An Opportunity for Collaboration and Growth in Nursing: Student TED Talks at the Annual Duke-UNC Networking Dinner

 February 8, 2017



When I applied to Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON), I was impressed by the professors’ vast research experiences and the opportunities to network with scholars beyond Duke through events that DUSON organizes. One such event is the annual DUKE-UNC Networking Dinner, which brings together faculty and students from the two universities to talk about the future of nursing. During the dinner, Dukies and Tarheels set their sports rivalry aside to share their work with one another and discuss current issues and trends in nursing practices.

I first attended the networking dinner as an enrolled student in the fall of 2013. During the event, I took the opportunity to talk to other graduate students who were pursuing Ph.D.s. I became very curious about the research that other students were completing. I wanted to ask my colleagues at Duke and UNC more about their work, but there was not enough time to ask them all in-depth questions during the networking dinner.

Inspired by the event, I spoke with my program director about how to extend the networking experience offered by the annual dinner. I suggested that we could create a research symposium in which students could share their work. The Director of Graduate Studies liked the idea, which was then shared with the graduate students and the Nursing School’s Ph.D. committee, who all welcomed the idea. To implement the symposium, my fellow Ph.D. student Rose Mary Xavier and I took responsibility and pioneered the program at Duke. Two UNC School of Nursing Ph.D. students, Kayoll Galbraith and Louise Fleming, initially represented UNC students on the organizing committee and later handed over responsibility to Lindsey Nicole Horrell and Maureen Baker. On the Duke side, we worked with Janet Prvu Bettger, an associate professor at DUSON who has promoted collaboration across schools to support Ph.D. student development. With Dr. Bettger’s help, we applied for a Graduate School Professional Development Grant, which funded our networking event and other activities designed to provide graduate students with professional development.



Developing the program was not easy. We had to consider how we would select the presenters, the format in which people would present their work, and how to guarantee that we would have a wide range of topics covered. To address the first concern, it was agreed that a blind peer review would be followed: Duke students would review UNC abstracts, while UNC students would review Duke abstracts. Abstracts were reviewed anonymously to ensure fair selection. Since my colleague Rose Mary Xavier had participated in the Duke GradX 2015—a program in which Duke graduate students present a research question in the style of a TED talk—we decided to follow that format. We made sure to have a range of topics by scoring proposals to assess innovation, quality of writing, and relevance to critical issues in the research population.

To prepare for the event, Dr. Hugh Crumley, who has experience in organizing presentations in the style of TED talks, delivered a workshop on January 29, 2016. His presentation on how to give good TED talks was live streamed to UNC students, and it motivated many Duke and UNC students to submit abstracts for the event. Once the submission deadline passed, representatives from both universities reviewed the abstracts and selected the top ten submissions. Selected students then worked closely with their mentors and the student organizers to prepare and practice their presentations.

"I'm passionate about improving family planning for women who are managing serious and chronic illnesses. I enjoying thinking about how to make this issue compelling in a TED Talk, especially to an audience outside my specialty." 

- Laura Elizabeth Britton, UNC

The TED talks event took place an hour before the networking dinner. Everyone then had the opportunity to talk more with each other during the networking dinner that followed. Both the presenters and the audience had a great time at the TED talk networking event. We had accomplished our goal! Students had a forum for sharing their work, and at the same time, we all realized that boiling down our research into a 5-minute talk was preparation for our future in nursing. We will continue to collaborate with UNC and we will continue to network through a variety of activities in order to build a community of scholars who are committed to helping each other.

I am grateful to have been part of this activity and for the opportunity to be a student at Duke University. My hope is that, in the future, the Research Triangle will hold a research conference for nursing students organized by nursing students. This will build a team of future leaders who will be ready to take on important roles after they graduate. I hope that this will also break the walls between schools. We are more than the students of our schools: we are professionals and scholars in the global community.


Kaboni Gondwe

Ph.D. candidate, Nursing

Kaboni Gondwe is a nurse-midwife from Malawi and a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Nursing. Kaboni is also pursuing a doctoral certificate in global health at the Duke Global Health Institute. Her dissertation is on emotional distress and mother-infant interactions following birth. She has a passion for the health care system and aims to strengthen the implementation of science in low-income countries.