Robertson Scholars Alumni

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  • Travis Crayton Program Year: 2013
  • Travis Crayton

    UNC, Class of 2013
    Hometown: Mt. Pleasant, NC
    High School: Mt. Pleasant High School
    Area of Study: Political Science, Pubic Policy, History

    Travis Crayton holds a B.A. in public policy and political science from UNC-Chapel Hill. He currently works at the Duke Clinical Research Institute with a group of health services researchers studying the quality, costs, and ethics of health care delivery. He has personal and professional interests in many areas of public policy and is especially interested in the intersection of public health and urban planning. In his spare time, he serves as an editor for, a local political blog covering municipal politics and policy in Orange County, North Carolina.

  • Henry Feng
  • Henry Feng

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Sydney, Australia
    High School: Cranbrook School

    Academic Interests: I major in Evolutionary Anthropology, with a concentration in Behavior, Ecology, and Cognition. I also minor in Latin and Chemistry. I’m primarily interested in the biological framework underpinning the human condition. Other interests include classics, bioengineering, space exploration, and education.

    Extracurriculars/Hobbies: In my spare time, I like to read, take photographs, listen to music, and eat out with my friends. Some of my favorite books include The Shadow of the Wind, Norwegian Wood, and Tuesdays with Morrie. I’m a big fan of basketball too, and I support the Duke Blue Devils and the Los Angeles Lakers. Finally, I’ve played the clarinet for almost a decade now, and love Aaron Copland’s music.

    On campus, I’m involved in several things. I’m an executive in the International Association, a member of Peer For You, and a volunteer at Duke Health and Hillcrest Convalescent Center. In the past, I’ve been involved in the Duke University Wind Symphony, Scale and Coin business society, Admissions Ambassadors Program, and Duke Lemur Center. I also do anthropological research for the Boyer Lab.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? There is an emphasis that the Robertson is not a reward, but an investment. When I interviewed for the Robertson, I realized that there was a powerful vision behind the program. It was validated by Mr. Julian Robertson himself, when he told me that he expected us to lead and seize the future. The program places great trust in each scholar, but provides flexibility in shaping each individual path. It offers a world-class education at two schools and a unique but passionate community of thinkers.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?  If there’s one thing the Robertson is famous for, it’s the fact that we’re always put in “uncomfortable” situations. We actively seek the uncomfortable, are bold and flexible in our approaches, and are open-minded about all the possibilities that exist. The Robertson has empowered me to seek non-traditional intersections of academic fields, and provided me with the support to achieve those goals. It’s taught me so much, about how to be a better leader, listener, thinker, and most importantly, a person.

    Favorite Robertson Memory: I can’t really pinpoint a single moment. I feel like every moment I spend with the staff and with the scholars is something else. Some highlights include exploring the French Quarter and listening to jazz in New Orleans for Community Summer, working in China and eating delicious food with two other scholars the following summer, and making some of my best friends at college through the program.

  • Kyra Exterovich-Rubin
  • Kyra Exterovich-Rubin

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin
    High School: Middleton High School
    Academic Interests: Public policy, criminal justice, women’s studies, applied ethics, climate studies, human geography, and political economics.
    Extracurriculars / Hobbies: Campus activism (via the Campus Y and J Street U), Carolina Kickoff, Criminal Justice Awareness and Action, writing, dancing, baking poorly, singing debatably less poorly, and crying during ASPCA commercials.

    Background and interests: I’m proud to hail from the capital of America’s Dairyland, Madison, Wisconsin — go badgers! Oftentimes Wisconsin gets written off as unimportant or uninteresting, but my philosophy for people is the same as for places: every person and every place has a story, and is therefore important. I learned this from growing up in a big, beautiful, crazy, mixed up family where it was clear that no one read the baby books and everyone was learning along the way. My mother (and a strong single mother at that) was a public school special education teacher whose programs were underfunded and whose students were written off by administrators; my father owned a landscaping business with no college degree and taught me that no one else can define my success story besides me. It was from these roots that sprung my passion for people, stories, social and economic equity, and the policies that affect all three. That is what drives my activism on campus and is also why I am deeply passionate about mass incarceration reform as well as Israeli-Palestinian relations.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program?  I am in love with the idea of investing in people. I also love the idea of investing in those who have the potential to do great things together in collaboration instead of alone in competition. The Robertson Program does both. I was immediately drawn by the program’s commitment to catalyzing change through bringing together an inspiring group of young leaders that are supported by an amazing staff — a staff that continually pushes scholars to think critically and differently about the world around them. From the collaboration between UNC and Duke to the summer experiences to the cohort of scholars itself, there is no other program quite like the Robertson Program.

  • Emmie Granbery Chen Program Year: 2007
  • Emmie Granbery Chen

    UNC, Class of 2007
    Hometown: Nashville, TN
    High School: Harpeth Hall
    Area of Study: Environmental Science, Mathematics, Environmental Engineering

    After graduating from Harpeth Hall in 2003, Emmie attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) and Duke University as a Robertson Scholar. She graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Mathematics from UNC-Chapel Hill in May 2007. Following graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill, Emmie attended the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Georgia where she received a M.S. degree in Environmental Engineering in May 2009. Since her graduation from Georgia Tech, Emmie has worked for Geosyntec Consultants, an international engineering consulting firm with over 900 employees, as an environmental engineer in Geosyntec’s Atlanta, Georgia office. Emmie works with both private and public sector clients to help them address a wide variety of complex environmental problems. The majority of her work has focused on the characterization and remediation of large contaminated sites regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?  The Robertson Program gave me the opportunities to travel to several developing countries and see first-hand the effects that environmental degradation can have on the communities that depend on local natural resources for survival. While I entered college knowing that I wanted a career in engineering, it was these experiences abroad that led me to pursue a career in environmental engineering.

  • What does being a Robertson mean to you? It means I'm supposed to act on my passions and rise to the challenge of doing good / impacting the lives of others along the way. Being a Robertson has trained me to make "doing good" a natural part of my life, not something that seems like a task or obligation.

  • Chaya Bhat
  • Chaya Bhat

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Tampa, FL
    High School: T.R Robinson High School

    Home entails an entirely unique and personal meaning in Tampa Bay. Not only where I was born and raised, it is also the place where I began the lifelong journey of self discovery, developing a love for dance, music, and sunny beaches. However, loving my city includes recognizing and addressing some of the tough issues that it faces. I was horrified to learn about the prevalence of teen homelessness within my community and felt determined to shed light on this “invisible issue”. I found a voice through the city’s Mayor’s Youth Corps and Leadership Council where I worked extensively with my peers to launch an awareness campaign involving students, schools, and several other organizations.

    My journey of self discovery is often shaped by new adventures, one of which involved joining my school’s lacrosse team. Being a part of a team instilled in me a deep appreciation not only for an athlete’s individual skill, but also for a team’s ability to work cohesively and selflessly to win a game. I value my experiences on the field as some of the most influential in shaping my character and tenacity. Off the field, I embraced a passion for female empowerment through co-founding Ophelia, an all-girls service club in which we developed a mentoring program for local middle school girls. My candid and seemingly mundane conversations with these girls taught me more than I could have imagined about the importance of consistent peer interactions and the power of language in mirroring my actions and beliefs.

    Academically, I am fascinated by a wide and eclectic array of subject matter. I intend to focus on Chemistry, Women and Gender Studies, and Economics. Ultimately, I hope that my undergraduate experience will lead me a to a career where I can give back to a community as much as mine gave to me.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The Robertson Scholar’s Program stood out to me primarily because of the unique academic resources it provides access to. However, just as importantly, the program fosters a vibrant and diverse family of thinkers who are united by one trait, passion. As an extrovert, I thrive on peer interaction and believe that the most influential change can be catalyzed by conversation and collaboration; something I hope to do with my fellow scholars. The program appeals to both my academic and adventurous side as it challenges me to grow as a student, leader, and global citizen.

  • Daniel Houghton Program Year: 2009
  • Daniel Houghton

    Duke, Class of 2009
    Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
    High School: Auckland Grammar School
    Area of Study: Economics

    Daniel Houghton is an “old boy” of Auckland Grammar School in Auckland, New Zealand. His long-standing interest in the field of economics was piqued by the opportunities allowed to him through his Robertson summers. This involved traveling to South Africa to research cellphone banking, working with the New Zealand Institute to determine long-term infrastructure aspirations for his home country, and spending time in Vietnam with public-private partnerships in the telecommunications sector. These experiences led Daniel to write his Economics senior thesis on the impact of telecommunications on economic development, earning him Honors with High Distinction at graduation.

    His passions also lie outside the classroom – throughout his four years Daniel was fully involved with the Duke University Rugby Club, captaining them on the field while also serving in the club’s executive. His first summer was spent with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, where he spent time swinging hammers to rebuild homes after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. In his senior year, he also helped to manage Rival Magazine, a joint Duke-UNC publication.

    Having always been business-oriented, Daniel took up an internship at Bain & Company, a management consulting firm, after returning from Vietnam in his final summer. Having thoroughly enjoyed the challenges this experience offered, he accepted a full-time job with the firm. Daniel currently lives in San Francisco and works as an Engagement Manager at Quid, Inc, a private computer software company.

  • Adam Yoffie Program Year: 2006
  • Adam Yoffie

    Duke, Class of 2006
    Hometown: Westfield, NJ
    High School: Westfield High School
    Area of Study: Political Science, Oral History Certificate

    Adam Yoffie entered Duke as a Robertson Scholar in the fall of 2002. Growing up in a committed Jewish home with strong ties to Israel, he was eager to get involved in Israeli advocacy on campus and joined the recently founded student group Duke Friends of Israel (DFI). Adam served as vice president for political affairs during his sophomore year, working with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington to help build a stronger pro-Israel presence on campus. He also navigated the group through Duke Student Government’s charter process, which enabled DFI to become an officially recognized student organization with a university-funded budget. He was elected president during his junior year and spearheaded the student response to the Palestinian Solidarity Movement’s Fall 2005 National Conference held at Duke. His activities, including writing op-ed articles, appearing on the radio, and bringing speakers to campus, combined with his passion for politics and commitment to Israel, turned DFI into an activist force on campus.

    In the summer between junior and senior year, Adam interned at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, North Carolina. Adam worked with the non-profit, post-conviction law firm on its political campaign for a two-year moratorium on executions. With a desire to share some of what he learned with the Duke community, Adam brought an exonerated death row inmate to campus to speak to students, faculty, and religious leaders about his experiences with the North Carolina judicial system.

    During his senior year, Adam turned his focus to the Chronicle, Duke’s daily student newspaper. Working as a bi-weekly student columnist, he covered topics ranging from student politics and academic advising to fraternity life and the Duke lacrosse scandal.
    Adam graduated summa cum laude in May 2006 and won a Fulbright Research Fellowship to Israel. He moved to Jerusalem and entered an intensive Hebrew language program at Hebrew University’s Mt. Scopus campus. Following the completion of the ulpan, he divided his time between Hadassah’s Braun School of Public Health and the Jerusalem Open House (JOH). Adam conducted research for Dr. Ronny Shtarkshall on the knowledge and attitudes of primary care physicians in East and West Jerusalem towards the health needs of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered (LGBT) Community. He also wrote proposals and secured grants for JOH to open Jerusalem’s first LGBT health clinic and directed a support group for English-speaking LGBT immigrants to Israel.

    Adam spent a year in Israel on a Fulbright fellowship followed by a year on Capitol Hill. He then attended Yale Law School and has spent the past two years clerking for federal judges in Philadelphia and Trenton. He will be starting as a third-year associate at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C. in fall 2013.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? The Robertson Program summer internships introduced me to innovative social service and law programs that have continued to shape me in my development as a young lawyer.

  • Catalina Berenblum
  • Catalina Berenblum

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Miami, FL
    High School: American Heritage School

    Academic Interests: Majors: Political Science, Evolutionary Anthropology Minor: Chemistry Pre-Medicine

    Extracurriculars/Hobbies: Carolina International Relations Association, Secretary General for College Model UN Conference at UNC, Graphic Design for The Internationalist

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? Of all of the scholarship programs I researched, the Robertson Program truly seemed like the best in equipping its Scholars to be contributing members of society. Attending public schools throughout elementary and middle school, switching over to an academic scholarship at a private high school, I saw the benefits of both a public and private education, a duality I saw only in the Robertson Program. Additionally, I absolutely loved the idea that Scholars were encouraged to go beyond their comfort zones, and the dedication the program has to public service, in tandem with leadership and personal development is a truly remarkable combination. Finalist Weekend truly solidified the idea that the Robertson Program creates a community of students who all support and aid each other, in spite of often competing campuses or differences.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? My experience with the Program has shaped my goals immensely. Although I’ve always been interested in Political Science and Russian Politics, meeting program alumni as well as having discussions with my peers made me realize that I was not passionate about these issues. My experiences as part of the program have made me realize that I should commit myself to something I am truly passionate about in order to create the most impact. This realization resulted in my transition from solely a Political Science major to being Pre-Medicine, as medicine and healthcare reform are two issues I am very concerned with.

    Favorite Robertson Memory: Watching a UNC basketball game in the office during my first year while all of our finalists watched a comedy show upstairs.

  • Hannah Godefa
  • Hannah Godefa

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Addis Ababa, Etheopia
    High School: St. Elizabeth Catholic High School

    Academic Interests: Political Science (Major) Computer Science, Visual Arts

    Extracurriculars/Hobbies: Volunteering, Skiing, Cycling, Painting/Ceramics

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? Interdisciplinary learning and supportive faculty and staff all contributed to my interest. The promise that I would always be challenged to strive for better in both academically and culturally made the Robertson a perfect fit.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? This program has encouraged me to look beyond my framework of academic interests that at first may not appear to be related: counterterrorism law and policy, computer science and machine learning – and connect them to create innovative solutions for various world challenges. My work with United Nations Children’s Fund in East Africa has driven a pursuit of learning more about the effects of conflict on vulnerable migrant populations. I have been able to implement this at Duke – tutoring refugee students through Kenan Institute of Ethics and writing for Juris Undergrad Law Review. I am also a part of Nasher MUSE, an group that bridges the gap between the Nasher Museum and students through exhibitions and events.
    Favorite Robertson memory: A trip to a blueberry farm Mississippi during Community Summer in New Orleans.
  • Forest Cummings-Taylor
  • Forest Cummings-Taylor

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Dallas, TX
    High School: St. Mark’s School of Texas

    My life has been about pursuing moments of great contentment. Since the day I finished Steinbeck’s “Tortilla Flat,” I have pursued that gentle thud of a closing book—those fleeting seconds after the story is finished and the world is clear. Since the days when I watched “12 Angry Men” and “Interstellar” somewhere between the hours of 12AM and 4AM, I have pursued the loaded silence of a sleeping house and a TV, muted, rolling credits for names I would probably never think of again. And since the day I took my first derivative, also between the hours of 12AM and 4AM, I have pursued the moment of understanding—the moment of replicating a great proof, or finally seeing all the aspects, minute and macro, of a physical system. If I had to choose one moment to live over again for the rest of my life, it would be those seconds of new knowledge during a lecture, those new explanations in a textbook—the life of a student. My goals, for now at least, involve the life I see as most closely approximating that of a student—the life of a professor. I hope one day to teach physics and mathematics at a University.

    Luckily, there has been no shortage of moments of contentment thus far. I was lucky enough to be involved in organizations such as the Philosophy Club—a “Dead Poets Society”-esque discussion group meeting on campus long after school let out—the STEM Conference—a chance to spread the gospel of science and mathematics—and the Brendan Court Program—a chance to teach science to middle schoolers in downtown Dallas. All this to say: while I want to change the world, I never want to forget to be silent and appreciate those moments when it shows its beautiful side.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? To me, the Robertson Program was a chance to have a family on a large campus. Duke is a small school by some standards, but it still can be a bit overwhelming to have nearly 2,000 other freshmen in your class alone. Beyond that, the people in the Robertson Program—students and administrators alike—seemed driven, capable, and fascinating. Some of the most successful people I have ever met are Robertsons—current and former. I wanted to spend the next four years with people like that—people who, cumulatively, constructed an environment similar to those of past great intellectual endeavors—à la Oppenheimer’s Institute for Advanced Study.

  • Andy Cunningham Program Year: 2008
  • Andy Cunningham

    Duke, Class of 2008
    Hometown: Rutland, VT
    High School: Rutland High School
    Academic Interests: International and Comparative Studies, Chinese

    Until his sophomore year of high school, Andy wanted to be a weatherman. But after witnessing the decrepit conditions of a rural school in southern China as a participant of the Experiment in International Living Program, he returned to his native Vermont wanting to learn more about children’s rights and education at home and abroad.

    Andy enrolled at Duke University as a Robertson Scholar to explore this idea of “translational learning” – taking what students learn in the classroom and applying it to the real world. Whether it was teaching 6th grade students as part of Breakthrough Collaborative in New Orleans during his first Robertson Summer, or volunteering as an English teacher at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity orphanage in Calcutta during his second Robertson Summer, Andy began to realize the power of educational movements starting from the ground up rather than from the top down.

    After completing a class assignment at Duke where Andy co-authored a textbook about gender and education in Kenya, he was invited by his professor to present his work with her colleague at Egerton University in Kenya, Dr. Rose Odhiambo. After presenting, Dr. Odhiambo invited Andy to her home village, Muhuru Bay. There, Andy learned that in the last 20 years, no girl from the existing coeducational secondary school had passed the college entrance exam, while boys do so each year. After building a community partnership, two years of fundraising, and countless hours of strategic planning, Andy co-founded the Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research (WISER) in 2006 as the first all-girls secondary boarding school and community center in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. While living out of a mud hut in rural Kenya, he served as WISER’s inaugural Executive Director until 2010. Andy has since been asked to serve as an international education consultant with the World Bank, World Learning, UNICEF, the Education Venture Fund in Cameroon, Tanzania and Kenya.

    He is the recipient of the Truman Scholarship and the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Award and was named one of the 100 ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ at St. Gallen’s Symposium in Switzerland in 2012. He has been featured at the UN Youth Assembly, Global Issues Network in Geneva and as a commencement speaker at Rutland High School and the International School of Luxembourg. He is currently a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University pursuing his PhD in Comparative International Education, studying school-based participatory assessments of quality education in Kenya through the use of mobile phone-based technologies. In his spare time, he loves eating Ben and Jerry’s, rowing (and coxing) at Oxford, and mountain biking.

  • Wilson Guo
  • Wilson Guo

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Moscow, ID
    High School: Moscow Senior High School

    Academic Interests: Health Policy and Management, Chemistry, Global Health, Environmental Health

    Extracurriculars / Hobbies: Research (mainly in water, sanitation, and hygiene and infectious diseases), US-China relations, hiking, cooking, reading

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The incredible staff and resources, the tight-knit community of inquisitive Scholars, and the unparalleled summer and academic opportunities are just a few of the many reasons the RSLP appealed to me. I remember the program was described as “not a reward for past accomplishments, but rather an investment for the future.” As a unique program that offers a well-rounded education at two world-class universities, along with three funded summers, the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program drew me in with its unlimited potential to grow both as a student and as a person.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? On campus, I have met some of the most amazing people through the Robertson Program. Fortunately, several have become close friends, and they continuously push me to think critically on my goals while providing unwavering support and encouragement. Off campus, I have had three amazing summers ranging areas from rural Appalachia to China to Switzerland. These summer experiences have allowed me pursue various academic and professional interests, and have given me a chance to reflect on my personal values and goals.

    Favorite Robertson moment: My Community Summer in Kentucky. Living with the other scholars in the town of Whitesburg was both incredibly unique and formative. The road trips, house dinners, and the people I met have all made for a summer that I cannot forget. I often think back to the experience and reflect on how it has defined and shaped me as an individual.

  • Parker Woltz Mackie Program Year: 2008
  • Parker Woltz Mackie

    UNC, Class of 2008
    Hometown: Mount Airy, NC
    High School: Episcopal High School
    Area of Study: Business Administration, Creative Writing (Fiction)

    As a Robertson Scholar, Parker crafted a unique educational experience that combined international work and study experiences in the US, Argentina, China, and South Africa with on-campus learning at both UNC-CH and Duke University.  Upon her graduation in 2008, Parker joined the Strategy and Operations practice of Deloitte Consulting.  As a Business Analyst and Consultant, she worked with clients in diverse industries on some of their toughest business issues.  Outside of client work, Parker pursued her passion for education by launching an initiative that connects Deloitte practitioners across the country with at risk high school students.

    In 2011, Parker joined Pencils of Promise, a high growth non-profit that creates educational opportunities for underserved students in the developing world.  As a Strategy Fellow, Parker led the organization’s expansion efforts into Nicaragua.

    Parker matriculated at Harvard Business School in August 2011.  While at HBS, Parker discovered her passion for advancing female leaders.  She was selected as a Rock Fellow to support a summer internship experience with a female-led start-up company.  In this capacity, Parker helped the CEO and Founder to define her target market and orient the company toward effectively serving the consumer.

    In her second year at HBS, Parker was elected President of the Women’s Student Association.  She led the 600 member organization during the school’s celebration of 50 years of women in the full time MBA program.  Parker graduated as a Baker Scholar and received the Dean’s Award for leadership in service of the school and society.  Parker is currently a Senior Consultant at Deloitte Consulting, and serves on the HBS Women’s Student Association Alumnae Board.

  • Mia King
  • Mia King

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Seattle, WA
    High School: Lakeside School

    Academic Interests: Computer Science Major / Economics Minor / Sociology Minor

    Extracurriculars / Hobbies: Duke Business Oriented Women, Writer for the Bridge, Student Representative on the Hate & Bias Committee, Vice President and Program Chair of my Sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Baldwin Scholar

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? I was first drawn to the Robertson Program by its promise to surround me with scholars who had strikingly different interests from me which they were equally passionate about.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? The Robertson has given me the tools and freedom to be able to successfully explore my goals and career bath and give myself the time to really figure out what I want to do.

  • Lauren McAlee Program Year: 2006
  • Lauren McAlee

    UNC, Class of 2006
    Hometown: Warren, NJ
    High School: Watchung Hills Regional High School
    Area of Study: Philosophy, Public Policy Analysis (Education Policy)

    Lauren fell in love with education policy in high school as the voting student member of the Maryland State Board of Education. Immersed in decisions like whether to reconstitute low-performing schools to how to prevent harassment of LGBTQ students, she got a taste of issues too interesting and important to forget. Once at UNC, she stayed connected to education policy in and out of the classroom, majoring in Education Policy, tutoring low-income students in Chapel Hill, lobbying the university through the UNC Honors Program Student Executive Board, and initiating a series of multi-disciplinary workshops for high schoolers in the Durham Scholars Program. The Robertson Program also allowed her access to excellent education policy work at Duke University, where she assisted with research for the Center for Child and Family Policy.

    The Robertson staff and programs pushed Lauren to explore education in unfamiliar forms and locales. After her freshman year, she planned and executed a summer enrichment program for young girls in the Mississippi Delta. The next summer, she ventured to India, where she taught English to young women in the foothills of the Himalayas. Finally, inspired by her first Robertson summer, she received a Burch Fellowship to return to Mississippi for a full semester, where she founded a successful youth advocacy program for high school students.

    Meanwhile, back at UNC, Lauren had met a second love – philosophy. After taking an introductory ethics class, Lauren became interested in a central question of moral psychology, pursuing classes that allowed her to explore and write about this idea from various angles. Although she had no idea how moral philosophy could fit in with education policy, the Robertson Program enabled her to discover intersections between her two interests. In her third summer, Lauren journeyed to seven very different places to interview individuals ranging from artists on a commune in West Virginia to high school students in the Colorado Rockies to a sadhu in Rishikesh, India. All of these people lived dramatically different lives, but had found things which fulfilled them deeply. Lauren probed for commonalities in their experiences, which allowed her to write a piece of original philosophy as her senior thesis. To some, it may seem this journey took her a long way from education. To Lauren, it seems like a powerful starting place for a career in education – a deep understanding of the kind of lives we want students to lead.

    Since graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 2006, Lauren has worked towards education reform on several fronts. As an intern for Teaching for Change, she helped ensure access to high-quality, multi-cultural children’s books. Through teaching in dramatically different settings, including an alternative high school in Camden, New Jersey, a private pre-school, and an economically and ethnically diverse public school in Georgetown, As a kindergarten teacher in D. C. Public Schools, she led her school’s Vertical Alignment Team, wrote district curriculum and assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards for the Common Core Reading Corps and the D. C. Collaborative for Change, and facilitated Professional Development for teachers across the district. Lauren has been recognized as a Highly Effective teacher under D.C.’s rigorous IMPACT Evaluation System, and was named as a Distinguished Teacher, the highest stage available on the District’s LIFT Career Ladder in 2012. She holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from George Mason University and received a Truman Scholarship for exceptional leadership potential.

    She now works as a Literacy Coordinator for the District of Columbia Public Schools supporting Common Core aligned curriculum and professional development. Outside of the classroom, she loves conscious dance, connecting with family and friends, and tending her small farm in the Allegheny Mountains.

  • Noah Mancuso
  • Noah Mancuso

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Vienna, WV
    High School: Parkersburg High School

    Academic Interests: Majors: Chemistry, Global Health – Minor: Biology

    Extracurriculars / Hobbies: Carolina Jump Rope Club, PERIOD., UNC Circle K, Beyond the Clinic Walls, UNC Hospital Volunteer, UNC Student Government, Club Cross Country, Triangle Global Health Consortium

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The Robertson Program drew me in because of its sense of community – it’s not just a scholarship. We are a group of like-minded young scholars who are provided with mentorship and counseling while being constantly pushed to our limits in order to develop us into the next generation of leaders. The unique program also combines two of the world’s top institutions to provide us with all the resources and networking we could possibly need to be successful. I love that it gives us the opportunity to give back during our first summer experience, and also allows us to have the freedom to travel abroad.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? The Robertson Program has given me a diverse network of students and faculty with whom I can discuss future goals and career plans. They have helped me think about what I actually want to do in life, and also made me feel more comfortable in accepting the fact that its okay to not know for sure. After sophomore semester switch, I discovered the global health program at Duke and have become really excited to explore this field – something I wouldn’t have had just studying at UNC. I have especially enjoyed our various dinners with UNC and Duke faculty, because I have been able to learn about unique career paths and unexpected journeys many people take.

    Favorite Robertson moment: My favorite Robertson moment occurred during my community summer in New Orleans. All the scholars from Mississippi came and stayed with those of us in NOLA during the Fourth of July weekend. We got to show them around the city and share with each other the unique experiences we had at our respective jobs. On the night of July 4th, we all ate dinner together and then went to watch the fireworks on the Mississippi River. During the fireworks show I realized how lucky I was to be a part of this community – sitting on the rocks by the river, in absolutely beautiful weather, surrounded by amazing people, in one of the coolest cities in the world. That night, and the entire community summer experience, is definitely something that I will look back on and cherish forever.

  • The Robertson Program took me down a journey of gathering more experiences in 4 years than I could have ever imagined. I co-led a team researching poverty in India, I taught science in New Orleans, I studied product design in Sweden, I took courses in economics, creative writing and jazz at UNC. The Robertson Program propelled me towards four years of garnering dots all over the globe. Many connections have already been made and I know that many more are yet to come.

  • Madeline Walter Program Year: 2007
  • Madeline Walter

    UNC, Class of 2007
    Hometown: Maplewood, NJ
    High School: Columbia High School
    Area of Study: English, Folklore

    Madeline has always been a drama queen. She spent her childhood and high school years obsessed with theatre, always on stage in a play. She came to college and vowed to engage in more “serious” things, studying public policy.

    Even these interests brought her back to the arts. She became interested in documentary filmmaking, spending her first Robertson Summer working at Appalshop, a media arts center in Southeastern Kentucky. There, she made a short documentary film about the coal mining industry, which is still used by the grassroots group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and was screened at several film festivals back in Durham. Madeline also worked with Students of the World, a campus documentary organization, to produce Insight, a joint Duke/UNC Student Documentary Festival. She also traveled internationally with Students of the World to document the rising HIV/AIDS epidemic.

    Madeline missed theater, however and she missed her former academic passion, English- so, going into her junior year of college, Madeline made the decision to change her major to English and reinvest in the theatre. She discovered that theatre is more relevant than she thought, participating first in The Vagina Monologues and then in an original group piece about water democracy in the developing world.

    Madeline went on to work on several plays in the Dramatic Art Department at UNC and to write her own original play, Mary Brigit Poppleton Is Writing a Memoir. This play won UNC’s prestigious Sam Selden Award for playwriting, and went on to be produced at UNC her senior year. After graduating in 2007, Madeline went on to produce Mary Brigit in the New York International Fringe Festival in New York City. It was one of twelve plays selected to move onto the Fringe Encore Festival, and most recently, it was performed at the Community College of Rhode Island.

    In 2007-2008, Madeline served as a Robertson Fellow, working primarily in selection for the Robertson Scholars Program. She loved working “behind the scenes” at the Program, and was so thankful for the opportunity to give back in a small way to the program that empowered her to be a leader of her own life. She also had the opportunity to take on some exciting personal projects, such as collaborating with a group of women at Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abuse (TROSA) to write and perform their own play, as well as assisting director Raelle Myrick Hodges in a production of Topdog/Underdog at the Playmakers Repertory Theater.

    Madeline is currently an actress, writer, and comedian living in Los Angeles. She performs improv regularly at the famed United Citizens Brigade Theatre. Her original solo show, “I’m Doing Great!” ran for 6 months at the UCB Theatre and was performed at the Comedy Central Stage and the San Francisco Sketchfest. Madeline can also be seen on episodes of Showtime’s Weeds, CBS’s The Defenders, and Fox Sports/Fuel TV’s The Daily Habit.

  • Rachael Murtagh
  • Rachael Murtagh

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Hampshire, England
    High School: Lord Wandsworth College

    Academic Interests: I’m double majoring in Mechanical Engineering and German, and have strong interests in business and consulting. I’m excited to combine my interests at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill.

    Extracurriculars/Hobbies: Leadership and Guard for Alpha Delta Pi – Omicron Chapter, Chair of Duke University Union’s Downtown Duke Committee, Member of the Model-UN Competing Away Team, Women’s Wellness and Leadership Initiative participant, Smart Women Securities, Accenture Consulting Challenge. I love traveling and am always eager to dive in.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is an opportunity like no other. It provides a unique community of like-minded people who seek to make the world a better place. The Robertson Program gives you more than just full tuition, summer experiences, networking opportunities, access to two excellent institutions and experience beyond the classroom. This scholarship provides you with a ‘family’ who will support you throughout your journey, providing encouragement and advice. I have loved my adventures with my Robertson family and can only imagine what we can achieve together and where we will lead each other in the future.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? The Robertson Program has helped me understand that by putting myself through many vast and challenging experiences outside of my career path, I will be preparing myself all the better for my future. The dynamic summer activities I undertake are a perfect example!

    Favorite Robertson Memory: I spent my Community Summer in Cleveland, MS, with 8 other scholars. My favourite moment was an impromptu trip to Memphis, TN to greet the last house-share scholars to arrive. They had been delayed and were unable to make it to MS as expected, so a group of us decided to drive up to meet them and explore Memphis together. We had a great time as we celebrated Kyra’s birthday and walked through the city finding murals. This was the first of many spontaneous road-trips we took together, as we explored new places and got to know each other on deeper levels. Marge, our affectionately named minivan, shared many a defining moment with us. The following weekend we returned to Memphis as a whole house as we really begin to gain a deeper understanding of the culture and history of the American South. We visited Graceland, Stax, and the National Civil Rights Museum, as well as tasting authentic Southern barbeque.

  • Visrut Sudhakar
  • Visrut Sudhakar

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Cary, NC
    High School: William G. Enloe High School

    There is a powerful scene in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, when Michael Caine solemnly recites the words of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to the crew of the Endurance. “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light”. With life comes a sense of adventure, and a determination to achieve more than what has been accomplished before. Everything I do is an attempt to set out on that adventure, and change the world around me for the better. Many times, people shy away from tackling big challenges because they lack the tools to implement a solution, but as I self-proclaimed member of the vibrant maker community I seriously studied programming in hopes of realizing my dreams of helping people through technology. Technology, especially in this day and age, gives us both the proverbial duct tape and more permanent nails to build the world. Studying computer science gives me a unique paradigm with which to view other subjects of study, literature suddenly appears less abstract while history reveals itself as a reference guide to shaping the future of our country, and the art of algorithms itself sometimes provides a zen-like guide to efficiently solving problems I face in my own life.

    In contrast to the efficient, elegant processes found in technology, I ardently pursue music to expand my imagine and exploration. Carnatic music, my number one passion in life, almost purely relies on creativity and the capacity to discover knowledge for oneself. While practicing the mridangam is often rigorous and grueling, each session is an adventure unto itself on the quest to become a better musician. Somehow I have managed to find a blend of both of these halves in an organization that has since become my most involved work, FIRST – “for the inspiration of science technology”. Founded by Dean Kamen, FIRST exists to get kids involved in STEM so that they can build the future, through the celebration of science and technology kids are encouraged to pursue their innovation, education, and communication to build amazing robots which compete in a “varsity sport of the mind”. In college I plan to delve deeper into these subjects by studying computer science, physics, and music.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is unlike anything I could imagine, but what intrigued me the most was the opportunity to travel and engage with different cultures. From my incredibly diverse group of fellow Scholars, to the first year summer spent serving the community in parts of the United States I have never been exposed to, RSLP seemed to promise the rare opportunity to explore the world with a great group of friends. The allure of taking risks and trying new things with the support of a fantastic program made me feel as though I could discard my comfort zone and truly become a leader. Additionally, by becoming a dual scholar at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke, I have been able to fulfill my life-long dream of acquiring student IDs at the three major universities in the Research Triangle Area in order to avail enticing student discounts such as free t-shirts.

  • Zack Beasley Program Year: 2005
  • Zack Beasley

    UNC, Class of 2005
    Hometown: Columbia, SC
    High School: A.C. Flora High School
    Area of Study: History, Political Science

    Zack Beasley spent his first Robertson Summer working with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department in Columbia, South Carolina. He worked with school resource officers to hold character education and leadership camps for rising sixth graders in the county’s school districts. During his second Robertson Summer, Zack volunteered as a soccer coach with Sports Coaches’ Outreach in Cape Town, South Africa, where he worked with kids of all ages in townships surrounding the city.

    During his time at the University of North Carolina, Zack developed an interest in Eastern European history. He pursued this interest during his third Robertson Summer when he went to Prague and conducted an oral history project examining the role of Radio Free Europe in the former Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. Upon returning to UNC, Zack wrote an honors thesis on the effects of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and other international incidents on the American presidential election of that year.

    After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, Zack attended law school at the University of Texas in Austin. There, he was an editor of the Texas Law Review and graduated with high honors in 2008. Upon graduation, Zack accepted a one-year clerkship in Jackson, Mississippi with a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Zack is currently a senior associate in the Securities Department and a member of the Securities Litigation and Enforcement Practice Group at WilmerHale in Washington, DC.

  • Jagir Patel Program Year: 2013
  • Jagir Patel

    UNC, Class of 2013
    Hometown: Delray Beach, Florida
    High School: Atlantic Community High School
    Area of Study: Religious Studies, Education

    Jagir Patel is currently a graduate student at Harvard Graduate School of Education (Ed.M. ’14, Education Policy and Management) engaged in a multi-disciplinary approach to examine contemporary issues in public education. He graduated with highest honors and highest distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor of arts in religious studies and from Duke University with a minor in education and teaching license in May 2013. He hails from Boynton Beach, Florida and currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is a proud Tar Devil and avid admirer of Carolina blue.

    At UNC-Chapel Hill, Jagir was passionate about helping organizations convey their social justice missions in creative and meaningful ways, particularly in his role as co-president of the Campus Y, UNC’s center for social justice. In college, he also served as a Resident Advisor in Cobb Residence Hall, as a counselor for Carolina Kickoff, as the director of UNC’s Holi Moli, as a co-chair for the Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Outreach committee of UNC’s Executive Branch of Student Government, and as a member of the UNC Undergraduate Honor Court.

    Jagir’s academic focuses range from religious studies to education policy to journalism and media studies. He spent his Robertson summers teaching in the Mississippi Delta, learning more about participatory and sustainable community development in rural Sierra Leone, and interning with Al Jazeera English in Washington, DC.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?  My Robertson experience has exponentially enhanced my leadership ability and furthered my management potential. Through the Robertson Program, I have developed my moral compass and ability to be an active social change agent. I am indebted to the Robertson community for fostering my understanding of positive impact in the context of teaching and learning.

  • Elina Rodriguez
  • Elina Rodriguez

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Tampa, FL
    High School: Hillsborough High School

    I’ve always been incredibly interested and captivated by telling stories. Right now that means hopefully double majoring in English and Journalism, and minoring in Writing for the Screen and Stage. In the past I’ve worked for and led a newspaper staff, a sketch comedy group, and tried my hand at videography and photography. My strengths lie in English and history, but I’ve always enjoyed anatomy. I thrive when I’m busy– whether that means swim team and honor council, or improv and art. I love volunteering especially when that entails opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I’ve enjoyed working with organizations that concern themselves primarily with hunger, but I am passionate about education, especially as a means to work towards gender parity.

    I’m a huge bibliophile and I love to bake. My favorite hobby is probably making people laugh. I also love movies, TV and sharing my favorite movies and TV shows with friends.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? To be frank, the incredible cohort that comprises the Robertson Program was what drew me to the program and terrified me most. I wanted to immerse myself in an environment where I would be uncomfortable because I want to grow and to change. I was hooked by possibility of being surrounded by like-minded peers, and colleagues equally impassioned to foster positive change. I was enamored with the prospect of being with peers who would push me and support me to lead and to serve.The opportunities afforded to Scholars within the program, domestically, and internationally were also very compelling. I considered joining other programs also dedicated to service and leadership, but no other programs matched Robertson’s resources or desire to catalyze change.

  • Sreya Atluri
  • Sreya Atluri

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Centreville, VA
    High School: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

    Academic Interests: Majors: B.S. Business Administration and Economics; Minor: Entrepreneurship

    Extracurriculars/Hobbies: I’ve always been drawn to the idea of making a difference in the community, and am the CEO and Founder of Creating Awareness in Research and Education (CARE) and a former Executive Director for Growth and Inspiration through Volunteering and Education (GIVE), both non-profit organizations striving to address educational disparities across varying socioeconomic dimensions. I’m currently studying abroad through Kenan-Flagler’s GLOBE Program, where I’ll be spending a semester at Copenhagen Business School, followed by a semester at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, further developing my passion for international business and serving as the Alumni Relations/Professional Development Chair.

    I’ve pursued my interests on campus through being involved as Director of Robertson Community Coordinators, Student Government Executive Branch’s Cabinet as Chair of Student Programming & Outreach, as well as in numerous business school organizations, including as Vice-President of Communications on the Operations Club Executive Team, Director of Internal Development on the International Business Executive Board, an Analyst for the Portfolio Management Team, and an Ambassador for the Undergraduate Business Ambassadors. I’ve really enjoyed serving as Treasurer on the International Relations Association Executive Board and Director of Finance & Sponsorships on the American Mock World Health Organization Executive Board, as well as a Strategic Consultant for the Kenan-Flagler Business School and an At-Large Representative for the Student Stores Advisory Board. I’m involved with community service, business, leadership, entrepreneurship, and STEM, and enjoy classical Indian dance and music!

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? I was drawn, and continue to be fascinated by, the Robertson Program because of the incredibly motivated, dedicated, and enthusiastic people. The Robertson Program offers opportunities like no other: to be able to study at two phenomenal universities like Duke and UNC, while also being able to join such a wonderful and passionate cohort of Scholars, staff, alumni, and supporters is such a fantastic opportunity, and I’m so excited to see how I will be able to continue to grow with such a supportive and encouraging community. The diverse community summers, the continued support and guidance from the program, and the sustained academic benefits are remarkable. I cannot wait to see how my journey as an individual, a leader, and a member of the community through the Robertson Program will continue to evolve, and how I will be able to pursue my interests in a stimulating and motivating manner, while creating change in the community.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? My experience with the Robertson Program has just been incredibly phenomenal, and I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by such passionate, motivated, caring, and genuine individuals. I’m interested in sustainable community development within the context of interactions between government, businesses, and society and promoting economic opportunities by leveraging education to build stronger, more resilient communities, and the Robertson Program has enabled me to deeply pursue my interests at both UNC and Duke through coursework, extracurriculars, campus involvement, and so much more. Being able to take classes in business, economics, and entrepreneurship across both campuses has diversified my outlook, and provided me with a new perspective. The amazing programming and support offered by the Program has enabled to grow both as an individual and as a member of the community. In addition, my Community Summer experience was absolutely transformational. I had the privilege of working at the Good Work Network in New Orleans. As an intern, I interacted with clients, consulted with Good Work staff, developed effective training material and techniques, developed feasibility analyses of various enterprise options, developed business plans (including financing plan) for viable options, and assisted with developing funding requests for grants. This is such an incredible opportunity – Phyllis is an absolutely amazing mentor, and she provides constant support, encouragement, and mentorship while also giving you the opportunity to really find your passion and create your own project. The Program has given me a platform to gain a more enhanced understanding of my goals as well as explore my passions, in addition to inspiring and motivating me at every moment. My last summer, Exploration Summer, has also been invaluable in allowing me to pursue my passions and continue to grow and explore. I was a Sophomore Summer Analyst interning in investment banking at Wells Fargo Securities, and was able to further my knowledge of the financial services industry in a dynamic and engaging manner. I also greatly enjoyed traveling and continuing to expand CARE’s mission and strategy, and am incredibly proud of the expanded operations and impact we’ve been able to have – it’s been such a rewarding and inspiring journey! I’m very excited to be interning as an Investment Banking Summer Analyst with Goldman Sachs next summer!

    Favorite Robertson Memory: I could not possibly choose a favorite moment, but some of my highlights would definitely have to be from Community Summer! I really loved living with other Scholars and having the opportunity to bond and grow as a family – coming out of the summer, I’m so incredibly thankful for such an amazing family! We did family dinners, went out to explore NOLA together, watched movies and TV shows together, and had some conversations that will forever influence and stay with me. The entire NOLA community, whether Scholars, staff, my internship mentor and staff, and the people overall, challenged me, loved me, supported me, taught me, and made this summer one that I will cherish for the incredible memories and amazing adventures. The other Scholars are so brilliant, generous, and amazing and it was such an honor to share the summer with all of them. I couldn’t have asked for better housemates and friends for one of the most unique summers of my life.

  • John Wulsin Program Year: 2009
  • John Wulsin

    UNC, Class of 2009
    Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
    High School: Armand Hammer United World College of the American West
    Area of Study: Economics

    Ever since John’s first teaching experience, with Breakthrough Collaborative in 2003 teaching 6th Grade Math, John has been committed to understanding schools, how they’re run, and possibilities for educational reform. In high school, John graduated from the United World College in New Mexico in 2005. From his first semester at UNC, John found opportunities to engage the local community, teaching 4th Grade Spanish at a charter school in Durham with Gabriella Miyares (UNC Robertson’09).

    John spent the summer of 2006 in New Orleans, helping local farmers and shrimpers develop new markets for their products in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. During John’s second Robertson summer, he and Nick Anderson (UNC Robertson’09) lived and taught at a rural boarding school in the Andes of Argentina. Committed to the idea that schools serve as more than just academic institutions, John and Nick worked closely with local engineers and international NGOs to raise funds, design and install an innovative solar power system. Building on his work in New Orleans, John also worked on the school farm, constructing a new roof for the green house and preparing the fields for harvest.

    John worked with Teach For America during his junior and senior years at UNC, helping identify and recruit top undergraduates to commit to teaching after graduating. To build on his passion for teaching and education, in the spring of his junior year John began working with Student U, a Durham-based program designed to empower middle school students and college students in the Triangle area, which was started by Dan Kimberg (Duke Robertson’07), Mary Williams (UNC Robertson ’07) and Amanda Dorsey (Duke ’08). John continues to work for Student U, serving as Associate Director.

    John majored in Economics with a minor in Philosophy, Politics & Economics. His undergraduate thesis on the capitalization of school quality in housing prices in Durham Public Schools was awarded Highest Honors. John is currently an Associate Systems Analyst at Possible Worldwide, a digital marketing and advertising company.

  • Raymond Pryor IV
  • Raymond Pryor IV

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Denver, CO
    High School: East High School

    Academic Interests: Public Policy

    Extracurriculars / Hobbies: After School Instructor at StudentU, Intramural Basketball & Football

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? As a life-long sports fan, when I heard about the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, a prestigious merit scholarship and leadership development program, my initial thought was, “Will the program’s dual citizenship help me get tickets to as many Duke-UNC basketball games as possible?” As a hard-working student and aspiring change agent, my next, admittedly less important thought was, “Will the program’s dual citizenship help me take advantage of the academic, professional, social, and personal benefits of two of the best schools in the world?” “Yes?…to both?…I’m sold!” 😉

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? Many of my first professional opportunities in educational equity work were made possible through relationships forged because of the Robertson Program. From my experiences working at the Sunflower County Freedom Project initiated by Community Summer to my experience working at StudentU jumpstarted by a connection with the founder who is an alumnus of the program, the Robertson has been central to the start of my career in education.

    Favorite Robertson moment: My favorite moment was returning to the Mississippi Delta for my Launch Summer to work with the Sunflower County Freedom Project after I had spent my Community Summer experience there. While it was a constant rush of nostalgia and reminiscences from two years prior, I brought and left with very different perspectives than when I came the first time. No place that I have never called home has done more to expand and transform my worldview than the Delta.

  • George Elliott
  • George Elliott

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: London, UK
    High School: Eton College

    Academic Interests: Political Science (major), PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics), Sustainable Agriculture, Art

    Extracurriculars/Hobbies: Dukes and Duchesses (student ambassadors for the University President), Carolina Marathon Team, Duke and UNC Debating Societies, Robertson Scholars Community Coordinators, Duke Career Center, Nasher Museum of Art, community service, cooking, sailing, swimming

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The Robertson Program’s emphasis on leadership and service resonates with my personal values and aspirations. I was drawn to the opportunity to develop my leadership skills among an engaged and supportive cohort of Scholars, with full access to the resources of two world-class universities. The challenges posed by the Program’s immersive summer experiences, Campus Switch, and Scholar events, coupled with extensive guidance and mentorship, are rapidly accelerating my personal development.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? The Robertson Program has broadened my perspective, reshaped my ambitions, and reaffirmed my emphasis on positive social impact. Working to improve access to nutritious food during my Community Summer in Kentucky inspired me to participate in a related Duke research project, and work at a sustainable food business in the UK. The Robertson experience has given me the confidence to pursue bold possibilities for the future, whether it be living in India for a semester, or developing my interest in business and entrepreneurship.

    Favorite Robertson Memory: Summer life in Kentucky – all of it. I will never forget presenting birds of prey to amazed school children learning about conservation, touring one of the region’s last major active coal mining operations, and working with local farmers to harvest and sell their produce at the market.

  • Maital Guttman Program Year: 2005
  • Maital Guttman

    Duke, Class of 2005
    Hometown: Greensboro, NC
    High School: Grimsley High School
    Area of Study:  International Area Studies, Business Administration

    Maital Guttman was born in Israel and grew up in North Carolina since the age of 12.  She was part of the Inaugural Robertson Class, graduating from Duke in 2005.  After graduation, she founded a documentary film production company, Dewdrop Films LLC.  Dewdrop Films produced films that inspire hope and empower people and have been screened around the world.  She received an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2013 with a concentration in consulting and sustainable enterprise.  She works at McKinsey & Company in Atlanta, where she has focused on topics around economic development, innovation, strategy and talent management.  She is currently serving as McKinsey’s Diversity Manager, working specifically with the LGBTQ and the Hispanic and Latino communities for recruitment and retention. She lives with her wife, son and golden doodle in Atlanta.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?  The Robertson Program empowered me to take chances and pursue my dreams. It gave me wonderful experiences in college that also paved the way for more opportunities after graduation. Without a doubt, it was one of the most significant opportunities of my life.

  • Lucy Best
  • Lucy Best

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
    High School: Saint Ann’s School

    Academic Interests:  Energy and the environment, Chinese affairs, global politics

    Extracurriculars / Hobbies: Extracurriculars: Co-Founder and COO of Phyta, a startup that grows seaweed as an input for plastic substitutes, hygiene products, and animal feed and aims to combat the effects of climate change through seaweed cultivation; Director of the Duke-UNC China Leadership Summit, an annual conference that brings China experts to Duke and UNC to discuss contemporary developments in the Sinosphere and international politics.
    Hobbies: Reading, knitting, running, biking, traveling 

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The Robertson program was unlike any other option I had coming out of high school. Not only did the program offer the combined resources of Duke and UNC and phenomenal summer planning, but it also encouraged students to push themselves beyond their comfort zones. This opportunity promised me an unpredictable personal and academic trajectory, and I took it up because it promised the most meaningful form of growth.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? The individuals the Robertson Program brings together have been extremely influential in my life. The friends and relationships I have made in this program have supported me even as they pushed me to consider new interests, think more thoroughly, and even start a company.

    Favorite Robertson moment: My favorite Robertson moment is attending a potluck dinner during my Community Summer in Whitesburg, KY. Along with another Robertson student, I had dinner with my mentor and members of the community I had only joined weeks beforehand. As we sat on the porch, I remember feeling extremely grateful to have encountered life stories and perspectives I never would have managed to seek out on my own.


  • Paula Kweskin Program Year: 2006
  • Paula Kweskin

    UNC, Class of 2006
    Hometown: Charlotte, NC
    High School: Providence High School
    Area of Study: Political Science, Spanish

    When Paula Kweskin was eight, she saw the Broadway musical Evita. When the final curtain dropped, she sat motionless, stunned by the story, the music, and the culture presented on stage. Later on, when she spent two summers in Buenos Aires (as a result of the Robertson Scholars Program), and surprised locals would asked her why she picked Argentina, she just winked and mentioned the famous first lady (and to this day, she still loves Broadway).

    Of course, that wasn’t entirely true. At UNC, she studied Spanish and Political Science, and the intersection of the two led her to learn about the fascinating political history of the entire continent. She pursued once-in-a-lifetime projects in the porteno capital during each summer: volunteering at a domestic violence shelter and a study of micro-credit in the wake of the financial crisis. She also had an opportunity to discover the historic and multi-faceted Jewish community.

    In college, Paula studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain and volunteered in Bolivar County in the Mississippi Delta following her freshman year of college.

    After graduation, she went back to Buenos Aires to work as a sustainability consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. She enjoyed the intersection of public interest and corporate (Latin) America, and decided to return to school, earning her JD from UNC in 2010. She is currently working in Jerusalem as an associate film producer at the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit organization in New York that produces and distributes films about what it sees as radical Islam’s effect on society.

  • Trey Walk
  • Trey Walk

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Mauldin, SC
    High School: Mauldin High School

    Academic Interests: Major: History, Certificate: Human Rights, Academic interests: Urban studies, social movements, equitable community development, poverty and inequality

    Extracurriculars / Hobbies: Community Empowerment Fund, Marian Cheek Jackson Center, People’s State of the University, Bull City 150, Dukes & Duchesses, Undergraduate Conduct Board

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? I was drawn to the Robertson Program my first year at Duke because of the scholars in the community. I looked around myself and found that many of my mentors and friends who challenged me and supported me were a part of the program.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? My summer experiences which have been funded and supported by the Robertson program are all central to my development. My Community Summer in Mississippi was formative in shaping my choice to pursue history as an academic discipline. My Exploration Summer in Atlanta, South Carolina, and Cape Town were important to my development as a community organizer and gave me a strong framework for thinking about restorative justice in policy contexts. My Launch Summer in D.C. solidified my interests in housing policy and working to improve communities, particularly for low income individuals.

    Favorite Robertson moment: My favorite Robertson moment was going canoeing on the Mississippi River with other scholars during Community Summer!

  • Scott Emmons
  • Scott Emmons

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Bloomington, IN
    High School: Bloomington High School North

    I have a mind for ideas and a heart for people; I believe ideas are most powerful not in the cold and abstract but living and breathing within us. I’m drawn to research, teaching, and service. The nascent field of machine learning, which uses math and computer science to tackle complex problems across all disciplines, fascinates me. Powering self-driving cars and IBM’s Watson, it’s essentially the study of magic. My tentative plan after graduation is to pursue a Ph.D. in math or computer science, and I aspire to become a professor.

    A few of my favorite things are The Elements of Style, J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, and Herman B Wells. When I’m not reading or taking online classes, I enjoy long distance running, jazz drumming, and cooking. A native Hoosier, I’ve grown up around basketball. I shook hands with Tyler Zeller — meaning I wrapped my elementary schooler fingers around his pinky — when he played for the Washington Hatchets in a high school gym of Southern Indiana. Between the Hoosiers, Tar Heels, and Blue Devils, I hope I can celebrate a national championship in the coming few years!

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The experience. “Bear in mind that brains and learning, like muscle and physical skill, are articles of commerce. They are bought and sold. You can hire them by the year or by the hour. The only thing in the world not for sale is character,” said Justice Scalia’s father. Between two of the world’s foremost universities, the Robertson has all the brains and learning I could want. But more uniquely, it will challenge me as a person, placing me continually outside my comfort zone and exposing me to parts of the world I would never otherwise see. I couldn’t turn down such a priceless opportunity for personal growth. There’s no place I’d rather be.

  • To me, being a Robertson means having that point of connection--there's some immediate spark there because you both know that, on a bigger level, you're about the same things. It feels amazing to be part of a network of motivated people that stretches across the globe.

  • Myla Swallow
  • Myla Swallow

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Kenthurst, Australia
    High School: The Hills Grammar School

    When you are a young child you have so many dreams that will change as you grow. However at the age of 12 I decided the my dream was I to attend university in the United States. I have lived my whole life in Kenthurst, Australia on 5 acres of bush attending The Hills Grammar School which was only a 2 minute drive from my front door. So the decision to move countries to attend college is quite a big commitment and alteration to the life I have previously led. It wasn’t until I studied at Episcopal High School under the ASSIST Program as an exchange student for my junior year that I received the final determination that spurred me to definitively conclude that an American liberal arts education system suited my style of study and learning the best.

    Beyond long held ideas of how I foresaw my higher education, I have a great desire to leave a positive impact in the world. In this vein I designed a system that looks at addressing baby formula related infant mortality in developing countries. My efforts were recognised when I was a runner up in the Australian Women’s Weekly and QANTAS 2014 Women of the Future competition. Looking to the future I hope to extend the charity I started around this issue, Clean Water Initiative, to reach as many infants in need as possible. I have a great interest and respect for all types of innovation especially when new ideas help to address serious social problems with simple and cost effective solutions.

    I have played netball for years (a sport that isn’t well know in America) and, as with a lot of other Australians, I hold my Bronze Cross in lifesaving. During my exchange year at Episcopal I absolutely loved rowing with the crew team and plan on continuing this at Duke. I have played violin since I was three and I have recently dabbled with the piano which I furthered as part of finishing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh. I was also an avid member of the school debating team and I have always loved engaging in an assortment of activities that allow me to refine my capacity to structure logical arguments and develop a case that withstands the opposition’s inquisition, whether it is debating, mock trial or model United Nations.

    I love tackling new experiences, expanding my understanding and engaging with a diverse range of people. Therefore the thought of getting to spend 4 years immersing myself in plethora of activities and adventures at two prestigious colleges is absolutely exhilarating.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? I have always wanted to make a difference, be it to one life, to a family, a community or even a country! The Robertson Program is the only opportunity I have ever come across that is so actively focused on setting me up to achieve this. The philosophy of service and leadership truly resonates with my goals for the future. Moreover the support offered by the program throughout my study and particularly during the summer holidays to go out into currently undetermined areas of the globe and work towards increasing justice, health, equality and happiness is phenomenal and arguably unprecedented. However the Robertson Program also doesn’t view service to the global community as an additive to my coursework but something that should grow to inform my understanding of everything I study as well as any activities or avenues I pursue throughout my life. I was looking for a higher education experience that would shift me out of my comfort zone while also supporting me while I adjust to the variety of of new things I see and ideas I encounter. The Robertson Program makes no secret that what it asks of it’s students will undoubtedly be challenging but you are given the opportunity to undertake and overcome any difficulties in a highly supportive and encouraging community. Every aspect of the Robertson Program attracted me towards applying and I am just incredibly excited to start living the adventure!

  • Jermaine Bryant
  • Jermaine Bryant

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Johns Creek, GA
    High School: Northview High School

    Throughout my high school career, I distinguished myself primarily through my involvement with Latin. Studying the Classics gave me a new and enhanced perspective of the world around me and enabled me to excel in various other fields and subject areas. I was, and continue to be inspired daily by the heroism of Horatius, Scipio, Curtius and Regulus, motivated by the ambition of Marius and Caesar, awestruck by the ingenious calculations and scientific advancements made by a society that did not even have a zero, and entertained by tragedies that are more pathetic or hilarious than sad. I had the opportunity of being president of the Georgia Junior Classical League (the society for Latin and Greek students) and being a captain of the Georgia National Certamen (Latin Quiz Bowl) team. I attended the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program for Latin and conducted research on feminism in Classical Antiquity. I also was a State Championship level fencer, Academic Bowl captain, Class Council member, and Marching/Jazz Band saxophonist. I hope to pursue these interests further during my time in college.

    I intend to study Classics and Public Policy with the intent of going to law school. My dream is to one day become a Supreme Court justice. I believe that the law is the place most reflective of great social change, and being a justice on the Supreme Court is perhaps the position with the greatest power to make lasting change in our country.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? When I first looked into the program, it was clear to me that the Robertson community is filled with intelligent and ambitious students who strive to be the best in their fields, and that the program provides the resources and support for every student to accomplish his or her goals. What other program offers full access to two elite universities, and boasts incredible summer experiences? During Finalist Weekend, something else became clear: the Robertson Scholars were not only a group of outstanding students, but they were outstanding because of how they supported each other. Upon receiving an invitation to join the program, I did not hesitate to accept, and I am thrilled to be a part of such an amazing family.

  • Toni Helbling Program Year: 2009
  • Toni Helbling

    Duke, Class of 2009
    Hometown: San Antonio, TX
    High School: St. Mary’s Hall
    Academic Interests: Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry Minor

    At Duke, Toni served as vice-chair of the Undergraduate Judicial Board, secretary for the Engineering World Health club, and was active in the Pratt Fellows Research Scholars program and the Honor Council. These pursuits further developed her commitment to improving the quality and accessibility of healthcare and her interest in ethics. She taught a house course on ethics, wrote a bilingual and pictorial user’s manual for ECG testers used in developing world hospitals, founded and published an ethics magazine (The Gadfly), and presented at the Orthopedic Research Society’s and Engineering World Health’s international conferences.

    During her college summers, Toni immersed herself in healthcare delivery and development at the Good Samaritan Health Center in Atlanta, the Hospital San Bernardo in Argentina, and the Center for the Intrepid amputee rehabilitation and research hospital in San Antonio, TX.

    Toni graduated magna cum laude with Departmental Distinction from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering in 2009. She majored in Biomedical Engineering with a Chemistry minor, and was selected to Tau Beta Pi. In her senior year, she received the Student Affairs Distinguished Leadership and Service Award for Demonstration of Integrity at Duke and was named a Public Service Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill. Toni now attends medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX.

  • Andrew Sugrue Program Year: 2012
  • Andrew Sugrue

    Andrew is an Analyst in the Mergers and Acquisitions group at Peter J. Solomon Company in New York City. In July of 2014, Andrew will join Catterton Partners, a consumer-focused private equity fund in Greenwich, CT, as an Associate. Andrew previously interned at Barclays Capital in their Global Mergers and Acquisitions group in New York City and Investcorp, the global private equity firm, in their Gulf Growth Capital unit based in Manama, Bahrain.

    Andrew serves on the Advisory Council for the McCain Institute’s Next Generation Leaders Program and is a member of the Foreign Policy Initiative’s New York Leaders Program. From August 2011 to November 2012, Andrew served as a foreign policy adviser to Governor Romney’s presidential campaign on the Human Rights and Africa working groups. Andrew is Chairman of the East African Children’s Education Fund, Inc. (EACEF), a nonprofit organization he founded in 2007 that works with primary education in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

    As a Robertson Scholar, Andrew received a B.A. in International Studies and Political Science from the Honors Program at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master in Management Studies from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?

    The Robertson Program gave me a global perspective with funding that allowed me to visit 15 countries on four continents during my four years at Carolina and Duke. I received mentorship that nurtured my ideas and feedback that helped me course correct if I was ever off-track.

    When I came to Chapel Hill, the organization I had started in high school, EACEF, was a small initiative that had raised $70,000 for two schools in Kenya – through the Robertson accelerator, we received funding to incorporate the organization as a 501(c)3 and build the organization into a $350,000 organization working in three countries in East Africa.

    When I decided I wanted to experience a summer in the for-profit world, the Robertson helped arrange an internship in Bahrain with Investcorp, one of the world’s leading private equity firms, which exposed me to my continuing passion for investing in the emerging markets.

    I can say without a doubt that my life has been forever changed by my four years as a Robertson Scholar.

  • Dan Kimberg Program Year: 2007
  • Dan Kimberg

    Duke, Class of 2007
    Hometown: Hartsdale, NY
    High School: Ardsley High School
    Area of Study: Program II: Advocating Reform in Education Policy & Practice through Communication

    Following his freshman year at Duke, Dan Kimberg worked as a fifth-grade English teacher in New Orleans for his first Robertson Summer. He and his students drew upon Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches to study aspects of the English language. As a final project, all students wrote their own I Have a Dream speeches based on a problem in the world that they were passionate about solving. During the program’s final celebration, Dan’s students stood in front of an auditorium filled with 500 parents, guests, and community members, and shared their dreams. After each child unfolded a new hope for the world, the audience was stunned, remaining silent for three full minutes after the last speech.

    It was at this moment that Dan realized the power young people possess. When challenged in a supportive environment, all children have the ability to light up the world as his students lit up the auditorium. Dan’s belief in the potential of all children grounded with his knowledge that, unfortunately, many never have the opportunity to reach this potential, inspired him to begin the journey of launching Student U. During those three minutes of silence, Dan decided it was his responsibility to create a program which allowed hundreds of students to walk up on a stage and change the world.

    Dan returned to Durham with his own dreams, his own hopes, his own vision of the future. During his last two years at Duke, with the great support of the Robertson Scholars Program, Dan collaborated with Mary Williams (UNC Robertson ’07) and Amanda Dorsey (Duke ’08) to launch Student U, a program designed to empower middle school students and college students in the Triangle area.

    Student U is a college-access organization that believes all students in Durham have the ability to succeed.  In order to make this dream a reality, Student U creates a pipeline of services to support students through middle and high school.  By providing direct services during out of school time in the summer and after-school, and advocating for students and families within schools, we ensure that our students develop the academic skills and personal well-being needed to beat the statistics and succeed in college.

    Currently, Dan serves as the Executive Director of Student U, sits on the boards of 3DWomen and Book Harvest, and is a member of the Advisory Board for UNC’s APPLES Service Learning Program. This year, Dan is piloting the new Durham-Duke Fellowship sponsored by Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs. As a Durham-Duke Fellow, Dan is studying the concept of a “Beloved Community” through interviews with community leaders and readings.


  • Tanisha Palvia Program Year: 2008
  • Tanisha Palvia

    UNC, Class of 2008
    Hometown: Greensboro, NC
    High School: Grimsley High School
    Area of Study: Psychology

    During her time at UNC-Chapel Hill, Tanisha was very much involved with campus activities. She held various leadership positions in many organizations, including with the Student Programming and Advisory Committee (SPAC) of the Robertson Scholars Program as well as Sangam, UNC’s South Asian organization. Since high school, she has been very involved in community service and remained active at UNC and graduated as a Public Service Scholar.

    Though she entered on the pre-med path, her interests changed as began to take advantage of the many opportunities presented by the Robertson Scholars Program. Tanisha spent her first summer in Clarkston, Georgia at Refugee Family Services as a camp counselor and mentor for refugee children. Her second summer was spent in Argentina interning at San Bernardo Hospital, where she and a fellow Robertson implemented a program to refer to patients by name instead of number; her time in Argentina was also critical in improving her Spanish. Her final summer was spent in India, where she taught English to over 140 Hindi-speaking twelfth-grade girls. Tanisha realized that public service must remain a big part of her future regardless of where her professional life will lead her. While studying abroad in Italy, Tanisha also found a passion for writing, publishing articles in various Italian magazines. Upon returning, her interest in journalism grew stronger through her experiences with The Daily Tar Heel.

    Combining her experiences with public service and writing, Tanisha decided that public interest law would be the ideal field in which to channel her respective passions. She is attended Emory Law School in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently a Civil and Criminal Litigation Attorney at Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP in.

  • Brady Gilliam
  • Brady Gilliam

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Charlotte, NC
    High School: Myers Park High School
    Academic Interests:  Comparative Literature (English-Spanish), Anthropology and History

    Brady spent the 2016-2017 academic year as a visiting student in History and English at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University. The first of his current thesis projects explores representations of education and pedagogy in contemporary speculative fiction, while the second investigates the mapping of queer identities onto the spaces of the school and university in the oral histories of LGBTQ undergraduates at UNC-Chapel Hill. After receiving UNC’s Global Gap Year Fellowship in 2013 to spend one year after high school conducting public service abroad, Brady returned to Chapel Hill to intern for the Fellowship during the summers of 2014 and 2017. As a sophomore, he was awarded a grant through the Kenan-Biddle Partnership to implement the 2015 Global Leadership Institute, a cross-campus mentorship program including workshops, retreats, and blogging for Duke and UNC undergraduates interested in gaining leadership experience abroad. Since then, he has enjoyed serving on the Kenan-Biddle Partnership Steering Committee alongside faculty, students and community members committed to reimagining the future of UNC-Duke collaboration in the arts, sciences, humanities and social entrepreneurship. Brady accepted a University Diversity Award from the Office of the Chancellor in 2015 in recognition of his part in founding Pride Place, an on-campus housing community for LGBTQ students, and for his contributions to international initiatives at the Campus Y, UNC’s Center for Social Justice. Brady withdrew from college for the duration of the 2018-2019 school year to pursue an editorial internship with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing, while starting work on his own first novel. Now a senior, his working hours are divided between his theses, his coursework, and an editorial internship with Blair, a nonprofit press in Durham, NC specializing in literary fiction.

    Extracurriculars / Hobbies: IRB-Reviewed oral history researcher with the UNC Department of Anthropology; publicity chair for the UNC Sexuality and Gender Alliance; UNC Global Gap Year Fellow; founder and co-chair of the Carolina-Duke Global Leadership Institute; former co-chair, current blogger and documentarian for UNC’s Campus Y Global Circle; writer of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The defining traits of the Robertson community – purposeful leadership, intellectual curiosity, strength of character, and a collaborative spirit – initially piqued my interest in the program, and ultimately led me to apply for admittance. I’ve found these values to be integral to the story of each Scholar I’ve met, and I treasure the opportunity to form lifelong relationships with such an admirable group of peers. As a student of Anthropology, I jumped at the chance to study with faculty at Duke as well as the University of North Carolina. These institutions each boast a strong departmental program and a host of world-renowned experts in the field. I believe the two universities have a great deal to learn from each other, and offer complementary academic and experiential educations to those students privileged enough to be given access to both.


  • Sarah Pickle Program Year: 2005
  • Sarah Pickle

    UNC Class of 2005
    Hometown: Temple, TX
    High School: Temple High School
    Area of Study: Comparative Literature, Germanic Studies

    Applying to colleges in 2000, Sarah already knew that she would study literature once she enrolled the following fall. It was, however, a seminar in her first semester at UNC-Chapel Hill and the fantastic opportunities made possible by the Robertson Scholars Program that helped her discover an interest in particular regions of the world that had been obscure for her while growing up in Central Texas. Even after the Cold War had ended, Sarah sensed that much of the world was still a mystery behind the lingering shadow of the Iron Curtain.

    Now, several years after graduation, she can see clearly how a first-year seminar on Eastern European literature, countless other courses at UNC and Duke on the philosophy and history of socialism, and her Robertson Summers in Cuba and the former East Germany were foundational experiences for her continuing intellectual engagement with socialism and the relationship between aesthetics and politics.

    The seminar on literature from Eastern Europe was taught by Dr. Ivana Vuletić in the Slavic Languages and Literatures Department, and it wasn’t long before Sarah realized how lucky she was to find in Dr. Vuletić not only a professor who inspired her personally and piqued her academic interest in subjects previously unknown to her, but also a mentor in numerous discussions about everything from the politics of literary criticism in the Soviet Union to the state of women in academia.

    While she was involved in various organizations around UNC throughout her four years (including the Campaign Finance Reform Alliance; the campus radio station, WXYC; and the University Center for International Studies K-12 Outreach), Sarah realized early on that the work that was most significant for her would come from pursuing her academic interests into graduate school and, hopefully, beyond. Chief among the lessons she learned from talking with Dr. Vuletić and from the two and a half years she worked as an assistant to Dr. Kaya Finkler (Anthropology) were the responsibility of research and service of teaching.

    As an early test of her wish to stay in academia, Sarah chose to write a senior thesis which was, in many ways, less the culmination of her work as an undergraduate than that of her experiences as a Robertson Scholar; it built off of the seeds of interests planted in that first seminar, but was cultivated throughout her four years at UNC, Duke, and her time abroad. Though the materials she worked with were printed in books, the questions she posed about navigating everyday life under socialism were inspired by her Robertson Summers. After her sophomore year, she worked in Havana, Cuba with fellow Robertson Scholar Rachel Thompson in the music department at the cultural research organization Casa de las Am?ricas. Sifting through the archives and helping to arrange concerts, it was there Sarah first became aware of just how deeply and richly art can penetrate and be an expression of one’s daily life. She spent the following summer in Germany, motivated in particular by the mostly underground hip-hop music scene she had learned about in Havana and the quotidian forms of dissent both implicit and explicit in the actions and words of its participants. In Berlin, Sarah researched the punk poets of former East Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district and combed through dusty bookshops in search of their printed work.

    Sarah earned a PhD in Comparative Literature from Cornell University, and she currently works as an analyst in strategy and research for Ithaka, a higher education non-profit in New York.

  • Eliza Harrison
  • Eliza Harrison

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Santa Fe, NM
    High School: Santa Fe Preparatory School

    Having grown up on the outskirts of the Santa Fe National Forest, the natural world has played a powerful and guiding role in my life. Although the outdoors continues to amaze and surprise me, I have been an unfortunate first-hand witness to the dramatic and harmful impact climate change has had on the wilderness area that I so adore. With the threat to my community so real and immediate, I am compelled to devote my creative and intellectual energies to the task of reducing the risks of climate change and improving the resilience of the region. If all proceeds as planned, I will likely pursue a career in environmental physics – a combination of environmental engineering, physics, and computer science.

    During the past four years, I have been an active member of the Santa Fe community. Separate from my academic studies and independent projects (i.e., Changing Households, Changing Communities), I have been a staff writer for a section in the Santa Fe New Mexican called Generation Next – written by and for teenagers. As a student, I led delegations of the Model UN, volunteered as a tutor for Breakthrough Santa Fe, was design editor of the Santa Fe Prep literary magazine, and served as the teaching assistant for a senior-level astronomy course. Additionally, I am a certified Wilderness First Responder and avalanche rescue certified.

    Although finding time can sometimes be challenging, I have been an avid downhill skier since I was one and a half years old. At the age of eight, I made the switch to telemark skiing. Along with skiing, I am an enthusiastic whitewater canoeist, kayaker, and hiker. Given the spectacular night skies that blanket northern New Mexico, I am also an enthusiastic (if only amateur) astronomer.

    In addition to exploring the many academic and research opportunities UNC has to offer, I look forward to immersing myself in various dance clubs – specifically ballroom, tango, and swing, — crew, and current event discussion/debate groups.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? Upon first glance, the Robertson Program seems almost too good to be true. A full ride to one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. and incredible summer experiences? What’s not to love about that?! While the description of the program — along with the personal stories of current Scholars — were the primary reasons I applied, I chose to become a Scholar for less superficial reasons.

    Finalist Weekend. Flying from New Mexico, I arrived a day before most of the other Finalists on the UNC campus. After brief interactions with some of the other Scholar candidates, I was struck by an acute case of imposter syndrome – the feeling that you have no right to be where you are because everyone else is so much more interesting and intelligent. Thankfully, my insecurity and nervousness gradually subsided and I had the chance to interact with the current Scholars who not only shared similar memories of fear during Finalist Weekend, but whose enthusiasm and overall passion were almost overwhelming.

    In discussions with upper and lower classmen, I gradually realized that the Robertson Program would be a dream come true, not necessarily because of the financial aspects of the program but rather because the students involved were passionate about exploration. From heated debates about racism in America to sharing fun and interesting memories of their years at UNC, the Robertson Scholars evidenced a remarkable curiosity – one that could be attributed to their academic learning and their lives as a whole. This combination of enthusiasm and dedication are what make the program a phenomenal opportunity and the gift of a lifetime.

  • Kat Tan
  • Kat Tan

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Great Neck, NY
    High School: William A. Shine Great Neck South High School

    Academic Interests: Bioethics (major) / Creative Writing – Fiction (minor); Neuroscience (minor)

    Extracurriculars/Hobbies: UNC Wordsmiths, UNC Story Circle, Alpha Epsilon Delta, doula, writing stories & music, ukulele, laughing. My various projects sometimes live here:

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? This idea that Robertson cultivated “grit.” At Finalist Weekend, we were told that the program was not a reward for what we had accomplished, but an investment in all the good we had yet to do. We were told that the next four years would be defined by the way we endured and in like fashion, we would be better for all our striving. Each candidate I met at Finalist Weekend embodied grit and goodness in so many different ways; I saw myself in these ideals and wanted to be part of that.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?  Robertson has freed me from traditional expectations that demand that I be defined by either my love for storytelling or my commitment to healing. In the same way that it has gifted me with the best of both public and private and the two best shades of blue, it’s allowed me to believe that it is not only possible to be a writer and doctor-to-be, but also necessary for me to do so.

    Favorite Robertson Memory: The giant slumber party the last night of NOLS. We neglected our tents and instead pulled our sleeping bags and bodies close to each other under the open sky and shooting stars. I remember looking around at each person, each face that had in the past week become so dear to me, and realizing that, at that moment, I was exactly where I was meant to be.

  • Nikhil Taneja Program Year: 2011
  • Nikhil Taneja

    Duke, Class of 2011
    Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
    High School: Indian Hill High School
    Area of Study: Economics, Public Policy

    Nikhil Taneja entered Duke as a Robertson Scholar in Fall 2007. After completing his freshman year, Nikhil spent the summer working for Breakthrough Collaborative, a nonprofit organization addressing educational inequalities across the country. As a 7th grade U.S. History and English teacher in New Orleans, he had the opportunity to work with high-potential students from low-income families, many of whom were highly impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

    The following summer Nikhil interned at eNews, South Africa’s first independent 24-hour news television channel. This internship allowed Nikhil to see South Africa from many different angles as he covered a variety of stories each week. Nikhil spent the latter half of the summer taking a Political Economy course at The London School of Economics.

    Nikhil spent his third summer interning at Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm. He enjoyed this exposure to business strategy and joined the company in a full-time role upon graduation.

    At Duke, Nikhil was on the editorial board of the campus newspaper, president of the club golf team, and a member of the parliamentary debate team. He graduated with a double major in Economics and Public Policy. Nikhil is currently attending a web development program in Colorado to pursue his interests in technology and entrepreneurship.

  • Paul Sarker Program Year: 2006
  • Paul Sarker

    Duke, Class of 2006
    Hometown: Collegeville, Pennsylvania
    High School: Malvern Prepatory
    Area of Study: Economics

    Since entering Duke as a Robertson Scholar in 2002, Paul’s goals have been constantly progressing. When he arrived at Duke, he sought exposure to people from different backgrounds and hoped to find his niche. He was surprised to see that many of his fellow Scholars already had well-defined goals. He felt behind the curve, but former Program Director Dr. Eric Mlyn encouraged him to remain open-minded and curious. Although he knew that he had great leadership potential, he lacked direction and focus. Paul found valuable guidance through interactions with Scholars and participation in Robertson summers and courses.

    Paul spent his first Robertson Summer working as a marketing intern for Global Health Action in Atlanta, where he revamped and maintained the organization’s website and wrote for its newsletter. His second Robertson Summer in Belize brought significantly greater challenges and rewards. Paul entered a foreign culture and thrived as he and fellow Scholar Kim Hayez created a video about HIV/AIDS for rural youth unaware of the consequences of unsafe sexual behavior. He met many wonderful and dedicated students eager for opportunity, and through this experience, he began to appreciate how much he and his classmates took for granted.

    During Paul’s junior and senior years, he took an active approach to capitalizing on his time left on campus. His interest in business led him to expand opportunities for venture capital for undergraduates. He founded The Duke Entrepreneur, an organization committed to developing undergraduate business plans, allowing for collaboration, and providing undergraduates exposure to leaders in the field.

    Paul found his calling when the Robertson Foundation began to raise awareness for climate change. As he learned about the causes and consequences of climate change, Paul identified climate change mitigation — the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent global warming — as society’s most important issue.

    Paul chose to attend New York University Law School to build his analytical skill set and understand the legal structure governing society. In the process, he joined the Environmental Law Journal and studied potential legal solutions to the problem of carbon emissions. He believes that widespread awareness of the causes and consequences of climate change and proper economic incentives are necessary elements of any potential progress. As a Summer Associate for Cravath, Swaine and Moore LLP, he gained legal skills and a foundation to enter the media world.

  • Vishnu Ramachandran
  • Vishnu Ramachandran

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Norcross, GA
    High School: Duluth High School

    My childhood rocks and minerals collection sits on my dresser. Every now and then, a shimmer catches my eye, drawing me back to years past – years when every corner turned and every breath taken was the start of an exciting adventure. Whether I pocketed shiny rocks or mused about the empty void of space, I learned. And with every new fact and experience, my universe ever widened. Today, my collection embodies my childhood curiosity, a faint reminder of what I want in life: to understand.

    And to understand, I must continue searching; I must pool information from varied disciplines. Documentaries about ancient battles, forestry on breezy days, maps of dialect continua, and politics with friends all further my search. During my time at UNC and Duke, I hope to draw on my disparate interests and give back to the world that has given me so much, especially by delving into policy and computer science.

    But in everything I do, I am here to build my understanding one morsel of knowledge, one shiny rock at a time.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? I have eighteen cousins: the youngest separated by three decades from the oldest. From family get-togethers to handing down clothes, every little experience has helped me grow. And I noticed the same air of intimacy and support in the Robertson family. The idea of contributing to a growing community, leaving a legacy, enticed me; the prospect of learning so much from my peers beckoned me. With that, I was sold.

  • Daniel Hall Program Year: 2013
  • Daniel Hall

    UNC, Class of 2013
    Hometown: Mt. Pleasant, NC
    High School: South Mecklenburg High School
    Area of Study: Psychology, Social and Economic Justice

    Born in the North but raised in the South, Daniel graduated in 2009 from UNC. He was a research assistant in the UNC School of Nursing’s Managing Uncertainty in Illness lab, where for three years he worked on an intervention involving younger breast cancer survivors. He was also a research supervisor at El Futuro, a community mental health center for Latinos in Carrboro, NC. For two summers, Daniel lived in Argentina and volunteered with abused children. He is currently attending the University of Miami, where he is earning a PhD in Health-Clinical Psychology. He is currently receiving clinical training at Mt. Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Center and the VA Hospital in Miami, FL.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?  The Robertson Scholars Program afforded me a world-class education, immeasurable personal growth, and access to top-ranked faculty whose research mentorship paved the way for my successful graduate career.

  • Harry Elworthy
  • Harry Elworthy

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
    High School: Takapuna Grammar School

    I am a science boy – I am very passionate about various fields of Physics, Maths and Computer Science. I don’t actually know what I want to study yet but something with elements of those subjects is the idea. My academic goals are not set in stone yet either – but I guess whatever I decide to study I want to keep my work at a high level and grades solid. I am also very interested in entrepreneurship and the world of start-ups, and will be looking to work in this area either at Duke or as an extracurricular activity.

    I am an avid road cyclist and will be riding for the Duke team. Depending on how much time I can dedicate to riding, I am keen to try win some races. I also love hanging out with people, hiking, skiing, sailing, and many other such activities. I hope to have a great time during my stay in Durham.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? In New Zealand there are not many opportunities to take you stateside, and none come close to what the Robertson offers. The decision was easy to make.

  • Erica Johnson
  • Erica Johnson

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Murrieta, CA
    High School: Vista Murrieta High School

    I have always loved English and volunteering. When looking at schools, I was fascinated by Duke and UNC’s English professors and classes and excited at the opportunities both Universities provided to help the community. And, I hope to be involved in Campus Y, The Daily Tar Heel, and Duke Paws.

    My time spent in high school reflected these same passions, as I often volunteered at the local animal shelter, participated in Speech and Debate and ran Model U.N. Meetings. But, I am about as eclectic as the state I live in; thus, I love to rock climb late at night, do construction work, read Stephen King in my kayak, pet my cat Guido, watch The Walking Dead, walk the pugs with my mom, cook Mexican food, lay on the beach (but first put on sunscreen), wear crazy pants, and go to Tijuana.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? When I looked into colleges during the summer before my senior year, I found a lot of schools that could make me smart. Schools that could turn me into an intellectual. But I don’t want to just be smart. I want to be hard-working, humble, kind, empathetic, happy, brave, and then, of course, smart. While many schools promised to make me bright, none of them promised these other qualities. I chose the Robertson because I don’t just want to be smart and the Robertson was the only program that promised to make me more than just smart.

  • Eli Wolfe Program Year: 2007
  • Eli Wolfe

    Duke, Class of 2007
    Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
    High School: Chestnut Hill Academy
    Area of Study: Psychology, Biological Anthropology & Anatomy

    Eli was born and raised in Philadelphia and, upon graduating from Duke, returned to the city to work for Accenture. After two years in management consulting he enrolled in a JD/MBA program at Temple University and is expected to complete those degrees in May 2014. He has accepted a full-time offer from the law firm Cozen O’Connor, beginning in September of 2014. He and his wife, KC, are expecting their first child, a boy, this coming October.

  • Christopher Edelman Program Year: 2011
  • Christopher Edelman

    Duke, Class of 2011
    Hometown: Deerfield, IL
    High School: Deerfield High School
    Area of Study:  Decision Science, Latin American Studies

    Originally from a suburb of Chicago, Christopher Edelman graduated from Duke University with a BA in Decision Science and a certificate in Latin American Studies. During this time, with the support of the Robertson Scholars Program, he conducted research in Latin America on the causes of political violence in the region. Chris then went on to complete a master’s degree (MPhil) in International Relations at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. His dissertation investigated how governments and terrorist groups can interact and negotiate more effectively, specifically focusing on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

    After graduating, Chris was awarded a Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) fellowship and Amy Adina Schulman Fund grant to work with the Arias Foundation—a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO)—in San José, Costa Rica. At the Foundation, Chris advocated for international regulation of the movement of weapons across borders and served as a delegate of Costa Rica’s delegation to the United Nations Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2013.

    Chris now attends Stanford Law School, where he intends to focus on public sector international law. He will also be helping to provide a broad range of pro bono legal services through the Volunteer Attorney Program. He hopes to use legal advocacy to support the development of the rule of law in transitional and post-conflict societies in Latin America.

    In his free time, Chris enjoys playing tennis, Latin dancing, and traveling throughout the world. He is also a recreational pianist and amateur baseball umpire.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?  It is impossible to overestimate the positive impact that the Robertson Program has had on my life and career. Coming into college, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, but that was the extent of my ambitions. The Robertson Program helped me to realize that we each have a duty to give back something of ourselves to the world and, more importantly, that the way we each will do that is entirely unique and that is exactly as it should be. While some will provide medical services in Niger and others will educate impoverished youth right here in the U.S., the Robertson Program helped me to discover the way that I now anticipate I will contribute: by practicing law in a way that expands access to the legal system and helps bring the rule of law to communities emerging from times of conflict. The Program has instilled in me a lifelong commitment to the service of others and helped me to discern what that means to me, personally.

    Furthermore, by providing funding and resources (both to take classes at UNC and to work and live abroad over the summers), the Robertson Program fomented my love and fascination with Latin America. Had it not been for a “History of Latin America Since Independence” class that I took at UNC during my sophomore year and the opportunity I was given to work for an NGO in Argentina the following summer, I would have never realized how much Latin America had to offer me and how much I could offer to Latin America, much less become fluent in Spanish.

  • Daya Uppal
  • Daya Uppal

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: New Delhi, India
    High School: Modern School Vasant Vihar

    Growing up in a developing country where poverty and privilege coexist as silent neighbors, I learnt a few important lessons early on. From the poverty, I learnt to be resourceful and to value even the smallest of opportunities. From the privilege, I learnt to continuously grow, to speak up when needed and to ameliorate any situation I could. These lessons guided my high school career.

    Throughout high school, my extracurricular activities reflected my academic interests. I held leadership positions in two school publications – Vasant Parag and The Entrepreneur, all for my keen interest in the English subject. As an avid debater and activist, I continuously attempted to bring to light ignored or unrecognized issues. In the past four years, I have organized campaigns for almost anything I felt strongly about – issues ranging from environmental depletion to gender rights and I aim to continue this trend during my four years at university.

    Moreover, my academic inclination towards Political Science led me to work within the governmental framework to decrease the general lack of access to aid for unprivileged individuals. To better understand how to effect change from within the formal system, I interned with the Women’s Commission of Delhi. While conducting research to rework a governmental aid-programme, I came to discover the vast number of differentiated skill sets that are rendered useless due to the lack of appropriate education and resources. Deeply affected by this reality, I aspire to be a social entrepreneur and aim to build economically self-sufficient communities through establishing small-scale business ventures for economically and socially disadvantaged sections of society.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The ‘get uncomfortable’ idea.

    The Robertson Program pushes (forces) students to repeatedly get out of their comfort zones. It forces us to evolve, adapt and become leaders in this increasingly globalized world. Additionally, the unparalleled opportunity of having a ‘dual citizenship’ at two of the most incredible research universities in the world provides a workspace to constructively amalgamate my diverse passions into something meaningful. The exposure provided, the spirit of collaboration and the supportive community of talented and driven scholars is the undoubtedly the best grounding a student could desire.

  • Alpha Tessema Program Year: 2013
  • Alpha Tessema

    Duke, Class of 2013
    Hometown: Portland, OR
    High School: Jesuit High School
    Area of Study: Theatre Studies

    Alpha Tessema has a passion for creative communication through the different mediums of film, live performance, oral histories, prose and poetry. This led him to pursue a degree in Theatre Studies and Film at Duke University. During his time at Duke, Alpha also volunteered as a college mentor to high school students in Durham Public Schools, produced and acted in student films, performed in plays and was a member of Duke University Improv. He spent his community summer in New Orleans working as a Media Communications intern at Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools. His exploration summer was spent as a production intern at eTV in Durban, South Africa. And for his synthesis summer, Alpha studied film in Arezzo, Italy through a joint program between Duke Arts of the Moving Image and the Accademia dell’Arte.

    Upon graduating in May of 2013, Alpha received the Benenson Arts Grant to study improvisation and comedy writing at The Second City Training Center in Chicago, IL. Alpha plans to pursue a career in theatre/film/television while continuing to serve as a mentor to young people in pursuit of higher education.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?  The Robertson Program enabled me to discover and cultivate all of my talents through encouragement and support from the program staff, the summer experiences and the meaningful relationships I was able to develop with fellow scholars and alumni.


  • Amir Mehr Program Year: 2012
  • Amir Mehr

    Duke, Class of 2012
    Hometown: Hamilton, New Zealand
    High School: Hamilton’s Fraser High School
    Area of Study: Physics; Italian and European Studies at Duke

    Amir Mehr is a member of the Duke and Robertson Scholars class of 2012. Amir – who is from New Zealand by way of Iran – majored in Physics, and Italian while at Duke.

    Since graduating in May of 2012, Amir has worked as an associate at a Private Equity firm with interests in the healthcare, technology, and real estate sectors. Amir’s career goal is to start his own Venture Capital firm with a primary focus on renewable energy technologies.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? The Robertson Scholars program was critical to developing a solid, yet malleable plan for my future. Through my experiences as a Robertson Scholar, I gained not only an excellent and well-rounded education, but I also garnered numerous tangible real world skills through my numerous internships and program sponsored leadership courses – tangible skills that have proved invaluable in my post graduate life and career.

  • Brennan Lewis
  • Brennan Lewis

    Campus: UNC
    Hometown: Apex, NC
    High School: William G. Enloe High School

    When I was eight years old, I knew that I was going to save the world. While I haven’t entirely met that rather lofty goal, just wait! From raising money for a local animal shelter with a lemonade stand in my backyard, to creating a video that raises awareness of domestic violence, to volunteering with summer arts programs in Raleigh, NC, I have always been committed making my community a better place. In high school I pursued my interests in environmental science, visual art, and German language and culture, but I’ve discovered my that greatest passion lies in activism and advocacy for minority groups. In addition to becoming the co-president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at my school, I co-founded QueerNC, a statewide group devoted to building a safe space and connected community for LGBTQ youth. Through QueerNC, I worked with the LGBT Center of Raleigh to design the ASPYRE Leadership Camp, which empowers queer youth to create change in their communities.


    I currently intern with Equality NC, volunteer with the LGBT Center of Raleigh Youth Programs, and help out with both the UNC Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) and the UNC LGBTQ Center. In my free time, I like to go hiking and camping, visit local farmers’ markets, and cook for my friends.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? To be entirely honest, I was initially most excited about the first-year Robertson orientation in the mountains and the later opportunity to participate in a backpacking trip with other young leaders (I really love hiking)! As I began to learn more about the Robertson program, however, I was amazed by the diversity of the stories of each Scholar and staff member. Although some of the Scholar bios on the website can be intimidating, I knew that the basic tenets of the Robertson directly aligned with what matters most to me.

    I think that the best way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with others who constantly inspire me to push beyond what is easy and comfortable. The Robertson Program offers amazing opportunities to learn, adventure, make mistakes, laugh, and take on new challenges with a small group of smart and motivated peers.

    How has your experience with the Robertson shaped your career path?

    Before being accepted to the Robertson Program, I was determined to move away from North Carolina. I grew up in Apex, NC, and always hoped to move somewhere more inclusive of LGBTQ people. The Robertson Program encouraged me to take a deep dive in learning about the South through an immersive summer interning for the Delta Arts Alliance in Cleveland, Mississippi. During my Robertson Exploration Summer, I had the opportunity to work for the Campaign for Southern Equality, an organization dedicated to promoting legal and lived equality for LGBTQ people in the South.
    These experiences helped me to learn how important it is for LGBTQ Southerners to work to make their hometowns a place that LGBTQ people to live and thrive. My time in the Robertson Program culminated in a summer spent creating an audio documentary with LGBTQ people in small communities across the South, combining my interests in public policy, LGBTQ life in the South, and documentary studies. I hope to a pursue a career in LGBTQ advocacy at a regional nonprofit.

    Favorite Robertson Moment: Every one-on-one conversation with another Robertson.


  • Catarina Rivera Program Year: 2007
  • Catarina Rivera

    Duke, Class of 2007
    Hometown: Bowie, Maryland
    High School: Eleanor Roosevelt High School
    Area of Study: Psychology

    Catarina has been developing herself as a change agent throughout her life. While at Duke, she co-founded Unidos Por Durham, a social entrepreneurship project connecting Duke students to the Durham Latino community. She led a family literacy program called Turning the Page that partnered with E.K. Powe Elementary School. She also served as Co-President of Mi Gente, Duke University’s Latino students association. In her senior year, she received the William J. Griffith University Service Award. After graduating in 2007, Catarina joined Teach for America and taught bilingual education in the Bronx. She has also taught at Harlem Success Academy. While teaching, Catarina became passionate about creating healthier communities and discovering the best ways to create that change. In 2011, she founded a nonprofit program called Healthy Kids in the Heights. The mission of Healthy Kids in the Heights is to improve the health and nutrition of Latino families. The organization has offered a variety of community wellness programs in Washington Heights and the Bronx. Currently, she is a health coordinator for Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit organization. She leads an obesity prevention and intervention initiative at an after school program for middle school students. Catarina has twice been a speaker at the national Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media (LATISM) conference.

    She holds a Masters Degree in Dual Language/Bilingual Education from Bank Street College. She is now pursuing a Masters in Public Health (MPH) from Hunter College, where she was awarded a Grove Foundation scholarship.

    Catarina has Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder affecting both hearing and vision. She shares her perspective on her blog ( and works to increase awareness of disability issues. She hopes to inspire others to pursue their passions in the face of any challenge. Catarina is engaged to be married in August 2014.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?

    My experience with the Robertson Program helped me to discover that I wanted a career that had a social impact. Through my summer experiences, I was able become part of different communities around the world and develop greater compassion. The Robertson Program reinforced my goal of becoming a transformative leader. I will always be grateful for the opportunity and for the wonderful fellow scholars I have met.

  • Melissa Anderson Program Year: 2005
  • Melissa Anderson

    UNC, Class of 2005
    Hometown: Charlotte, NC
    High School: Myers Park High School
    Academic Interests: International Studies and Business

    Melissa began to develop her passion for both the community and the business world during her four years at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke, particularly the experiences of the Robertson Scholars Program. She began to engage with both local and international communities during her first two years by spending a semester studying Mandarin in Beijing, working with LKLP Community Action Council in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and teaching at Christel House in Cape Town, South Africa.

    This passion for community merged with the business world in her junior and senior years, when Melissa matriculated in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC. She spent her final Robertson Summer traveling in East and Southeast Asia with the business school and working on her honors thesis in Taiwan on Taiwanese investment in mainland China. As a member of the planning committee for the Undergraduate Business Symposium her senior year, she was able to help integrate socially responsible business into the focus of the symposium, helping to bring Jerry Greenfield from Ben & Jerry’s to campus.

    After graduating from UNC in 2005, Melissa spent three years working in Strategy & Operations Consulting at Deloitte Consulting in Atlanta, Georgia, where she also served as a member of the Community Involvement Council and as Coordinator for Analyst Community Involvement. Melissa received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2010, spending the summer between the two years of her graduate program working with Teach For America’s Greater Boston regional team through Education Pioneers.  While at HBS, she also served as the Co-President of the Volunteers Club and a Board Fellow for the United Way of Mass. Bay and Merrimack Valley.  She is currently serving as a manager of Strategy & Operations for Deloitte Consulting in McLean, VA advising regional, national and international Financial Services institutions on strategic transformation issues.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path?

    My experience in the Robertson Program was transformational in a number of ways.  First and foremost, I gained an ability to enter new situations and quickly learn and adapt to unfamiliar surroundings.  This skill has been invaluable in allowing me to take chances in my career to push myself beyond my boundaries.  In addition, my experience in both the non-profit and business realms continues to drive me to find opportunities at the intersection of these two worlds.  That passion was heavily shaped by my summer and classroom experiences in the Program, but also by continuing to connect with Robertson alumni across these sectors as I progress in my career.


  • Duncan Parsons
  • Duncan Parsons

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
    High School: Lindisfarne College

    I am from an apple orchard in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, and consequently I love the outdoors and being hands on. That said, the bigger picture fascinates me and I love stepping back and appreciating the bigger cycles and interdependencies of the world.

    I love sports, (yes, including basketball), being around friends and exploring new things. I don’t have any deep passions but I am interested in all sorts of things and I’m looking forward to a host of new experiences in the states.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? Definitely the opportunity to become a part of something far bigger than I am. I will meet so many people and learn so many things that I simply wouldn’t do anywhere else. It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and I am looking forward to being immersed in the forward-thinking and dynamic Robertson culture.

  • Jake Thomson Program Year: 2008
  • Jake Thomson

    Duke, Class of 2008
    Hometown: Morristown, New Jersey
    High School: Delbarton School
    Area of Study: Public Policy, Spanish, Markets and Management Studies

    When Jake Thomson arrived at Duke in 2004, he was immediately drawn to the Sanford Institute of Public Policy. Intrigued by the interdisciplinary nature of the major, he became increasingly aware of how policy affects our daily lives both at home and as part of our interconnected global economy. During his four years as a Robertson Scholar, Jake pursued his many academic interests both in the classroom and extracurricularly, but was continually attracted to the domestic and international questions surrounding healthcare equality and the world’s energy outlook.

    Jake was particularly fascinated by ways in which the public sector and private enterprise could be merged to provide equitable solutions to these questions without stifling growth. As a Robertson Scholar, Jake pursued this interest by supplementing his public policy coursework at Duke with honors courses in the political science, economics, and public health departments at the University of North Carolina.

    Jake’s summer experiences as a Robertson were also critical to the formation of his passions, and he sees each one of these undertakings as a major part of his personal and professional development. Jake spent his first Robertson summer in Cleveland, Mississippi, helping to develop recreational camps for children of migrant laborers, and also volunteered to translate at free medical clinics for the Spanish-speaking community. In his second Robertson summer, Jake lived with other scholars in Cape Town, South Africa, where he chose to dedicate his time to researching and working toward renewable and localized energy strategies in South African municipalities with a Cape Town-based NGO, Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA). For his third Robertson summer in Nashville, Tennessee, Jake drew on his experiences in rural Mississippi, his public policy coursework, his firsthand knowledge of the energy parallels between South Africa and the United States, and the inequalities in education he had witnessed domestically and abroad. Jake worked for the Research and Planning Division of Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development. There, he provided research and analysis skills in several areas, including heavy industry, healthcare, energy, and education, with a focus on facilitating small business growth, augmenting external investment in Tennessee, and promoting improved quality of life for Tennessee citizens.

    Jake’s experiences within the Robertson Scholars Program, with its commitment to collaboration, helped him discover that real solutions to policy questions are best generated through collaborative work between interested parties in all sectors. For this reason, Jake considers his development of the DeltAIDS philanthropy project his greatest achievement during his tenure at Duke University. As a founding father and active member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity on Duke’s campus, Jake took on the role of philanthropy chair with the goal of converting his predecessor’s vision of a collaborative Duke HIV/AIDS initiative into a sustainable practice. In the following years, Jake created a network of several on-campus groups, including four Greek organizations, to raise HIV/AIDS awareness on campus and support a 501(c)3 DeltAIDS Foundation with a mission statement of funding Duke and Durham community initiatives in the battle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. While raising the seed money for such an organization proved to be a challenge, DeltAIDS continues to grow today, and in 2008 helped fund three students committed to separate projects on the African continent. Jake remains involved in the long-term development of DeltAIDS at Duke University.

    After graduating in 2008 with an undergraduate degree in Public Policy Studies, with a certificate in Markets and Management Studies and a minor in Spanish, Jake began work as an Implementation Consultant for Epic Systems in Madison, Wisconsin, where he currently helps major healthcare organizations install and manage the development of electronic health record (EHR) systems. He continues to seek challenging opportunities as he goes forward, and remains grateful for the fantastic undergraduate experience afforded to him by the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program.

  • Kalif Jeremiah
  • Kalif Jeremiah

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
    High School: Poly Prep Country Day School

    Academic Interests: Intended majors: Spanish and PubPol(tentative) Intended minor: Education

    Extracurriculars/Hobbies: Spoken Verb – Spoken Word Club S.O.C.A. – Students of the Caribbean Association Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. NPHC IM Football IM Basketball

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? I have been fortunate enough to be blessed time and time again in my life. After completing a program by the name of Prep for Prep in NYC, I received a scholarship to private school. It was at this private institution that I met the man who not only told me about the Robertson Program, but also helped me to prepare for my interview. One of my biggest regrets of high school is not traveling out of the country. As a dreamer and explorer, I have always wanted the opportunity to travel and learn from other cultures. The Robertson Program is a unique opportunity for me to hone the leadership skills I have while also increasing my cultural awareness and general understanding as I travel around the world during our summers.

    How has your experience with the Robertson Program shaped your goals and career path? My internship at the Public Defenders Office in New Orleans this summer solidified my original plan to become a public defender. The city is much worse off than I originally thought. It would be an honor for me to return to the city post law school and offer my services to the inhabitants of the city.

    Favorite Robertson Memory: One of my favorite Robertson moments was staying up talking to fellow scholar Daya Uppal one night during the NOLS trip. I am someone who is awful at making new friends; I’m pretty strange, but also an introvert. That moment that we shared after only knowing each other for a couple days helped to comfort me; I knew that I would be ok in this new stage in my life that I was entering.

  • Paul Hiatt Program Year: 2011
  • Paul Hiatt

    UNC, Class of 2011
    Hometown: Loveland, CO
    High School: Loveland High School
    Area of Study: Environmental Health Science, Chemistry

    The Robertson Program shaped Paul Hiatt’s career path by enabling him to explore a diverse set of disciplines outside of his curriculum while still in school. Outside the classroom Paul had the freedom, financial capability and encouragement to explore learning activities that ultimately provided him with a foundational skill set he can now use in virtually any context. A direct example is this is his recent role of  leading the technical side of an early stage company despite graduating from a field almost completely unrelated to computer science.

    After studying health-related sciences at UNC and Duke, Paul shifted into early stage technology ventures to explore opportunities at the forefront of computing, data and mass media. Paul is currently using his expertise in web development to run a young data-mining and analytics company based in Durham, NC. While his immediate goal is the success of his company, he intends to pursue further education in a technology or energy-related engineering field and to continue solving social issues with high-leverage, knowledge-based solutions.

  • Kristin Hill Program Year: 2009
  • Kristin Hill

    UNC, Class of 2009
    Hometown: Charlotte, NC
    High School: South Mecklenburg High School
    Area of Study: Journalism & Mass Communication

    Kristin Hill graduated from South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, NC in 2005. After high school, her passion for music and entertainment continued to grow. At UNC, she served as chair of the Music & Media committee of the Carolina Union Activities Board where she worked to bring internationally acclaimed artists to the university. In her first year, Kristin got involved with the founding of Small Town Records, Duke University’s student-run record label and recording studio. After three years of sound engineering, Kristin joined the label’s administration as the Director of Marketing.

    Dedicated to service and student life, Kristin also was very involved in student government throughout her collegiate career. She was co-president of the Freshman Focus Council, served as an Executive Assistant, ran for Student Body President as a junior, while also serving on a number of other student government committees. Her summers were spent working with high school students and teachers in the Mississippi Delta, teaching seminars on the dangers of drugs and alcohol in Argentina, working at Muzak and working at AIDS orphanages in Kenya.

    In her junior year, Kristin began working in college marketing for Warner Music Group in the Triangle. By her senior year her territory included the Carolinas and parts of Virginia. After joining Ignite Social Media as an intern in the spring, she leveraged her knowledge of online communities to ease the burden of covering such a large territory. After graduating from with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, Kristin went on to work for MTV Networks as a Summer Associate in New York City.

    Kristin was a Robertson Fellow for a year, then formed UpHill Media in 2010, which provided marketing and digital consultative services to Cisco Systems, PBS’ hit concert television series “Live from the Artists Den,” and Y-Combinator start-up The Fridge (acquired by Google in July 2011).

  • Annalee Bloomfield Program Year: 2009
  • Annalee Bloomfield

    UNC, Class of 2009
    Hometown: Raleigh, NC
    High School: Enloe High School
    Area of Study: Economics, Chinese

    Annalee Bloomfield, a 2009 UNC-CH alumna and Robertson Scholar, graduated with Honors, double-majoring in Economics and in Chinese language. After leaving UNC and Duke, she was hired as a research analyst in Global Investment Research, at Goldman Sachs. Annalee recently left Goldman to co-found a new company, Great Bridge Group, located in NYC. In her free time, Annalee volunteers with Music for Autism and is Treasurer of the charity’s Junior Board.

    Annalee attests that the Robertson Program was completely transformational. The Program not only helped shape her studies and interests at school, but has had an even greater impact on her life since she graduated. She says she would never have met her current business partner without the Robertson network, and is also lucky to have been able to hire a fellow ’09 Robertson Scholar (and very close friend) to work with her as well. The Robertson community was an amazingly supportive and interesting one while she was at Carolina and Duke, but Annalee believes that the program became an even more important part of her life post graduation and throughout her time thus far in New York City.

  • Ian Jaffe
  • Ian Jaffe

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Short Hills, NJ
    High School: Millburn High School

    Academic Interests: Global Health (Major), Biology (Major), Computer Science (Minor), Infectious Diseases, Biosecurity

    Extracurriculars/Hobbies: Legal and Compliance Chair for Duke University Emergency Medical Services (Duke EMS), Sports Photography Editor for The Chronicle, Deputy Director-General for the Duke International Security Conference (DISCon), Resident Assistant, Ceramics, Running, and Traveling

    Background: My entire life, I was always taught to respect the beauty, power, and wonder of nature’s creations. My family spent a lot of my childhood hiking, boating, and wandering through America’s National Parks, where I got to see natural wonders that boggle the mind—from the grand canyon to the fjords of Alaska. Much later on in high school, I also began to appreciate the power of some of nature’s smallest creations through my studies on infectious diseases. Knowing that the seemingly harmless bacteria in my petri dishes or test vials have had the power to cause considerable harm to humans and other animals is truly a sobering thought, but fascinating nonetheless. While I prefer to keep my appreciation of hiking, geology, and other outdoor activities limited to hobbies, I hope to be able to take my passion for infectious diseases to a place where I can use all that can be learned from nature to better humankind.

    What drew you to the Robertson program?:  The Robertson’s philosophy of pushing limits and expanding your perspective through a diversity of experiences was an attitude that I immediately felt at home with. I have always believed that leadership is founded upon respect, and respect is inextricably connected with experience. The Robertson truly seeks to develop leadership by pushing scholars into unusual—and sometimes uncomfortable—environments, where they can make mistakes, meet people they would have never met otherwise, and experience a culture different from what they are used to. Whether it is spending a summer in rural Kentucky (as I did after my first year), spending a semester at another campus, or being able to travel the world, I knew that the Robertson program would be always pushing, while providing a community of resources and support.

  • Rohan Sheth
  • Rohan Sheth

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Arlington Heights, IL
    High School: United World College – USA

    Throughout my two years at an international school, I learned about the successes and shortcomings of the world’s various educational systems. I learned just how little emphasis is placed on experiential learning and how its utilization is, in fact, necessary to a holistic education in this increasingly globalized world. Over the past year my work with Global Social Impact (GSI), my high school’s social entrepreneurship incubator, has given me prime exposure to project-based learning with an emphasis on interdisciplinary education, a different form of learning compared to sitting in a classroom. Functioning similar to a start-up accelerator, GSI taught me how to take an idea from its conception all the way to production, as I worked with a custom app development team in India to create a mobile security application. As I travelled to schools throughout India, China, Hong Kong, and Japan, I realized that this type of experiential learning is lacking throughout the world. Too often, our educational systems are set up just to help create students—products—ready to serve the current system. While these cookie-cutter products do become successful, they fail to address increasingly complex problems in a new and rapidly changing world. It is my goal to revolutionize education in a way that makes project-based learning a priority for schools. By pursuing economics, public policy, and computer science at Duke and UNC, I hope to learn what it is that makes schools tick, while at the same time expanding on my own interests and learning from others.

    In high school I really enjoyed backpacking and over the course of my two years at a boarding school I spent a total of 30 days backpacking in the wilderness. I also played soccer and volleyball, both of which I hope to continue recreationally in the future. Last, attending an international school has really sparked my interest in travelling and I am fortunate enough to have been able to travel throughout Asia and Europe once already. It is my hope to travel the rest of the world at some point in my life!

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? Robertson’s commitment to helping change-makers assured me that this was the best program to help me pursue my goals. The Robertson summers were evidence enough of the programs understanding and dedication to experiential learning. As a small tightly knit collaborative community, I was certain that the Robertson Program could fulfill and enrich my college experience. Each person brings such unique stories and talents to the group that I could not think of a better circle of people to go through college next to. In the end, the exhilarating summers, extensive alumni network, and colorful array of other talented scholars proved to me that there really was no decision to be made at all.

  • Elle Winfield
  • Elle Winfield

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Doncaster, South Yorkshire, UK
    High School: The Hayfield School

    At the moment my academic interests seem completely undefined; in fact that’s one of the best advantages to the Robertson Program – the opportunity to be so academically eclectic. As of now I am strongly intrigued by the study of Law, English literature and Anthropology but am also deeply motivated by a passion for human rights and promoting social mobility. I hope to expand my academic endeavours whilst a Scholar to include a more rounded focus on languages and economics equally but definitely will be continuing my extracurriculars of volunteering and sports for as long as possible.Beyond that I love painting and writing in my spare time but am continually motivated by my ‘American dream’ of becoming an international human rights lawyer.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? Undoubtedly the biggest draw of the Robertson Program for me was how incredibly holistic the opportunities offered were. Academically the chance to study at both Duke and UNC amazed me but more importantly, the possibilities that the summer experiences really drew me in; coming from a British education system, the benefits of learning beyond the classroom was an offer I could hardly refuse. Yet honestly I think the primary deciding factor for myself was the sense of community that was offered via the 36 Scholars and the Robertson family as a whole; that kind of support, especially as an international student, was invaluable to me.

  • Matthew Kaplan
  • Matthew Kaplan

    Campus: Duke
    Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
    High School: Tesseract School

    When my younger brother became the victim of cyber-bullying at our middle school, I wanted ‘somebody’ to do something about it. Eventually, I realized that the ‘somebody’ had to be me. I created The Be ONE Project, a community-building and anti-bullying program for middle schoolers. Through team building games, experiential activities, and guided discussions, The Be ONE Project breaks down barriers, opens up lines of communication, and creates positive and inclusive school environments.

    Academically, I’m interested in the intersection of social change and positive psychology. At Duke, I plan to self-design a program of study exploring how people can learn to be fulfilled and content with their lives, and how we can empower people to channel learned optimism into making the world a better and more just place.

    Outside of my academic interests, I practice yoga daily, love all things chocolate, and have been known to spend hours on end watching reality TV shows on Netflix.

    What drew you to the Robertson Program? The Robertson Scholarship feels like winning Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to attend college outside of my home state of Arizona. The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program has opened the door to previously unimaginable (and otherwise inaccessible) adventure and opportunity. Through summer experiences, study abroad, campus switch, and leadership development programming, the Robertson Scholarship will challenge me to step out of my comfort zone. The Robertson Scholarship also offers me access to classes, social events, and extracurricular opportunities at both Duke and UNC, which will help me further my academic, personal, and professional goals. Most importantly, what drew me to the Robertson Program was the community of genuine, passionate, and supportive individuals that I am proud to call my classmates and friends.

  • Christopher Scoville Program Year: 2005
  • Christopher Scoville

    Duke, Class of 2005
    Hometown: Kansas City, MO
    High School: Red Cross Nordic United World College
    Area of Study: Public Policy, Women’s Studies

    With the support of the Robertson Scholars Program, Christopher spent three summers working at nonprofit organizations across three different continents. In his first summer, he interned at StandUpForKids, an organization that provides outreach and support to homeless youth in Atlanta. He moved on from Georgia to Cape Town, South Africa for his second Robertson summer, where he worked in communications, research, and program development for Triangle Project, an LGBT advocacy group. He returned to Cape Town to study abroad during the academic year and to continue his internship with the organization. For his final Robertson summer, Christopher worked in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he produced the country’s first research on the impact of HIV/AID education policies in minoritized communities for the Malaysian AIDS Council.

    While at Duke, Christopher co-founded Common Ground, an immensely popular and successful student-led diversity immersion retreat program dedicated to exploring human relations in personal and powerful ways. He successfully lobbied for the creation of the LGBT Liaison position in the Admissions Office and served as the undergraduate representative on the University Presidential Taskforce for LGBT Matters. Christopher also wrote a biweekly column, Topher’s Parade, for Duke’s daily student newspaper, The Chronicle. In his sophomore year, he was selected as a Point Scholar by the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest LGBT scholarship program, for which he later served on the Selections Committee and Board of Trustees as an alumnus. In his senior year at Duke, he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated magna cum laude and received the William J. Griffith University Service Award for outstanding service to the University.

    Since graduation, Christopher has worked at a number of nonprofit organizations, including the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, a regional public policy organization. He later completed the One Year MBA Program at Drexel University on a LeBow Alumni Fellowship. He currently works for the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and remains involved with other organizations as a volunteer, consultant, and board member.

    The Robertson Program solidified Christopher’s desire to pursue a career working with mission-driven organizations and helped him sharpen the leadership, service, and other global competencies needed to succeed in today’s world. He remains grateful for the opportunities and experiences afforded him by his participation in the program.