Forever Duke Go!

Ways alumni can—and do—get involved.
October 21, 2016

Enrique Fernández de la Puebla Otamendi M.B.A. ’12 shares the experiences that led him to launch a regional group:

On Orientation Day at the Fuqua School of Business in 2010, I remember professor Blair Sheppard telling my M.B.A. class that our experience could be “transactional or transformational.”

My Fuqua experience proved to be completely transformational—both professionally and personally. Professionally, I shifted from finance to entrepreneurship. Personally, I met outstanding people from across the globe who enriched my life and shaped me into a more mature and better person. That’s why I couldn’t be more grateful to Duke.

When I left Fuqua after graduating from my hometown of Madrid, Spain, I longed for the kind of experience in my alumni life that had been so formative in my student one. Duke alumni in Spain were scattered across the country. There were occasional get-togethers, but a sense of true community seemed difficult to come by.

Fellow Fuquan Jaime Gil-Casares M.B.A. ’06 and I decided to change this situation. We wanted a Duke community in Spain. So in April 2015, we volunteered as co-chairs of the Duke Spain regional group and began planning.

We located every Duke graduate living in Spain, and we began organizing events that would facilitate the transformational experience that was so key to our Duke experience.

Those efforts are paying off.

This summer, we hosted one of our most successful receptions. We invited alumni, newly admitted students and their families, and other Duke community members to a networking event at a popular Madrid hotel. Attendees not only engaged in meaningful conversations, but they also got to learn about new and current initiatives at Duke.

Sterly Wilder ’83, associate vice president for alumni affairs, even attended our event—noting the strong community that was forming in Spain.

It was an incredible feeling to remember that even though we are nearly 4,000 miles and an Atlantic Ocean away from Durham, we can experience the same Duke family whether we are in Durham or in Madrid. Our experience as Dukies is truly transformational, and it begins with just showing up.

Find and sign up for your regional group at alumni.duke.edu

Alumni yield success with initiative to phone every admitted students from underrepresented groups

This past spring, Cyan DeVeaux was on her way home from a college visit to Harvard when she received a call from Danielle Squires ’98 that steered her in a different direction.

Then a senior at Ramapo High School in Spring Valley, New York, DeVeaux was in an enviable, but excruciating, position. She had been accepted to twelve of the country’s top universities, all of which were eager to enroll her in their freshman classes. And while Duke was high on her list, DeVeaux worried about whether the Southern school was the right fit for an East Coast African-American woman.

“It was important to me to have a college where I would feel comfortable,” she says.

Squires, now a bank executive in Charlotte, could relate. She was the last person from Ramapo to enroll at Duke. She talked with DeVeaux for more than an hour, speaking candidly about Duke’s academic and social environment—a conversation that ultimately pointed DeVeaux to Durham.

A few weeks after, she accepted a Reginaldo Howard scholarship, and she plans to study neuroscience.

The conversation was part of a new effort to reach out to students from underrepresented groups to give them a clearer picture of life at Duke. Dubbed “Raise the Yield,” the campaign began three years ago when members of the Duke University Hispanic and Latino Alumni Association called admitted Latino students to help answer questions and share their own experiences.

This year, Duke Black Alumni volunteers did the same for admitted African-American students. “We called everybody—every single accepted student,” says Squires, who is president of DBA. “We found a level of connectivity that they hadn’t had before.”

And those efforts appear to be paying off. As Duke continues to recruit increasingly diverse classes, the competition for top students of color has become keener. Students of color composed more than 50 percent of Duke’s Class of 2019, and admissions officers say they are hearing anecdotally that the opportunity to interact with alumni has been a factor in many students’ decisions.

“We talk a lot about personalizing the process,” says Christopher Briggs, a Duke admissions officer. “The best resource we will continue to have is alumni—especially when we are talking to parents.”

Squires and Roberta Oyakawa, president of DUHLAA, say the personal outreach matters especially to students of color because many are looking for a community that can identify with their experience and support them in their journey at Duke.

“The parents want to know their son or their daughter is going to be in a safe place, in a place where they are going to be supported,” Oyakawa says.

Aminah Thompson ’03, another volunteer caller, heard similar themes in her conversations. She says students wanted to know whether they would be safe at Duke, whether they would be supported, and whether their voices would be heard. Their questions, she says, “really went to the heart of what type of experience they would have as a black student.”

Thompson says she did not shy away from discussing racial incidents on campus but assured prospective students that “they would be able to find a support system.”

For DeVeaux, who attended a culturally diverse high school, it was important to hear Squires talk about Duke’s commitment to inclusion. “It’s about education equality and making sure schools are inclusive and culturally responsive,” DeVeaux says. “It hits home for me.”

“At the end of the day…she accepted us over everybody else,” Squires says. “To me, that’s heartwarming.”

Get Connected and Get the Times

Alumni have a new tool to tap into the talents of the Duke community—and now, when they use it, they’ll get award-winning journalism along with it. To celebrate the launch of its revamped website and directory (alumni.duke. edu), DAA is giving a free eight-week digital subscription to The New York Times to alumni who import their LinkedIn career information into their alumni profiles. The promotion is part of an effort to update information about alumni careers so that students and classmates are better able to identify potential professional connections. To get started, visit alumni.duke.edu and click on “Register.”

Supporting Future Blue Devils

In 1979, DAA established the Alumni Endowed Undergraduate Scholarship to recognize the achievements of children or grandchildren of Duke alumni accepted for undergraduate admission to Duke. The scholarship funds full tuition for eight semesters of undergraduate study, as well as a stipend for a summer study-away program and opportunities to meet with other scholarship recipients. This year’s recipient is Margaret Overton, a freshman from Brentwood, Tennessee. Overton is the daughter of Brian Richard Overton ’91 and Suzann Scott Overton ’93.

  • Christina Holder M.Div.'13 the DAA's assistant director of communications.