Alexandra Davis I&E Certificate

My Story

My Story

I grew up with what I’ve self-diagnosed as the Tikkun Olam Complex. Tikkun Olam translates from Hebrew into “repairing the world”. Symptoms of my self-concocted complex include not only idealism but also anxiety and urgency. I was supposed to change the world, and relatively easily. I saw myself as sci-fi film, from my hometown of Hollywood, where they took Buttercup from the Power Puff Girls, and Bat Mitzvah-ed her. Buttercup had the power of Chemical X, but what was mine?

Being the daughter of a rabbi and a lawyer, I absorbed much more than oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood when I cooked for nine months in utero. I absorbed my values, my mission. Because both of my parents practically centered their whole careers on Tikkun Olam, it was obvious to me that repairing the world was a life-time requirement. But unlike my parents, I did not view the world as a system of problems that need to be fixed.  Rather, as a self-proclaimed social innovator, I am hyper-aware to social needs in my community and am thrilled with the prospect of developing approaches to solving them.

One thing that people should know about me is that I want to repair, even the smallest part of, the world because I am genuinely fascinated by the beauty and nuances of—as cliché as it may sound—the human spirit. I found, through my love of photography, that I adored participating in anything that captured this raw happiness. My favorite hobby is photographing sports—especially in Cameron Indoor—because it allows me to experience a positive atmosphere and event, and capture it for others to see and appreciate, too.

This dichotomy in values led me to stumble upon my entrepreneurial spirit, which I hope to further bolster and evolve at Duke. I have learned through practical experience what effective entrepreneurship can do, but I desired an education that would offer me the ability to drive larger-scale change.  I knew that a Duke education would not only give me the tools to develop more complex thinking and rigorous analysis but would also serve as an internal accelerator for me to influence public perception. The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate’s fundamentals, which combine the commonsense pragmatism of service to society and the ambition of innovation, will provide me with the means to tackle the small-scale problems I grapple with daily to effect meaningful transformation. In the future, I hope to utilize the I&E Certificate to effectively communicate the benefits behind an innovation or idea, whether in a career in business or public policy.

I am designing my own major in Behavioral Economics to further learn about the ways in which I can instigate this transformation. Ironically, I not am particularly interested in psychology or economics. Rather, I am fascinated by why people think, what—societally, culturally, or otherwise—shapes these thoughts, and how thoughts impact the decisions we make in society. The Tikkum-Olam lens with which I view the world leads me to not rush to judge a mother who left her child in the car. Rather, I examine the environmental factors that lead to this lapse in memory, and how we can develop prevention methods and translate those methods into innovations that can positively impact said mother.

Moreover, my Tikkum Olam perspective manifests itself in my ventures. In the fifth grade, after becoming disheartened by Hollywood’s declaration of a state of emergency for homelessness, I created–Bags of Beauty–which collected over two thousand bags of toiletries, food, and clothing donations for the homeless population in Los Angeles in the first year of its creation. This lead me into the formation of my 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Students Working in Support of the Homeless (SWISH) which urges students to give back to the homeless in their local communities. Now, two years after its creation, SWISH’s chapters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York City, all run through friends across the country, have raised over $756,000 for homeless outreach.

The success of my first venture subsequently motivated me into my second. After becoming deeply disheartened by Duke’s atmosphere of effortless perfection, I launched The Coven Magazine, which seeks to demystify the experiences of college women all whilst empowering them. And, although my actions may not yet be exactly what my wide-eyed younger self imagined, I think she would be utterly proud that I am involved at a level and scale true to myself.


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