Jordan Phillips (’26) is planning on majoring in public policy and history.
When I called home to my nervous parents after my first day at Duke, they asked how things were going. “Amazing” was the only word I could articulate.
Ironically, my first call home wasn’t from campus at all, but from Washington DC, where POLIS and Project Citizen brought first-year students like me to learn what it means to be good citizens of our campus, community, and nation.
This was not your average field trip. Our days in DC consisted of panels discussing everything from political extremism to life on Capitol Hill, in addition to behind-the-scenes experiences like touring the Saudi Arabian embassy and visiting the US Capital. One night was spent watching Charles Randolph-Wright’s (T’78) incredible American Prophet on the life of Frederick Douglass. This was followed up by an inspiring conversation with Mr. Randolph-Wright and the creative team after the show. Each experience served as a testament to the idea that changemaking is interdisciplinary, and everyone – regardless of field of study – can exemplify the values of good citizenship.
One moment from the trip that shifted my perspective was a discussion with rural organizer Anderson Clayton. She spoke to our group on the challenges of leaving a tight-knit, one-stoplight town while maintaining loyalty to her home. Having a personal discussion with Anderson about the ways we can uplift rural voices and continue to give back to our homes shifted my lens on the role of my rural identity in intentional change-making. As a girl who grew up in South Dakota three hours from the closest city, fear of abandoning the community that helped me get to Duke is ever-present. Anderson’s words helped calm these fears and inspire future action.
Project Citizen’s time in DC helped each of us define the ways we want to function within the Duke community. Some, like me, had even more fuel added to their love of politics and public policy. Others recognized the ways they can bridge their passions in the arts or sciences with the intentional leadership and changemaking that Project Citizen encouraged. Though we each took away something different from Project Citizen, there was one common sentiment: Duke is where we are meant to be.