DukeEngage Impact Report 2017

DukeEngage empowers students to address critical human needs through immersive service, in the process transforming students, advancing the University’s educational mission, and providing meaningful assistance to communities in the U.S. and abroad.


Eric Mlyn, Peter Lange Executive Director of DukeEngage

It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since we sent those first intrepid DukeEngagers into the field. And it’s even more amazing to think that, as of today, more than 4,000 students have done DukeEngage.

They have built bridges, developed marketing plans, fixed medical equipment, and taught students English, hip-hop, and American football. They have learned about economic development in Durham, North Carolina, and women’s empowerment in Ahmedabad, India. Above all, they have connected with people they might never have met, and discovered things about themselves they might never have known.

Over the past decade, we have learned a few things about DukeEngage. We know that it changes students in ways both large and small. We know it has an impact on community partners and the people they serve. And we know none of this would be possible without generous support from DukeEngage alumni, parents, and friends. Because of that generosity, what began with an ambitious idea has turned into a signature Duke program that draws almost 1,000 applicants each year. I am happy to share not only an annual update, but also a glimpse into what donor support has allowed us to accomplish over the past 10 years.


At a glance:

  • 407 participants
  • 35 independent projects in 23 countries, including the U.S.
  • 24 international group programs in 22 countries
  • 14 group programs in U.S. cities

DukeEngage launched six new programs in 2017: Chile, Costa Rica, India, Rwanda, Uganda, and Hawaii. Three of these focused on conservation and sustainability, reflecting a desire by our students and faculty to help address the ever-increasing environmental challenges our world is facing. In fact, one of my favorite student blog posts—about the power of an individual to make a difference—came from our Costa Rica program.

"Our own reforestation work here at DukeEngage has been the most meaningful work I’ve ever done." - Sunny Zhang, DukeEngage-Costa Rica

This year saw a record number of U.S.-based group programs: 14. Growing DukeEngage’s presence in the U.S. was a goal of our first strategic plan. As we near completion of writing our new strategic plan, I am proud to say that one-third of our group programs have taken place in the United States for the past three years and that we are committed to sustaining this goal as we move forward.

"These three short weeks are just the beginning of my time here, but they have already taught me more about the Durham community than I ever knew during the school year. Above all else, they have taught me how valuable it is to understand the city I now call home." - Tiffany Jiang '20, DukeEngage-Durham

In May, more than 400 students gathered at the Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy, our required two-day pre-experience training program. The event was bittersweet this year, as President Richard Brodhead gave his final address to our departing DukeEngagers—a tradition since the academy’s inception in 2009.

A few other accomplishments:

  • We created DukeEngage Alumni Task Force to help us gather stories, information, and advice from the people who know our program best. The 17 members represent a diversity of DukeEngage programs, Duke majors, and personal and professional experiences.
  • The DukeEngage team spent considerable time and effort creating our new strategic plan, DukeEngage 2022: Building on Impact. The plan builds on our strengths and successes, but also expands how we think about—and connect to—Duke University’s educational mission and the role of civic engagement in higher education and the world.
  • We hosted our second biennial Community Partner Conference, bringing 30+ community partners from around the world to Duke’s campus to spend two days sharing effective practices and learning more about Duke and DukeEngage.




On Wednesday, November 29, DukeEngage celebrated 10 years of immersive service, partnership, and reflection. More than 170 students, program leaders, community partners, board members, supporters, and friends gathered at the Nasher Museum of Art to mark this tremendous milestone.

Dorcas Oyugi, prinicpal of the WISER Girls School, spoke about the impact DukeEngage students have had on her community of Muhuru Bay, Kenya, while Madelaine Katz '16 shared how participating in DukeEngage-Kenya influenced her academic and career paths. Kally Zhao first encountered DukeEngage in 2010 when she was a middle school student in Zhuhai, China. The connections she made with DukeEngage students inspired her to apply to NYU, where she is now a sophomore studying communications.
Other speakers included David Rubenstein '70, chair emeritus of Duke's Board of Trustees; Eric Mlyn, the Peter Lange Executive Director of DukeEngage; and Linda Sterling '82, MBA'83, chair of the DukeEngage National Advisory Board.
I now talk more about DukeEngage than about Duke basketball." - David Rubenstein '70


These are just a few of the programs from summer in 2017, several of which were made possible thanks to support from DukeEngage donors.

Sixteen students participated in DukeEngage-Thailand, led by Nicolette Cagle, a lecturer in the Nicholas School of the Environment, and Global Vision International (GVI), a volunteer-sending organization. During their two months in Phang Nga, DukeEngage students maintained tanks and participated in research projects on sea turtle behavior and growth patterns, removed debris from beaches or mangroves to help restore disturbed coastal habitats to a healthy state, and worked with GVI staff to lead English language workshops for local schoolchildren.

"Becoming integrated into a community—into a culture—does not come from appreciating what you have that others lack, or what others have that you yourself lack, or from solving a differential equation for that matter. Integration comes from learning." - Samantha Heino '19

Ten students participated in DukeEngage-Boston, led by David Malone, professor of the practice of education and faculty director of Duke’s Service-Learning Program. Students were placed at seven community partners, either in small groups or individually, that address issues of social and educational equality. Through work with their community partners, as well as immersive activities and reflection sessions, DukeEngage students gained first‐hand experience about pressing social issues and different nonprofit models, organizations, and careers.

Aanan Henderson ’20 interned at Union Capital Boston (UCB), which connects low-income individuals and families to local resources. During his time at UCB, Aanan met with clients and encouraged attendance at events designed to inform residents about housing issues and tenants’ rights—which he believes are crucial to the survival and expansion of equitable and safe communities throughout the city.

Seven students participated in DukeEngage-Ahmedabad—a new program for 2017—led by Purnima Shah, director and associate professor of the practice of dance. Participants partnered with the nonprofit organization SAATH, which has pioneered an Integrated Community Development Program that seeks to uplift, enrich, and provide opportunities for the well being of slum residents, migrant laborers, minorities, under-served children, women, and youth in urban and rural areas.

"SAATH’s method has given me a new outlook on service. To make a real difference, NGOs cannot come into a community offering services that at a glance seem helpful. To create a sustainable difference takes months of community cooperation. But through honest conversations and perhaps a cup of masala chai, a trust is built that can potentially lead to a better quality of life for those served." - Gina Kovalik '20

Nine students participated in DukeEngage-San Francisco, led by Janie Long, associate vice provost for undergraduate education, and Rebecca Bach, associate professor of the practice of sociology. The goal of the program is to educate students about the primary causes of homelessness among youth—particularly the LGBTQ population—and the emotional and physical consequences they face. DukeEngage participants also gain a basic understanding of the organization, processes, and culture of non-profit organizations that address issues of at-risk youth.

“It is one thing to listen to a lecture about homelessness or read an article about drug use in low-income communities,” said Anne Delmedico ’19, who interned at Larkin Street. “It is another thing entirely to actually meet homeless people using drugs in a low-income community, to watch the way they carry themselves, to listen to them speak about their own lives.”

Fourteen students participated in DukeEngage-New Orleans, led by Ashley Brown Burns, assistant professor of political science at Tulane University. During the eight-week program, participants worked with community partners on a range of issues, including domestic violence, education, and public health. Many projects addressed lingering issues from Hurricane Katrina, from conducting disaster preparedness outreach with the American Red Cross to addressing mental health issues at Tulane Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry.

“DukeEngage-NOLA was a highlight of my Duke experience, and I am very thankful to the donors who funded my incredible summer.” - Madison Mastrangelo ’19, who interned at the New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center, which provides a comprehensive approach to the investigation, intervention, and treatment of child abuse

Eleven students participated in DukeEngage-Zhuhai, led by Hsiao-Mei Ku, Professor of the Practice of Music. During their two months, DukeEngage students worked with their host campus to design and deliver a diverse selection of art and enrichment courses to No.9 Middle School student. In addition, the DukeEngage cohort also hosted oral English classes with a focus on listening and conversational skills. During their final weeks of service, Duke students organized a culminating performance during which their middle school students displayed their artistic talent and performed the acts and skills they learned in their extracurricular courses.

Students lived with local host families chosen for their proximity to the school. "Home took a new meaning for two months of my life and all I want is to experience that over and over and over again," reflected DukeEngage participant Nadia Ford '19. "there is something so beautiful about being welcomed into the home of strangers and being loved before you are even united."

Four students participated in DukeEngage-Charlotte, led by Amy Anderson, an instructor in Duke’s Program in Education and faculty consultant for Duke’s Service-Learning Program. The eight-week program connects students to nonprofit community partners focused on services, resources, and policy related to children and youth. Participants gain significant experience working with nonprofit organizations and a better understanding of the complex social challenges and opportunities of urban communities. As an added benefit, an engaged and active local Duke alumni group work closely with the program to offer students the chance to immerse themselves deeply in the city’s culture and community.

“I realize now that the hardest moments of the six weeks with my scholars were the best opportunities for personal growth,” said Lela Owens '20. “The six weeks that I spent with my scholars have made me more patient, empathetic, and better able to find the good in people.”


DukeEngage raised $22 million in the Duke Forward, the university's seven-year, $3.25 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign that ended June 30, 2017, to:

  • Support existing U.S. and international programs
  • Endow the pre-departure training academy
  • Fund exploration grants to develop new programs
  • Connect DukeEngage and Bass Connections
  • Endow the DukeEngage Directorship
  • Support programs that focus on healthcare, education, and literacy
  • Provide immediate support where it's needed most
"DukeEngage represents the best of Duke: thoughtful, informed, and engaged students deepening their Duke education while at the same time putting that education to work for a public purpose. I know my gift to DukeEngage empowers students and the communities where they serve." - Andrew Nurkin '03, DukeEngage National Advisory Board member

Visit dukeengage.duke.edu to learn more about DukeEngage, read student blogs, or make a gift to support this transformative program, which is made possible by philanthropy.

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