Digging into What Duke Has to Offer

Lauren Hendricks PPS ’12 arrived at Duke from South Carolina eager to take advantage of opportunities to broaden her worldview. Outgoing president of the PPS Majors Union and ex-officio member of the Sanford Board of Visitors, Hendricks will head to Mongolia in August as a Fulbright scholar. She talked about her experiences with Communications Assistant Hyejin Sul.

Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I grew up in a small town in South Carolina. Both of my parents were teachers; my mom was a reading teacher and my dad was a coach and a principal. He passed away my senior year of high school.

Why did you choose Duke? What did you want to get out of your time in college?
I watched the 2001 National Championships, and I had a gut reaction that I liked the school and wanted to go to Duke. Coming into college, I knew I wanted to go abroad several times, and wanted to get involved on campus. I thought I wanted to study political science, but then I heard about public policy. I knew right away that I wanted to do something related to shaping government. I’m particularly interested in improving the quality of education. I’m also interested in foreign policy at the executive level – relations with other countries – and I’m interested in public finance.

Can you tell me about influential course or professor from your time at Sanford?
I knew Professor Bob Korstad from participating in Duke Engage the summer after freshman year and I took Public Policy 116 with him. That class helped me to see poverty in America in a new way. I also took a class with him called The History of Poverty in the United States. It’s always great to take a class with a professor that you already know and have a relationship with. 

What activities have you been involved in at Duke?
In the spring of my freshman year, I worked at the Alumni House; this is how I first started to dig into Duke and all it had to offer. That first summer, I participated in Duke Engage in South Africa. It’s a nation affected by social change and we studied where it is now, after apartheid. We worked with Black Sash, an NGO working on human rights, and were able to travel and sit in on the South African Parliament. This was my first time out of the country. As a financial aid student, there was no way that I would have been able to do this without Duke’s support.

During my sophomore year, I worked at the Alumni and Development Office at Sanford, and got to know Sanford’s framework. It’s also how I got involved with the PPS Majors Union. Through this I got to know the Board of Visitors from a staff perspective. That summer, I attended Duke in New York and worked at CNN, where I ran the teleprompter for one of the news shows. This is when I realized that I was interested in politics, but I did not want to be a producer. This was also my first time in New York.

In the fall of my junior year, I studied abroad in Rome with Temple University but I received Duke credits. I took business classes, and learned how the European Union worked—who did what, and who had the power. I also went to NATO. I had never been to Europe before. When I came back from abroad, I worked at Sanford again, and was elected president of the PPS Majors Union.

The summer after my junior year, I completed a White House internship, conducting research for Vice President Biden’s chief of staff. During this time, I met the vice president and the first lady. It was great observing the White House staff because they knew their fields so well. I got the internship because I knew the steps I needed to take and was deliberate and focused in making it happen. The fall of senior year was about applying for jobs. I got an offer to work at Deloitte in Washington, D.C. on the commercial side as a business analyst.

I also applied for and won a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Mongolia for one year. I chose do this because I wanted to be in Asia. I’m interested in Mongolia because it is an evolving country. They are opening large mines, and big countries, including the United States, are investing in them. They are going to have a double digit growth rate. But the country is still nomadic, and the people live on horses and I thought it would be so interesting to be there at this time of transition. Two of my closest friends got Fulbrights; they were also in the Duke Engage/South Africa program. I feel like so many things in my college career have led me to this point.

Why did you choose such diverse experiences at Duke?
I think I was always curious and I knew there was so much more than Laurens, S.C. I wasn’t able to do these things as a kid and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities while I was at Duke. I just wanted to learn. I didn’t have anything to lose and the doors were open. I had goals, and I knew what it took to achieve those goals.

Do you have any advice for freshmen?
Follow your interests, even though you might not make use of them. Take advantage of the opportunities you have now, but don’t forget to live in the present.