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How the FOCUS Program Helped Me Find a Home at Duke

By Caroline King, Class of 2024

One of the most special parts of Duke, in my opinion, is the opportunity to participate in the FOCUS program as a first-year. Beginning college can be very nerve-racking — I know it was for me — but living in the same dorm as the students in my FOCUS program who were taking the same classes as me and with whom I shared similar interests made the transition much less intimidating. Being in FOCUS made Duke feel like a home to me right away. If I had a question about the homework for one of our classes, I could ask the person right down the hall. And when I wanted someone to hang out with, there were always people around me that I knew.

Caroline and her friends in the “Knowledge in the Service of Society” FOCUS Cluster

FOCUS not only helped me with the social adjustment to college, but also with the academic adjustment. I went to a very rigorous high school and was used to large workloads, but FOCUS helped me navigate having a college schedule and how to best manage my time.

Being a part of the FOCUS program means you are a part of two FOCUS-related classes and two normal classes during your first semester at Duke. My FOCUS cluster, Knowledge in the Service of Society, was very geared towards my interests and I was drawn to the specific cluster right away. One of the classes I chose to participate in was called “Rethinking Schools Through the Lens of Social Justice” taught by Professor Malone and Professor Rigsbee. In “Rethinking Schools”, we learned about the resource gap within Durham local public schools and virtually volunteered at a local public elementary school, EK Powe, that was struggling to thrive due to the conditions of the pandemic. We investigated Durham’s history of racial inequality, and discussed the ways in which we as individuals, and as a society, can help combat the systemic inequality that has existed in Durham since the city was founded. As someone with a personal interest in education and social justice, I absolutely loved this class and my FOCUS program. Before Duke, I would have never been able to participate in a class like this, and that is one of the many things that makes this school so special.

Photo taken by Caroline for a project in one of her FOCUS classes

As a sophomore, I’ve learned so much in the year and half that I’ve been a student here. Duke has so many fascinating classes that cannot be taken anywhere else and FOCUS is no exception to this rule. I would definitely recommend the FOCUS program to everyone in the class of 2026 — once admitted, make sure to apply ASAP because the application is rolling!

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