More than 80 members of the Duke students, alumni, faculty, and staff from across the ideological spectrum gathered Oct. 12 for an evening of advocacy and political engagement. Titled “Engaging Women in Advocacy and Action” and sponsored by Duke Alumni Affairs, this event was the brainchild of alumnae leaders active in the Triangle Women’s Forum.
The panel of speakers consisted of Duke women who approach civic engagement from different angles, including directing grassroots efforts, serving in party leadership and running for public office:
- Magan Gonzales Thigpen MPP’14 — president, People’s Alliance
- Jill Homan MPP’06, MBA’06 — Republican National Committeewoman, D.C.
- Deborah Ross — 2016 N.C. Democratic Senatorial Candidate, former representative in the N.C. House of Representatives and former senior lecturing fellow at Duke Law School
The panel was moderated by Professor Deondra Rose of the Sanford School of Public Policy. During the evening, representatives from a variety of grassroots groups helped attendees identify how they could become more civically involved.
The forum was cosponsored by POLIS: Duke’s Center for Political Leadership, Innovation, and Service. With a mission of civic engagement and bipartisan political solutions, POLIS recruited nearly 30 students to attend the event while covering their registration fees.
The students took advantage of the opportunity to meet with women activists. “It was a great opportunity to interact with alumni women as well as current undergraduate women who also have a passion for politics,” said sophomore Leah Abrams. MPP candidate Kavya Sekar said the discussion “inspired me to get more involved in the politics and advocacy world.”
Victoria Bright, DAA’s assistant director for alumnae engagement, said the program showed how a university can connect students to alumni to the benefit of both.
“We recognized the opportunity to bring students, faculty, and alumnae together to discuss the importance of political engagement and demystify the process for getting involved,” Bright said. “After the event, pockets of students and alumnae continued the conversation, discussing their passions, fears, and takeaways. These moments embody the spirit of Forever Duke – the idea that the Duke experience continues to resonate even decades after graduation.”