-led focus groups at various schools, but because of low response rates and limited research in DPS due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we shifted our approach and centered our goals around community needs.
My time with this team was spent building meaningful relationships and developing a strong foundation in social justice, history and research methods. This team pushed me to work relentlessly as a critical thinker and advocate. Our initial analysis of Durham’s school systems through a social justice lens shaped our deliverables, from a visual dashboard to an anti-racism curriculum to a health needs assessment.
My peers and team leaders stressed the importance of the balance between community-building and research; one could not exist well without the other. It was beautiful to see how we all came together to achieve our shared goals. This experience shaped my Duke journey because it emphasized the importance of relationships in the context of any work. I also grew in my ability to collaborate efficiently, delegate tasks, manage multiple timelines and demonstrate flexibility.
I have taken the lessons I learned through Bass Connections with me and continue to lead with grace and empathy, because that was extended to me when I needed it as a student researcher. This interdisciplinary program prepared me best to work in the field of public health which cannot succeed without collaboration.