Life's Broad Sea: International Aid; New York Real Estate; Professional Women

Alumni in the spotlight.
November 12, 2012

Credit: Sarah Deragon

Tori Hogan ’04 had all good intentions when she traveled to Kenya as an intern for Save the Children. But during a classroom visit to ask refugee children about their needs, a tall Somali boy named Ahmed turned the conversation around.

“A lot of aid workers come and go, but nothing changes,” he told her. “If the aid projects were effective, we wouldn’t still be living like this after all these years. Do you really think you have the answer to our problems?”

Ahmed’s question stopped Hogan in her tracks. She decided to learn more about what works (and what doesn’t) in the internationalaid landscape. She taught herself filmmaking and put together Beyond Good Intentions, a ten-part film series shot on location in eight countries that explores subjects ranging from the role of international aid volunteers to microlending and social entrepreneurship. And she earned master’s degrees, in forced migration and refugee studies from the American University in Cairo and in international education policy from Harvard.

In her new book, Beyond Good Intentions: A Journey Into the Realities of International Aid, Hogan shares her personal quest to return to Africa to find Ahmed and explore the implications of his challenging question. She recounts her visits to a range of organizations that receive aid to determine why well-intentioned efforts routinely get thwarted by systemic problems such as poverty, corruption, and lack of accountability.


Credit: Robert Wright

Got $5 million to spend on an Irving Place co-op? New York real-estate broker Mickey Conlon ’98 is your man. Conlon, senior vice president of CORE, represents upper-echelon buyers and sellers. He has passed the $1 billion mark for residential sales and currently is featured on the hit HGTV show Selling New York. December’s Season Six premiere follows Conlon and his partner, Tom Postilio, as they prepare to put legendary actress Joan Collins’ East 57th Street pied-à-terre on the market.

A native New Yorker, Conlon used to tag along with his real-estate agent mother as she worked with buyers and sellers. Even though he earned his realestate license while a freshman at Duke, he didn’t pursue it as a full-time career until 2008. “I was working on Broadway as a producer, and when the economic downturn came, people were disinterested in putting money into Broadway shows. It might seem counterintuitive to go into real estate at the start of the worst market in decades, but I knew that slices of Manhattan were an investment that people could embrace knowing that it would retain value over time. Try using that same pitch with a potential Broadway investor!”


Credit: Joseph Lin

Not many one-year-olds can boast the success of The Daily Muse. Launched in the fall of 2011, the site for professional women was started by Kathryn Minshew ’08 and her partners Alex Cavoulacos and Melissa McCreery as a one-stop site for professional women. The site includes advice on jobs, health, money, travel, style, tech, and education. Within three months, the site had attracted 100,000 visitors. As it celebrated its oneyear mark, that number had grown to 1.5 million.

Minshew’s Duke connections helped along the way. In 2008, she won the DukeGEN (Global Entrepreneur Network) competition and attracted the interest of investors and mentors Lisa Blau ’97 and Thomas Lehrman ’95. Minshew and her cofounders were accepted into the Y Combinator winter 2012 class, one of the few womenrun companies accepted into the highly competitive entrepreneurial “fast-track” program. This past summer, Forbes named The Daily Muse one of the top websites for women, and Minshew as one of this year’s 30-Under-30 in Media.