Career Lessons That Endure at Duke

Duke’s professional development programs provide experiences with lasting value

A collage of people's faces and logos.
Christa Rutledge, front row, second from left, of the Duke Outpatient Clinic and Duke Health North Durham was a member of the 2023-24 Front Line Supervisors Program.

A development program for entry level supervisors, the Front Line Supervisors Program offers lessons in leadership, business acumen and project management.

Along with the Duke Leadership Academy, Duke Management Academy, and the Foundational Skills Program, it’s among the special programs offered for specific career tracks by Duke Learning & Organization Development.

Training and professional growth are among the top elements of a positive employee experience, according to MetLife’s 2023 U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.

“The value of having programs such as the academies at all levels shows a level of inclusion,” said Keisha Williams, Assistant Vice President for Learning & Organization Development. “We can provide employees actionable tools and resources that they can put back into their everyday practice. No matter the level you are at Duke, you can better understand your role and become a stronger team player and collaborator.”

Rutledge, who joined Duke in 2008, completed the Front Line Supervisors Program last year.

She has incorporated key lessons such as effective delegation to members of her 11-person team to provide learning and growth opportunities.

“I’m trying to turn everything into a learning experience which can help you down the road,’” Rutledge said.

As other participants of Duke’s Learning & Organization Development programs grow their careers, many benefit from the enduring lessons from their programs.

Here are a few of their stories.

Vice President and Director of Athletics Nina King was part of the inaugural Duke Leadership Academy class in 2010.

Duke Leadership Academy: The Power of Collaboration

Vice President and Director of Athletics Nina King.

Vice President and Director of Athletics Nina King often encourages student athletes to connect with, and learn from, the wide variety of people on campus. Duke is, King will say, a “resource-rich environment.”

This perspective is rooted in King’s experience in the Duke Leadership Academy’s inaugural class in 2010. At the time, King had been at Duke for less than two years and had yet to build many connections around campus.

In the yearlong Duke Leadership Academy program, King collaborated with colleagues from areas such as Duke University Libraries and the Duke University School of Nursing to explore some of Duke’s real-world issues. She saw how gathering a range of voices often resulted in a deeper understanding of a situation and effective solutions.

In the years since, King has often tapped into the brainpower around her while working in collaborative situations chairing the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and serving in Duke University President Vincent E. Price’s cabinet.

“Given our individual professional experiences and our different backgrounds, we could still come together to solve a common problem,” King said of her Duke Leadership Academy colleagues. “While our stories may be different, a lot of the challenges we face are the same.”

Duke Management Academy: Valuing a Personal Touch

Duke Health Business Transformation Office Director Thomas Davis.

When Duke Health Business Transformation Office Director Thomas Davis chats with colleagues about his children’s soccer tournaments, or hears about colleagues’ hobbies, or birthday gifts for their kids, it’s an enjoyable byproduct of his Duke Management Academy experience.

In 2019, while managing a Performance Services team, Davis was drawn to the Duke Management Academy, which is designed to support the growth of mid-level managers. The academy offers leadership training, networking opportunities and a 360-degree assessment of anonymous feedback from coworkers.

For Davis, the most useful piece of feedback was that his work-first communication style could come off as rigid.

In response, Davis worked to create a climate where team members could bring more of themselves to work. That meant sharing news about life in meetings and welcoming colleagues to do the same.

In addition to making for a more fun workplace, the more personal relationships with colleagues have created stronger teams built on open communication and an investment in one another’s success.

“You build trust, you build goodwill,” said Davis, who joined Duke in 2007. “You build an environment where everybody is assuming positive intent. If you have to have a difficult conversation, the reaction you get is a little bit better because you’ve built a real relationship.”

Imer Ramadanovic of Duke HomeCare & Hospice reshaped his career path with the Foundational Skills Program.

Foundational Skills Program: Fueling Career Ambitions

Duke HomeCare & Hospice Health Unit Coordinator Imer Ramadanovic.

When Imer Ramadanovic began working as a food production assistant at Duke HomeCare and Hospice 15 years ago, he had more than 20 years of experience in restaurant kitchens. His hands were used to the motions of chopping vegetables and washing dishes.

But since 2020, Ramadanovic has reported each day to the same clinic to do a different kind of work. As a Health Unit Coordinator, Ramadanovic’s hands now dart across computer keyboards, summoning electronic health records and connecting the clinic’s fragile patients with resources they need.

Ramadanovic credits his career change to the Foundational Skills Program, which he completed in 2019. The program is open to Duke University and Duke University Health System service area team members who aspire to move into administrative roles.

In addition to training in customer service, clerical and office skills, the program offers opportunities to learn while working alongside administrative professionals.

For Ramadanovic, who had no prior office experience, the computer skills he learned in the program helped him refocus his enthusiasm and dedication to chart a new career path.

“Everything they taught me I use every single day,” Ramadanovic said. “All of the essentials I needed, I learned in that program.”

Applications for the 2025 programs open this fall. Learn more: