Durham, North Carolina is an amazing place to get your MBA. U.S. News & World Report listed Durham as the #2 best place to live in the entire United States. I have always called Durham “home.”

Growing up as a kid in Durham, I found it hard to imagine myself fitting in at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Even in the same city, Duke sometimes felt worlds away. I surprised myself when I fell in love with Team Fuqua, and Duke became the number one school on my MBA program list. Once I committed to Fuqua, I knew I wanted to build more bridges between the Duke and Durham communities.

As I prepared for my time at Fuqua, I asked one of the second-year students, Kirk Wilson, how I could make the biggest impact between Duke and Durham. I asked, “What club do I need to join?” “What leadership positions do I need to get?” Kirk responded with some unconventional wisdom: “If you are passionate about something, don’t wait for someone else to organize it or to get a formal leadership position. Just get in there and do it!”

Four small children, sitting with a bull mascot; hometown of Durham

Me (far left) at a Durham Bulls baseball game circa 2002

And that is what I did. Throughout my first year at Fuqua, I was very intentional about engaging with the broader Durham community. I brought my friends to restaurants outside of the Fuqua staples. I invited local leaders to speak to the entire class about how we can be good citizens. I organized a panel of students from Fuqua’s Black and Latinx MBA Organization to speak with Durham Public School students about business career paths. I joined Fuqua on Board, where I served as a non-voting board member at Families Moving Forward, a local nonprofit supporting homeless families. My peers and the Fuqua administration were incredibly supportive every step of the way.

I also worked with my friend, Iboro Ikene, to organize a Durham scavenger hunt for the incoming class. Winners won prizes from local businesses like Bright Black Candles and Hometown Apparel. Scavenger hunt items included fun challenges to help students explore the Bull City like:

  1. Walk down Black Wall Street, a hub of African-American businesses and financial services during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
  2. Find Lucky Strike Tower in the center of the American Tobacco Campus. American Tobacco used to produce 80 percent of U.S. tobacco products. Today, the campus has been transformed to hold restaurants, businesses, and entertainment.
  3. Reenact your favorite musical outside the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) which consistently ranks as one of the top five theaters in the United States.
  4. Throw a first pitch outside of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Durham Bulls were named, “the most successful MiLB franchise of the 2010s.”
Nine graduate students on a zoom call, with each person occupying a box; hometown of Durham
Fuqua students and me (middle top) meeting with Durham Public Schools students (not pictured), February 2021

With more than 60 percent of the first-year class participating, it was exciting to see my Fuqua family embrace our home! Students, partners, kids, and even pets joined the scavenger hunt fun! I love watching how this brief introduction to Durham has led to further local engagement.

In Fuqua’s Collaborative Leadership class, we learned that, “an important aspect of leadership is being connected to the community and sharing responsibility for its well-being. Consequential leaders are good citizens and create value wherever they are.”

Fuqua encourages students to strengthen their communities. Fuqua gave me the perfect opportunity to be a leader in both the Duke and Durham communities.

While I have lived in Durham most of my life, it was Fuqua that gave me the skills and opportunity I needed to become a true leader in the community.