Findings In Your Backyard

As the domestic part of our Duke Engage comes to a close, I have thought a lot about my experience and how it has changed my viewpoints of Durham, my role within Durham and civic engagement as a whole.

Last week, one of my fellow Duke Engage interns and I decided to explore our office building on our lunch break. We work at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), which is located in the Golden Belt Complex. The Golden Belt Complex, a historic textile mill, has been repurposed as an events and office space. We happened upon Belt Line Station, an old train depot that is now used as an events space. As we sat on the rocking chairs, I begun to wonder how we waited until one of our last weeks at our placement to discover such a neat lunch spot.

And then I realized that we had been so used to eating at our normal spot that we never took the time to explore more of the building. I thought about the value in taking time to explore what was quite literally in the backyard of our office. Had we not ventured outside of our normal routine, we wouldn’t have discovered the historic significance of the building we were working in. For Duke students, there is such a growing, unique, and historic city right in the backyard of our university that many do not explore. From my experience in Durham, I have learned the value in taking time to explore your own backyard and engage yourself in your community. Last week, we listened to an education panel comprised of a School Board member, nonprofit leader and Duke Education coordinator. One of the panelists remarked that everyone has a stake in the success of our public schools, as neighborhoods and cities are defined by it. His comment made me realize how we all have a stake in the success of our community. I think the notion that we can all benefit from each other’s success is essential to the prosperity of a city.

From my work at OEWD, I have learned about both the challenges and benefits of partnerships between nonprofits, education systems and government offices to better the community. My fellow OEWD interns and I have worked to develop long term goals for engaging businesses in the community and in particular, in the Durham Youthwork internship program. We have seen many of the obstacles in setting and implementing specific and attainable goals for civic engagement.

At Duke, I am studying public policy and in particular, I am interested in economic policy. Through my time at OEWD, I gained a better understanding of the complexities that come with developing economic policy and how civic engagement plays a large role in economic development.

Ashley McCurry, Duke Class of 2018


One Comment Add yours

  1. Donald M Shiffrin says:

    It’s great that you — and Duke — have undertaken this project. When I was a Duke grad student in the business school we never got involved with what was going on in the community or explored what Durham had to offer, and needed. I was back in Durham a few months ago and the changes have been substantial in the city since the 70s and 80s. It’s great to see Duke engaged in its community.


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