Exploring the Both/And: A Uniquely Robertson Experience

Faith Austin Both And

“Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays basically look the same – I’m at UNC full time in class. But Tuesdays and Thursday’s I’ve got physical training at Duke at 6am. I’m basically on a sleeping scheduled where I’m up at 5:30am every single day, no questions asked,” shared Faith Austin (Robertson ’27). It may not be a typical college student schedule, but for Faith, a UNC first-year Scholar who is also part of Duke’s Airforce ROTC it’s a uniquely Robertson experience that allows her to plug into two communities she cares deeply about.

“After physical training ends at 7:30am I have a break, then aerospace studies class here at Duke, then a leadership lab. During that off time, I just pack a breakfast, eat with my fellow cadets, stop by the Robertson office, do homework, and then its time for class. After class I get on the Robertson Express at 1pm, I’m back at UNC by 1:30pm and in Econ class by 2pm.”

It’s an opportunity to forge her own path, and for Faith that’s exciting. “I don’t think I realized how lucky I was as a Robertson until I was truly living it out. When you receive your acceptance its like ‘oh wow, this is so cool!’ and you read about it on paper, but then you truly experience it and you see how much your experience differs from your classmates at Duke or UNC.”  

So, why Air Force ROTC? Faith says it was a dream she had since high school when she visited the Air Force Academy in Colorado. “I just ate it up, I loved the discipline, I loved the respect. But then my goals started to change a bit as I got older. I took a gap year with the US State Department in Germany and I was able to attend different political summits and transatlantic conferences. Most of the people in those rooms had some kind of military affiliation. It was fascinating to hear the conversations they were having and the respect they were giving to each other and it was evident they all had served in the military.”

While on her gap year, Faith started shadowing at a nearby NATO base. “I was exposed to conversations these officials were having about the war in Ukraine, and what the future of diplomacy looks like from a military standpoint. And it just fascinated me. I had never thought of the military as a way to jump into the world of foreign policy, I always thought that was just through the State Department, but my eyes were completely opened and several mentors at the base suggested I look into ROTC.”

Now as a part of the Duke detachment, Faith is able to continue her leadership practice alongside her fellow cadets. “They truly see me as one of their own, no matter the position you’re in you’re all equal, you all show up & you’re all the same in the cadre’s eyes. And I’ve really appreciated that.”

Whether it’s fellow scholars who have provided space on campus to crash, gone on training runs together, or who selflessly show up with deodorant when she’s forgotten hers, Faith is quick to acknowledge the support she’s received from her Robertson community as well, “For how atypical my schedule is, I have found those stable supportive people, who have helped me show up and truly be able to be the fullest version of myself as I get plugged into all these things. Within the Robertson that’s Anish Aradhey, Anna McPherson, and Alex Hermoso – they’ve made my whole life here the last month completely possible. Anna & Alex are Duke Robbies and Anish is a UNC Robbie with me. They’re all so gracious and I do not take them for granted whatsoever.”

For Faith, describing her Robertson experience to date boils down to one key concept, “At the most surface level, I get to be both a Duke Air Force ROTC cadent and a UNC Russian flagship scholar. I’m a Tar Heel and a Blue Devil and its such a fascinating position to be in – I feel like both identities have become a part of me. I’m the same person at both schools, and I’ve found my people at both schools. At its core, the “both/and” characteristic this program provides is just such a blessing and I can’t think of any better position to be in. I think it’s completely shaped the course of what my future looks like!”