I land in Durham, unpack not just summer luggage, but also boxes from an apartment move. Set up the cable and internet. Jumpstart my car not once, but twice. Rush out to get groceries. Go out for dinner and drinks. Sleep. Then off to school I go …

I’m back. I’m back in Durham. Back at Fuqua. Back for my second year (SY).

students at CAARE sign
Monica VanBuskirk (right) and I co-led the health care excursion to CAARE Inc.

I’m shocked and almost overwhelmed to see time move this quickly. But I also know that I have only one more year to be purposeful and focused, or see my time in business school disappear. Although I was not at all rested from my internship experience in California, I was actually excited to get to school on a Saturday for Day in Durham. This year, instead of being a participant, I was co-leader of the health care track. Day in Durham has become an annual tradition, organized by Fuqua’s Net Impact Club and Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE). It’s a way to show first year (FY) students some of the amazing social and environmental impact organizations in Durham. It’s also a way to connect students to a variety of community service activities that exist around us.

group of students
Some of my new FY classmates!

Connecting with First Years in Durham

After initial introductions, free T-shirts, a shared breakfast and a very inspiring talk by Kevin Trapani, President & CEO of The Redwoods Group (an insurance provider dedicated to protecting YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, and nonprofit resident camps), it was time to break up into smaller teams and head out on one of 5 different Day in Durham excursions.

Many of the FY students who joined me on the health care excursion are also in the Health Sector Management (HSM) program, while others were just interested in learning about health opportunities in Durham. For me, meeting the FY students in this way was so sentimental and adorable. To see all of them starting the program, getting acclimated and being curious about how this all works — it was absolutely reflective of how I felt last year.

tour group
On tour of CAARE, Inc.

My group visited CAARE Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes a holistic and community approach to health. Dr. Sharon Elliott-Bynum gave us a tour of the facilities and updated us on all the great projects that are happening. This organization grew out of a kitchen conversation between sisters, and now includes housing for veterans, a food pantry, acupuncture and fitness classes, spiritual services and counseling, as well as dental care and medical treatment amongst a host of other services.

The experience was unbelievably inspirational. I enjoyed learning about the organization and listening to the questions and suggestions made by my new classmates — the Class of 2014. It was certainly a reality check on the circle of life, and I cannot wait to reconnect with all my SY classmates as well as to further make connections and friendships with those in the FY.

My Second Year Challenge: Finding Purpose & Focus

The school year is off to a fast and dynamic start, but there are times when I need to pause. Participating in Day in Durham was such a pause for me, as well as attending a special memorial service in honor of my classmate Jessica Caroe, who recently passed away. These events, my summer experience, and the re-orientation program known as C-Lead 2 have been a reminder to me — a reminder that the life I want to live will help improve society, make a positive impact on those around me, and will make me a leader of consequence. The foundation is definitely there, and now I hope to further use my time in graduate school to get me closer to where I hope to be.