Photo by Cody Clarke
Sterly Wilder ’83, associate vice president for alumni affairs, talks with Ana Homayoun ’01, founder of Green Ivy Education Consulting and author of two books about helping young people find success in school and life—The Myth of the Perfect Girl and That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week.
SW: What role did Duke play in your becoming an author and in founding Green Ivy Educational Consulting?
AH: I remember one conversation I had with [literature and Latin American studies professor] Ariel Dorfman my senior year. He asked me a simple question: “What are the qualities of a job that are important for you?” And I said, “Well, I want to write, I want to travel, and I want to help people.” He encouraged me to look to the overall vision I wanted for my life, and I took that to heart. Also, all roads lead back to Duke. I got my first job through the Duke alumni network, which eventually allowed me to build my own business. I got my first book deal indirectly through Duke, because the career center director at the time, Sheila Curran, gave my name to a New York Times reporter. In 2008, he wrote a profile piece on me, and a few months later I received my first book contract.
Sterly Wilder. Photo by Chris Hildreth.
SW: You have spoken quite frequently with major media outlets about teaching children that being less than the best at everything does not equate with failure. How important is that message for a place like Duke?
AH: I think it’s incredibly important. The quest for “effortless perfection” exists on so many college campuses. What are the things we can do to help all students redefine failure—so that trying something and it not working out isn’t viewed as a failure, per se? To me, the biggest failure is when we prematurely close off opportunities because of assumptions or preconceptions.
SW: You have been actively involved in Duke as an alumna, including serving as an Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee (AAAC) interviewer. Why did you choose to serve Duke as an interviewer?
AH: It was because of an AAAC interviewer that I came to Duke. I had been to other college interviews, and this one was different. This person [Bridget Marquess Dunnington ’96] wanted to know about me, she was engaging, she loved her Duke experience, and by talking with her, I could see myself at Duke. I remember going home and pulling out the packet from Duke and saying, “This is it.” That is why I interview. I wanted to find a way to stay engaged with Duke, and that was a pretty simple way. A few years ago, a young alum came up to me at a Duke event in San Francisco and said, “You probably don’t remember me, but you interviewed me for Duke, and our interview was the reason I decided to go.”
SW: How do you motivate alumni to engage, especially in your own alumni region in San Francisco?
AH: About a month ago, I was at a dinner unrelated to Duke, and I met two alums. One of them had not stayed engaged with Duke, so I went out to coffee with him later on. I told him: “We can’t bring about change unless you’re in the room.” He made a donation to the annual fund the next day and signed up to be an AAAC interviewer. Also, I went to watch a Duke football game with a group of alumni in San Francisco and discovered that so many of them were new to the area. Staying engaged with Duke was really important to them. So, I think it’s really important to have conversations with people.
Edited by Christina Holder.