3 Lessons From My Internship With The Hill Center

The Hill Center Durham NC
Nicole Page Fuqua MBA

This post was written by Nicole Page, a second-year Fuqua MBA in January 2017. She has a background in consulting but is excited and passionate about growing her career in the education space. Nicole sits on the cabinet of the Association of Women in Business on the Leadership team, on the cabinet of the Net Impact Club on the Careers team, and is a member of the Running and Triathlon Club. This summer, Nicole worked with The Hill Center through the Education Pioneers Fellowship.

Less than a ten-minute drive from Fuqua there sits an unassuming building that looks something like a cross between a house and an office called The Hill Center. It turns out that this image embodies the Hill story of growth and impact.

The Hill Center Durham NC

It is one that started nearly forty years ago with serving students with learning disabilities from the next door Durham Academy and has grown to supporting students and educators in 22 districts across the state today. Hill serves students – especially those with diagnosed learning differences, attention disorders, and English language learners – to become confident, independent learners through its intensive reading and math interventions.

I personally have been lucky enough to know about this organization for just about a year through the result of what can only be explained by serendipity. I was welcomed onto an incredible independent study team of motivated individuals who all share a passion for making an impact in the education space last August.

Over the course of my first year at Fuqua, I learned so much from this team and Hill not only about how to demonstrate impact and support the neediest students in developing foundational reading skills but also about how having a business lens is critical to the long-term success and sustainability needed to grow that impact. I am also so grateful to have had the opportunity to continue to learn more and get more deeply involved and integrated with the team at Hill through an Education Pioneers Fellowship with them this summer, made possible largely due to the Summer Internship Fund and CASE.

In my summer, beyond continuing to dive deeper into the education space, I had three key takeaways that I think will be helpful in wherever my career takes me next:

  • Lead by listening: Much of my role was around facilitating cross-functional leadership conversations – getting to the right answers required a lot more time asking questions and synthesizing information than doing the talking. The Fellowship included several workshops throughout the summer and we set ground rules each time. My favorite one was “No one talks twice until everyone talks once.” I tried to bring this back to my internship and will continue to use it going forward – hearing everyone’s voices in the room allowed us to collectively come to stronger decisions.
  • Be flexible: Although my main focus for the summer was in the strategy space, being comfortable to flex and adapt to support immediate needs as they arise will help you make an impact in your organization, especially when they are a small team like The Hill Center is. Over the course of my summer, I had the opportunity to develop a marketing case study and accompanying video that has already been used in grant proposals, award applications, and in introducing new teachers and potential partners to what we do. Although not part of my job description, helping out on this initiative and others like it enabled me to both further help and support the organization while also helping me build a deeper understanding of how it functions.
  • Don’t lose sight of your mission: My work was in the business office and I honestly hardly ever saw students. Given that, it sometimes became easy to disconnect my day-to-day to any student outcomes. When that would happen, I would be sure to go watch our learning solutions in action so I could re-calibrate and focus on how my work would help us to scale and impact even more students with learning challenges build the foundational reading and math skills they need for future success. This would always re-energize and excite me about the day to come.

Overall, my summer at The Hill Center was very rewarding, and I’m hoping to continue to work with them through my second year. Hill has big plans for the future and it is my hope to continue to support bringing them to fruition. If their growth continues to manifest itself in the form of building add-ons, I look forward to the Hill rocket ship that comes next.

The Summer Internship Fund (SIF) enables first year Duke MBA-Daytime students to learn about the rewards and challenges of social sector management without making a significant financial sacrifice. In addition, the program enables organizations that otherwise could not afford to hire MBA student interns to benefit from students’ expertise. The SIF has supported more than 170 students, distributed nearly $520,000, and helped to further the mission of many nonprofit and government organizations. Funds are raised through student fundraising and from donors who believe in the mission of the program. If you would like to contribute, you can donate online using your credit card.