The Professional’s Guide to Duke and Durham: A Recommendation Resource for Graduate Students and Postdocs
Everyone knows that moving is chaotic, and when you’re moving to a brand new city, the moving process is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many things you need to do to settle into your new community. You have to find grocery stores, dry cleaners, mechanics, doctors, and so much more. Even after you’re settled, finding ways to engage your new community can be difficult. When graduate students and postdocs choose to come to Duke, they are joining two communities: Duke and Durham. Additionally, despite having to start a life here, many do not get the chance to visit before making a final decision, meaning that online resources are a pivotal introduction to these dual communities.
However, few resources currently exist that introduce students to Durham. Rather, many existing resources serve as an introduction to the university. While these Duke-specific resources are important to a successful career, the length of most graduate programs and postdoc positions means that it is just as important for these scholars to get a full introduction to the city around them. Much of this information spreads through word-of-mouth, passed down through generations of graduate students and postdocs, leaving the information undocumented or isolated within the internal resources of individual departments. Moreover, the resources that are available to all incoming professionals are often spread across many university websites, making it difficult to find information if you don’t know where to look. These realities, confirmed by stakeholder interviews, motivated our project through the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI): a website titled “The Professional’s Guide to Duke and Durham.”
Our ELI project sought to combine the resources already available to incoming scholars with the word-of-mouth information and advice they get from current students and postdocs. We had two goals in mind: (1) to increase visibility for existing resources, and (2) to provide personalized insights and advice from current Duke community members. As we started to make a project plan, we considered the following questions:
- What information about the Durham community and Duke experience might current students/postdocs have that would be informative to incoming students? How can this information supplement existing resources?
- How might we present this information in a way that is digestible, yet comprehensive?
- Are the experiences of all Duke graduate students and postdocs adequately represented in the existing materials/resources provided?
We started by conducting a thorough review of existing resources, including Duke websites (i.e., The Graduate School, Office of Postdoctoral Services, Student Affairs, Duke Libraries, GPSG, DUPA, International House, etc.) and Durham community sites (i.e., Discover Durham, Bites of Bull City, etc.). We then categorized the information gathered from these resources and identified gaps. Finally, we developed a survey to gather recommendations from current graduate students and postdocs to address the gaps. The survey included questions about housing, on-campus activities and organizations, fun things to do in Durham, and recommendations for restaurants, doctors, hair salons, mechanics, and more. The survey was sent out to approximately 100 Directors of Graduate Studies to distribute to their respective departments. We received responses from over 300 trainees representing over 50 departments.
Using the information from the survey responses in combination with the existing resources, we built a website that features the existing resources (now accessible in one centralized location) with added personalized recommendations from our survey. The website features information on Campus Life, Housing & Transportation, Health & Wellness, Daily Life, Dining, Things to Do, Professional Development, and Mentoring. We were able to incorporate personalized recommendations from current students in almost every section. For example, in the Dining section, we included numeric ratings of on-campus restaurants as well as a list of top-rated restaurants around Durham. The Things to Do section lists exciting outdoor activities, annual events, bars/breweries, museums, and several other activities that make Durham a unique, fun place for graduate students and postdocs to thrive. In the Housing section, we incorporated direct quotes from current Duke scholars about their experiences at various housing complexes and their recommendations for places to live.
“The complexes in the 'LaSalle Loop' area above West campus would all be contenders for their ease of access to campus. However, given that robberies tend to happen often at The Belmont Apartments, and that walking along those roads late at night tend to be dangerous / not well-lit / not well-serviced by the Duke bus routes, I’d hesitate on living in that area if you don’t have a car.”
In the daily life section, we included quotes describing what people like and don’t like about living in Durham. We think having a complete picture of life in Durham will serve as a useful resource as graduate students and postdocs move to the area.
"There is a really vibrant local economy here with independent artists, bakeries, restaurants, and craft stores.”
"As more and more companies and people move into the area, the cost of living and housing prices continue to increase."
Our goal for this resource was to help incoming scholars get excited about all that Durham has to offer before they even arrive, and once they do, help them settle much more quickly. Beyond serving as an onboarding resource, current graduate students and postdocs can continue to check the site whenever they need a new recommendation or inspiration for a fun thing to do in town. For us, going through the survey responses was incredibly fun, and we discovered many new things about Durham that we hadn’t known before. It was pretty clear that you can never have enough recommendations.
We hope that with this new resource, current and future generations of Duke scholars will have the tools and insights they need to better engage with their new community and home. To ensure that the site is useful to as many scholars as possible, we encourage you to share the site with your friends and colleagues. The more widely circulated, the more informed the Duke community can become on life in Durham. Thank you to the Emerging Leaders Institute, The Graduate School, and the Office of Postdoctoral Services for enabling development of the site.
Ph.D. candidate, Psychology and Neuroscience
Eva Gjorgieva is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in psychology and neuroscience, working with Drs. Roberto Cabeza, Marty Woldorff, and Tobias Egner. Her research investigates the neural mechanisms underlying attention and memory interactions by distinguishing between externally- and internally-directed attention, as well as the cognitive control processes modulating these interactions. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2015 with a B.S. in psychology and minor in neuroscience. Outside of research, Eva offers pro-bono consulting services through DISI (Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators) and DACC (Duke Advanced-degree Consulting Club). In her spare time, she enjoys taking on complex baking projects.
Rupali Gupta, Ph.D.
Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate, Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences
Rupali Gupta, Ph.D. is a senior postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences in Duke School of Medicine. She received her doctorate in Physiology from SOKENDAI Japan and a bachelor’s of engineering degree in Biotechnology in India. Her current research involves COVID-19 olfactory neurodegeneration studies. Apart from research, she has been working the past four years as a lead teaching assistant and summer instructor in neuroscience courses for Duke undergraduates. When not at work, she loves spending time with her husband, traveling, volunteering and enjoying food. She has over 20 years of volunteering experience in countries like India, Japan and the U.S.
Master's student, Bioethics & Science Policy
Matt Martin is an M.A. student in the Bioethics & Science Policy program in the Duke Initiative for Science & Society. He is interested in the policy and ethical frameworks undergirding U.S. health innovation. Before Duke, he worked at Research!America, a medical and health research advocacy alliance based in Washington, D.C. During this time, he also participated in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals program. Matt graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry from Furman University with a concentration in biochemistry. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, cooking, and playing the clarinet.