Two years ago, Alice Liao moved from Singapore to Durham to pursue a degree in statistics from Duke University.
As an international student, Liao thought it was important to get involved on and off campus during her four years at Duke. She was interested in learning what Durham had to offer Duke students and how she could make a difference in the community.
Liao found purpose in the DukeEngage-Durham program, to which she applied during her first year at Duke. DukeEngage-Durham is a 10-week, immersive summer service experience in Durham, N.C. and Durham, England, focused on economic and community development. Duke undergraduates serve and learn with local community partners in both cities.
“I want to use this opportunity to gain a better understanding of how to use my statistics degree to help the community,” Liao said. “I also plan to use this opportunity to network with the other participants, as well as with community partners connected with my nonprofit assignment.”
DukeEngage as a whole is a summer service program that offers Duke students the opportunity to make a difference in cities across the U.S. and around the world. However, DukeEngage-Durham offers a unique experience for Duke students: It is the only DukeEngage program based in Durham, N.C., the city that Duke University calls home, and the only program that gives students a comparative perspective on economic development in two different Durhams.
DukeEngage offers more than 30 international programs, but DukeEngage-Durham alumni champion the unique opportunity the Durham site affords. “It is the reflections that former students provide our potential participants each year that gets them excited to participate in the DukeEngage-Durham program,” said Eric Mlyn, executive director of DukeEngage. “The program is just one of a multitude of ways that Duke connects with the Durham community.”
Six students, including Liao, were selected to participate in this year’s DukeEngage-Durham program. The students will spend six weeks working with three community partners: The City of Durham Office of Economic & Workforce Development, the Diaper Bank of North Carolina, and Threshold. During the last four weeks of the program, students will travel to Durham, England to study the country’s economic development and compare what they have learned about economic growth in Durham, N.C.
Liao is interning with the Diaper Bank in Durham. As an intern, she collects data on diaper prices at local grocery stores to help the Diaper Bank understand how to continue supporting Durham families in need.
“I enjoy what I do here at the Diaper Bank,” Liao said. “I have found inspiration in the stories of my supervisors and how they use degrees similar to what I am pursuing to make a difference in the community.”
In addition to learning more about data analysis at the Diaper Bank and relating those lessons to her Duke school work, Liao said she plans to use this summer opportunity to explore Durham.
DukeEngage staff members organize multiple events throughout the 10-week program that encourage students to explore the community. For example, students spent one Saturday taking a walking tour of Downtown Durham and visiting the Durham Farmers Market.
“I always enjoy the Downtown Durham walking tour and farmers market experience enrichment opportunity that we experience with the group,” said Domoniqúe Redmond, co-program director with DukeEngage-Durham. “The students tend to relax and explore Durham on their own after that initial tour. We want students to feel comfortable in their community, comfortable enough to call Durham home.”
Story by Alyzia McAlmon
Alice Liao, a Duke sophomore and 2018 DukeEngage-Durham program participant, at the Diaper Bank of North Carolina.