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Baldwin Scholars give program an "A"

A year after the Baldwin Scholars moved into Crowell Quadrangle as a selective living group, the 18 sophomores have deemed the new residential component-and the program-a success.

The inaugural group of Alice M. Baldwin Scholars was selected in Fall 2004, after a Women's Initiative Steering Committee determined that female students suffer from a decrease in self-esteem upon entering college.

"After spending my entire senior year [of high school] in sweatpants, I was worried that I was headed to a university where this would be taboo," sophomore Baldwin Scholar Rachel McLaughlin wrote in an e-mail. "I wanted to be part of a group that bucked the norm and sought to create lasting change. I did not want 'effortless perfection' to be part of my vocabulary."

The four-year Baldwin program is an opportunity for women to experience single-sex education within Duke's larger co-educational setting. Members of the program are selected as freshmen after undergoing a process of applications and interviews.

"I noticed a lack of an informal women's network system here, and I felt disadvantaged," sophomore Andrea Dinamarco said about her decision to become a Baldwin Scholar.

Sophomore Sarah Gordon said she joined the program so she could meet women with similar goals and interests.

"My first couple of weeks on campus, I was reaching out to find more female friends and women leaders in my life, and this filled that niche," Gordon said.

McLaughlin said the group started with a blank slate. "We had to learn to work together to create a leadership structure," she said.

The group developed a constitution, which will continue to be implemented in future years.

During the spring of their first year, the women participate in an interdisciplinary seminar, and during their remaining years at Duke they collaborate on community service projects. "The class was the first group experience they had together, and then they moved that experience into the residence halls as sophomores," said Colleen Scott, assistant director of the Baldwin Scholars Program. "The supportive environment that seminar creates definitely feeds into the environment they live in together."

Gordon said she believes the best part of the program is the combination of academics, service and residential living.

Sophomore Claire Lauterbach said living with the other scholars and hearing their perspectives has helped her understand what it is like to be female at Duke.

Being a member of the group forces individuals to leave their comfort zones, McLaughlin said. "Since the women in the program are so different from one another, we constantly challenge each other to think beyond our own paradigm," she said.

Scott said the fact that nine of the current sophomores had expressed interest in continuing to live in the selective living group during their junior year is a testament to its benefits. Because of space constraints, however, only the rising sophomore and three or four rising juniors will be able to live together next year.

Scott noted that the first group of Baldwin Scholars met their goal of creating projects that would improve campus culture for women. One project was a faculty-student interaction series in which professors had dinner and informal conversations with the Baldwin Scholars. In another project, Lauterbach and Gordon began collecting posters of campus parties that depicted gender in some way after learning about femininity and gender in the scholars' Spring 2005 seminar.

Several Baldwin Scholars said the project exemplifies the efforts of the program and suggested using the posters in an art installation project, which will be displayed within the next couple weeks.

"It's a display with these posters, and it has several words to prompt response- such as 'offended,' 'objectified,' 'confused'-to see what people think," Lauterbach said.

Members of the first class of Baldwin Scholars are also preparing for their required junior-year internships. They are placed in a field of interest and paired with a Duke alumna. "The purpose is to get some exposure to a professional field and to possibly find a mentor in that field," Scott said. "It's someone who would have perspective from being a Duke student."

Eight of the current sophomores hope to do their internships this summer in areas such as activism, media and engineering. For example, Lauterbach will be working with Sherryl Broverman, assistant professor of the practice of biology, to establish a secondary school for girls in Kenya. She also has an internship in Poland, in which she will conduct her own research on minorities and human rights issues.

Dinamarco will intern at The White House Project in New York City, which works to get women elected to public office. She will also assist with the Climb High Foundation, founded by Alison Levine, Fuqua '00. The organization teaches women in Africa and Uganda to give tours of mountains that laws previously prevented them from climbing.

Scott noted the success of the inaugural group of scholars and mentioned that no changes will be made to the program for the next group of women.

Eighteen freshmen were recently selected to comprise the second class of Baldwin Scholars. Freshmen Sarah Sham and Liz Victor said their class of scholars realizes the importance and relevance of the program and hopes to continue its success by working toward new goals.

Victor said the scholars hope to bring theses issues to the attention of the entire student body.

"It's not just about women, but also helping all students come together," she said.


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