When Taylor Clarke first arrived on campus, she pursued her interest in becoming an on-camera broadcast journalist. She landed an internship with Duke's Office of News and Communications, filmed broadcast segments about the university, and moderated webcasts on topics such as college admissions and career planning. As a Robertson Scholar, she spent a semester at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill producing medical segments for the school's cable channel.
Wanting to use her voice in more of an advocacy and leadership role, Clarke joined the Panhellenic Council's executive board as head of public relations for Duke's largest student group, representing more than a thousand women. She became an undergraduate research scholar for Fuqua's Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics and helped produce the Coach K Leadership Summit. She joined the advisory board of the Duke Colloquium, a university initiative that encourages students to incorporate leadership and service into their professional lives after college.
Clarke also sought opportunities to stretch beyond her comfort zone. She enrolled in a couple of military science courses, where she was one of the only non-ROTC students in the class. She landed an internship with Bloomberg Television's Hong Kong bureau and later headed to Italy to spend a semester studying European history. As a senior, she signed up for a graduate-level biomedical engineering class that worked to bring a spinal-cord stimulation device to market. But what stretched her the most, she says, was learning from mistakes and how to recover from them.
She used the few setbacks she faced to her advantage. Clarke wanted to bring Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to campus to join Robertson Scholars benefactor Julian H. Robertson Jr. in a discussion about their reasons for signing The Giving Pledge -- the effort to encourage wealthy individuals to give away most of their money during their lifetimes to philanthropic causes. Dozens of e-mail messages later, her Facebook contact, impressed with Clarke's drive and determination, told her Zuckerberg couldn't possibly break away to come to Duke -- but was she interested in a summer internship at the company?
Clarke spent last summer working at Facebook's Palo Alto campus in the communications division. Clarke loved the innovative, "move fast and break things" ethos of Facebook. She's decided to pursue a career in digital and social media and is heading to Facebook's New York office after graduation.
"Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg talks about having a long-term dream and a short-term plan," says Clarke. "My short-term plan is to work at Facebook, but my long-term dream is to make Duke proud."