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Duke Selects First Class for Women's Leadership Program

The Baldwin Scholars Program aims to empower women undergraduates to change Duke's campus culture and the world beyond

Eighteen first-year female undergraduates have been selected as the inaugural class of Baldwin Scholars, a four-year program that aims to empower women to change Duke's campus culture and the world beyond.

The program will begin in January with a team-building retreat and a semester-long academic seminar, "Perceptions of Self, Society and the Natural World." During their sophomore year, the women will live together on West Campus and participate in a team service project. Junior year will include an internship with a Duke alumna, and the program will finish during their senior year with a capstone seminar.

Throughout, students will have access to female mentors, including students, faculty and alumnae, who can help them develop self-confidence, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

"Our pioneer group of Baldwin Scholars will represent the program and Duke exceedingly well," said Donna Lisker, co-director of the program and director of Duke's Women's Center. "Their interests and abilities span the spectrum, and they have the energy and ambition to follow their dreams. We look forward to seeing what they will do over the next four years."

The Baldwin Scholars program was created to address key findings of the Women's Initiative, a year-long study of the status of Duke's female students, graduate and professional students, employees and faculty.

Among the findings released last fall, undergraduate students described a social atmosphere that enforces stringent social "rules" about acceptable behavior. Some reported "playing dumb" in class in front of male peers, while others equated success with perfection. The study noted that men are overrepresented in leadership roles in student government.

The Baldwin Scholars aims to chip away at these social norms. Because the program will take four years to grow to its full enrollment of 72 women, a special group of upperclass mentors was selected earlier this fall to support the inaugural class. The mentors are called Giles Mentors after Mary, Persis and Teresa Giles, the first women to graduate from Trinity College. 

The Baldwin Scholars application process was competitive, with 78 applicants for 18 spots. Each applicant turned in a written application responding to three short essay questions, including one on the student's observation of Duke's culture, to assess the applicant's self-awareness and leadership potential.

All applicants were invited to the first round of interviews, conducted by Colleen Scott, the program's assistant director, and one of the Giles Mentors. Finalists were invited to a second round of interviews with the program's co-directors and advisory board.

"The first class of Baldwin Scholars is a remarkably diverse group of talented and energetic women, ranging from engineers to actors to athletes," said Emily Klein, program co-director and associate professor of earth and ocean sciences. "As the pioneer group of scholars, these women will play an active role in shaping the character of the program for future participants."

Scott said that students who were not selected to participate in the inaugural class will be invited to participate in campuswide programs sponsored by the Baldwin Scholars and the Women's Center.

They also have been invited to join the Duke Women's Mentoring Network, a student organization also inspired by the Women's Initiative. The network brings together female undergraduates, graduate students, professors and staff through activities such as monthly book clubs and dinners featuring dynamic women speakers and guests.

For more information about the Baldwin Scholars program, visit here.

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The scholars and their hometowns are as follows:

Arizona Aislinn Affinito of Tucson

California Lisa Richards of Los Gatos

Florida Kamaria Campbell of Tampa Andrea Dinamarco of Pembroke Pines Alison Perlberg of Palm Beach Gardens

Iowa Sarah Gordon of Iowa City

Maryland Regan Bosch of Annapolis Laura Welch of Baltimore

Massachusetts Rachel Shack of Andover

Missouri Rachel McLaughlin of Fenton

North Carolina Vanja Vlahovic of Chapel Hill

Oregon Meng Zhou of Portland

Tennessee Nathalie Basile of Johnson City Pallavi Kansal of Memphis Anita Pai of Nashville

Texas Kelley Akhiemokhali of Houston

Virginia Megan Braley of Oakton Claire Lauterbach of Arlington