Getting into the Muck: Day in Durham 2013

This post was written in August 2013 by Diana Vining and Cristina Arellano, both first year Duke MBA students. Diana and Cristina reflect on the 10th annual Day in Durham – where more than 1500 Fuqua first years have explored the Durham community and been inspired to use their business skills for social impact.

How do you get 200 first year Daytime MBA students, MMS students, and partners to show up to school on a rainy Saturday morning? Well, you throw the 10th annual Day in Durham! Quoted by many second years to be “one of my favorite experiences of the year,” Day in Durham is an incredible opportunity for the Fuqua community to get out of the “bubble” and into the “real world.”

The day began with remarks by the Net Impact Co-Presidents, Jen Fluder and Michelle Kirby, Dean Russ Morgan, Dean Bill Boulding, and Erin Worsham, Executive Director of CASE. The room immediately warmed up with the promise of Dean Morgan and beers from Fullsteam Brewery at the end of the day. Dean Boulding reminded the crowd about Fuqua’s commitment to authentic engagement, using Day in Durham as a perfect example. He also committed to opening up the sold out event in future years so that they wouldn’t have to cap registration!

One of the highlights of the day was keynote speaker, best-selling author, and CASE Senior Fellow Dan Heath. He challenged the audience to think about what they wanted their legacy to be after a lifetime as a business leader. Do you want your tombstone to read “Maximized value, then died” or “Business owner, pillar of the community.” Dan asked us to think about the kind of leaders we want to be, and then think about the courses we need to register for in the school of life. He summarized his advice with a mathematical equation: Social Impact = Horsepower + Time in the Muck + Grit. “Today,” he said, “opens a door into the muck.”

Following lunch, students ventured off on their chosen trek – social entrepreneurship, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, healthcare or education. We had the pleasure of going on Excursion A, “Creating Social Impact through Business,” which took us to TROSA (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers). This organization provides a multi-year residential program to substance abusers that enables them to become productive, recovering individuals. The program offers continued care, comprehensive treatment and work-based vocational training at no cost to its residents. Established in 1994 by Kevin Macdonald, TROSA has graduated 1,350 individuals who come to Durham from across the country. TROSA businesses, such as TROSA Movers, provide residents with the necessary vocational training while generating revenue for the organization so that individuals can receive services at no expense.

One of the most striking characteristics of this organization is the level of commitment of program residents to the community. While each individual brings his or her unique story of substance abuse to the program, together, they demonstrate deep appreciation for the opportunities TROSA has given them. They take ownership and responsibility of themselves, other residents and their roles as members of the community. We were so impressed by every individual who shared their story with us.

After our tour, we listened to a panel discussion of four individuals working in the social impact space in Durham. The panelists included: Dan Baum (Redwoods Group Foundation), Randy Chambers (Self-Help), Kevin McDonald (TROSA), and Beth Richardson (B-Lab). We learned about other organizations in Durham working in social impact and how each panelist started their own social impact careers. Their personal and professional experiences reaffirmed the idea that everyone will have a different impact on the people and communities around them, and there is ultimately no perfect recipe that will set us up for THE perfect social impact career. Every individual is unique and will eventually carve out his or her own path. All it takes is courage or, as Dan Heath calls it, grit.

Once the panel discussion concluded, we made our way back to Fuqua, where Fullsteam Beer and snacks awaited our arrival. The social time after the day’s events let us connect with other students and exchange information about our visits.

Day in Durham was a huge success from beginning to end. Not only did it demonstrate how committed Fuqua’s student body is to the idea of social impact, but it also opened up our eyes to the community beyond Fuqua and Duke. The day was wonderful reminder of the numerous opportunities we have to make a difference, and how lucky we are to have the opportunities to do so.