Duke in Silicon Valley, explained

The Ronald & Carrie Ludwig Duke in Silicon Valley program, one of the University’s most popular summer abroad opportunities, is returning in 2024. While the program’s location attracts aspiring entrepreneurs, what do students do once they get in?

Kimberly Jenkins, Trinity ‘76, a technology entrepreneur who worked with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, helped spearhead the program in 2010 as a member of the Board of Trustees. The Ludwig family soon became the program’s benefactors and namesake.

Since then, Kevin Hoch, deputy director of Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship and managing director for education for Duke in Silicon Valley, has seen several students find their way back to the Bay Area, either through a summer internship or a post-graduation job.

Hoch believes the program provides an invaluable experience for students exploring career paths in technology or entrepreneurship. 

“[Students are] connecting with alumni at all different types of companies — anything from an early-stage startup to a company like Apple — and seeing what it’s like to see these concepts applied in real life, getting to meet people who are similar to your background, learning what they did to be successful and the paths they took and what [their] learning looks outside in the classroom,” Hoch said. 

Hoch emphasized the program’s goal of creating a community for students in the Bay Area, with the small cohort size of 18 to 20 students allowing participants to bond with each other. For him, the program was created to “[help] Duke students experience an area of the country that's unique, and that really embodies innovation and entrepreneurship.” 

Duke’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship website pitches the program as an opportunity to sit in on guest lectures from “founders and leaders from many of the country’s most innovative companies” and form connections with companies across Silicon Valley. 

Throughout the summer, students attend classes cross-listed under economics and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship minor, which often feature visits from guest speakers, panel discussions or group project work. 

Students in the program have previously visited Fortune 500 companies including PayPal, Tesla and Google. Beyond company tours, students explore a wide range of activities, from attending a San Francisco Giants game to doing improv for a boost in creativity.

Sophomore Alana Zinkin appreciated the coordination between the class curriculum and  extracurricular activities, such as sitting in on a pitch for a venture capital firm after learning about the topic in the classroom.

After the program, junior Aritra Acharjee decided to pursue the Innovation and Entrepreneurship certificate and has become more involved in the certificate’s programming. The program also allows students to build a network of Duke alumni working in Silicon Valley. 

“We met a lot of Duke alumni who were working on their startups and building interesting projects,” Acharjee wrote. “[J]ust getting the opportunity to connect with them and listening to their stories was very inspiring.”

Grace Ghoorah

Grace Ghoorah is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.      


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