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Reflections on the I&E Certificate: Noi Omaboe

Noi Omaboe is a 2018 graduate of the I&E Certificate, and below are some of his reflections on completing the Certificate. This is the first in a summer series of pieces highlighting the experiences of recent Certificate graduates.  More information about Noi and the work he accomplished as an Certificate student can be found on his e-portfolio.

The Innovation & Entrepreneurship certificate complemented my Economics major in many ways. Firstly, the accounting and valuation lectures taught throughout the course furthered my business acumen and provided the technical skillset useful in evaluating the financials of both startups and established firms. Secondly, the experiential nature of several of the classes I took for the certificate provided me with the opportunity to apply the economic theory I had learnt to real world business conditions. Classes such as strategies for Innovation and Entrepreneurship taught by Kathie Amato were further cross-listed as an Economics elective due to the analytical nature of the quantitative analysis that came into play when evaluating the different businesses.

Pursuing the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate at Duke has greatly contributed to my overall learning experience as I have not only been able to take classes that give hands on experience in launching and scaling a venture through the experiential learning framework but I have subsequently joined a network of passionate entrepreneurs who share the same enthusiasm for businesses in the start-up world.  Furthermore, the supply of guest speakers made up of successful entrepreneurs, professors, motivational speakers and more have enhanced my learning experience at Duke by providing knowledge that can not be taught through textbooks. By hearing the journeys of several guest speakers, I have been able to gain direct knowledge of what it takes to navigate the intricacies of a new business as an entrepreneur.

The certificate program has greatly influenced my persistence as a learner and taught me how to dig deep in inevitable unexpected situations. Through the certificate, I have learnt that while theoretical frameworks are highly important in understanding fundamental concepts – they are not always applicable in real-world situations. As a result, the certificate challenged my view on “traditional” higher education practices. I pursued the certificate to gain more knowledge in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship, in the hopes of successfully being able to launch a venture with the knowledge gained. I now know that innovation & entrepreneurship has no set framework and cannot be taught traditionally. Instead, one’s journey as an entrepreneur will depend on a host of things that are pivotal to the individual involved. Through the various classes I took for the certificate, I have learned that knowledge is indeed power, however it is one’s use of that knowledge and execution that translates into entrepreneurial success.

The overall experience of the program changed my self-understanding in terms of my career and future endeavors. The certificate reaffirmed my interest and desire to launch my own venture or invest in a venture I believe in. More specifically, the certificate developed my self-understanding of wanting to give back to my country of origin, Ghana. Through courses such as social innovation, I have learned that there are ways besides the traditional philanthropic and charitable acts to help developing countries. I am confident that I would like to be involved in the space of Social Innovation, whether directly or indirectly, by any means possible.

Navigating Your Internship Search at Duke

Ariel Burde is an I&E Certificate Ambassador and below are her tips for navigating your internship search at Duke. Information regarding the Duke Career Center’s event offerings can be found here.

Internships offer insight into the company you are working with, demonstrate what it is really like to work in your desired field, and prepare you for post-grad life. Searching for an internship requires the same diligence as searching for a job and chances for success are enhanced by using all of your resources: personal networks, Duke organizations (such as the I&E program and business organizations), the career center, and network outreach. Finding an internship involves a series of steps that vary depending on the type of internship. Here are some tips on how to navigate your internship search at Duke!

1. Decide what type of internship you want to pursue

Determining what field you want to work in over the summer is the first step in navigating the internship search. Duke’s career center hosts a number of events throughout the year geared towards students who want to explore different career and internship possibilities. These events offer opportunities to meet and develop relationships with Duke’s Career Counselors and to learn about industries that typically hire college interns.

2. Schedule meetings with a career counselor and with mentors

Once you have decided on what type of internship you would like to pursue, it is helpful to speak with a mentor-figure or a career counselor. Career counselors will help find available internships in your field, offer new internship ideas, review your cover letter and resume, and give interview tips. And, mentors will be able to offer advice on a more personal level.

3. Attend Career Fairs

Duke hosts various career fairs including some with specific focuses on finance, marketing, technology, engineering, and startups. Usually companies at the fairs are recruiting students, which gives you a much better chance of getting an internship. Before going, research all the companies that will be at the career fair and choose those that interest you. At the fair, focus on those companies and speak with the representatives about your skills and interest in the specific company. Be sure to bring resumes and ask for business cards so you can follow-up with recruiters.

4. Network

Speak with family, friends, professors, and peers about the type of internship you want to pursue. It is also helpful to contact Duke alumni (Duke alumni love helping other Dukies!!) or find an employee from a company you wish to intern with and schedule an informational interview. Informational interviews can provide you with valuable information about career paths and are an easy way to express interest. Be sure to send a thank-you note expressing your appreciation for them sharing their time and expertise.

5. Keep Searching

Many internship programs only hire a few students from each college because they recruit from a multiple schools. Rejection and silence are frequent responses from a company. Do not take either response personally. Every application experience is valuable. Every time you apply to a new internship, you hone cover letter writing techniques and practice interview skills. Everyone finds an internship and has the opportunity to gain valuable skills and information in the process.

Five Tips for Social Innovators

Ariana Gallegos is an I&E Certificate Ambassador and below is her summary of the I&E Academy she attended: What’s your problem? Identifying Needs and Defining Problems for Social Innovation. For more information on I&E Academies, check here.

Matt Nash is the Managing Director of Social Entrepreneurship at the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative. He spoke at the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Academy: “What’s Your Problem? Identifying Needs and Defining Problems for Social Innovation.”

Matt began the night speaking about his vision. He dreams of a day when students ask each other not what is your major? but what problem in the world are you trying to solve? He had students think about areas and industries with problems because according to Professor Nash, the key to success is starting with a problem and creating a solution.

Tip 1: There is a method to choosing a problem

According to Matt, you will be successful if you find a problem that you can dedicate your time, energy, and efforts to finding a unique solution. He also gave three characteristics to look out for when choosing a problem to tackle how to come up with a viable solution: Is the solution accessible? Is the solution durable? Is the solution scalable? All of these characteristics are necessary to creating an effective solution. He also advised that if there is something working in one field there is an opportunity to look at it, learn from it, extrapolate the idea, apply it, and improve it.

Tip 2: There is no “right” answer

There are three types of problems that need solving in the world: simple, complicated, and complex problems. In the world of social innovation the problems that need solving are complex problems such as poverty, gender inequality, global warming, institutionalized in equality etc. There is no denying all of these problems are daunting, and in response Matt Nash quoted H.L. Mencken: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” Matt encouraged students to think deeply about solutions and take time to gain an in-depth understanding of all aspects of the problem and solution. All aspects must be considered because in solving complex problems there is no “right” answer.

Tip 3: The 5 W’s

To help with understanding the problem Matt Nash presented an array of tools to help students make sure they have a clear grasp of what they are dealing with. He described the first tool as the 5 W’s. Who is affected? What is happening? Where is the problem localized? When did it start or get worse? Why is the problem happening? What can we learn from others who have started to address this problem before? Matt Nash also presented the Problem Tree, which is a tool he encourages entrepreneurs to use in order to help visualize and analyze a problem by specifying and investigating the causes and effects of problems. The outcome of the problem tree is to help social entrepreneurs highlight the relationships between the causes and effects and ask why these relationships occur. These problem trees allow students to start with a problem and ask “Why?” until students gain a complete understanding of the causes and effects and there is a clear viable solution.

Tip 4: Use Human Centered Design

Matt encouraged aspiring social entrepreneurs to use human centered design which is an approach to solving design problems by understanding users’ needs and developing insights to solve those needs. In order to do this the mindset of the entrepreneur is key and it is necessary to fully understand other humans by contact, observation, and empathy to design solutions that fit into their needs, cultures, and environment. Often social entrepreneurs who want to help do not distance themselves from their own worlds and this can get in the way with creating solutions that successfully help others.

Tip 5: Final Problem Identification

  1. Do your homework
  2. Be observant
  3. Indulge your curiosity
  4. Remain open-minded
  5. Know yourself

Lastly he reminded students to not be afraid to fail, but fail fast.

“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” –Mahatma Gandhi


A Summer in Washington, DC Protecting the Environment

This past summer, many of our Duke I&E students were across the globe exploring the concepts of innovation & entrepreneurship. Some of them are guest blogging for us detailing their experiences.

When I began my internship at the National Wildlife Refuge Association three months ago, I knew very little about the world of conservation. However, I was excited to channel my passion for    the environment toward the wildlife which calls our public lands and waters their home. As the Conservation Policy Stanback Intern, I have had the opportunity to support policy efforts, write blogs, create social media content, participate in meetings, conduct research, and attend events on Capitol Hill.

While this summer has been a difficult one for environmental advocates in Washington D.C., I’m fortunate to have been on the front lines fighting for what I believe in. Here are the primary issues I’ve worked on:

  • Protecting the “crown jewel” of the Refuge System, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, from attempts to authorize oil drilling
  • Preventing a road from being constructed through the pristine wilderness of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
  • Defending 700 million acres of public waters in our nation’s Marine National Monuments currently under review by Executive Order
  • Raising awareness of the threat posed by the proposed border wall beginning construction in Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
  • Supporting funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System and affiliated conservation programs in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget

To evaluate my success, I’ve decided to look back to the goals I set forth at the beginning of my internship:

  • Develop an understanding of how to enact and defend conservation policies
    1. I can now identify and discuss key conservation legislation, ranging from the Refuge System Improvement Act to the Antiquities Act. I have learned about how to defend important conservation programs while developing an understanding of how budget reconciliation and executive orders can be used to undermine the Refuge System.
  • Make a meaningful contribution to the National Wildlife Refuge System, its habitats, and its inhabitants through the political system
    1. Despite this Administration and Congress’ latest attacks on the Arctic, Izembek, and Santa Ana Refuges, as well as marine monuments, I’ve raised awareness for each issue and mobilized people to take action.
  • Learn about, interact with, and forge relationships with influential conservation advocates and policymakers
    1. By attending many hearings and briefings on Capitol Hill, I got to meet Senators Michael Bennet, Ben Cardin, and James Inhofe, as well as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. I heard dozens of elected officials speak, ranging from Senators Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell to Representatives Rob Bishop and Raul Grijalva. I developed strong relationships with many Refuge Association staff and leaders of other environmental organizations.
  • Become a more effective advocate through advancing my communication and organizing skills
    1. Throughout the internship, I created content and engaged with followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I have learned to make these posts and messages more concise and impactful. The blog posts I drafted required fewer revisions as time went on, and event summaries have better conveyed the highlights and takeaway messages. Additionally, I have developed better organizational systems to keep track of my work.

After spending 11 weeks at the Refuge Association, I see environmental lobbying at a non-profit organization in Washington D.C. as a potential career path. I have also developed an interest in exploring environmental start-ups, corporate social responsibility offices, and sustainability advocacy outside of the beltway.

Returning to Duke University for my Sophomore Year, I plan to continue majoring in Environmental Science and Policy and pursuing a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, but focus more on how my work can positively impact animals and their habitats. As the President of the Environmental Alliance, I will continue to appreciate the outdoors and spread this passion to my fellow Blue Devils.

I want to thank Fred and Alice Stanback for providing and generously funding this internship program through Duke University. I also want to thank my supervisor, Desiree Sorenson-Groves, and the entire Refuge Association staff for making me feel welcome, providing guidance, and helping me maximize this opportunity.

While I have learned and grown so much from my internship with the National Wildlife Refuge Association, my journey has just begun. I look forward to protecting the environment and its inhabitants for many years to come!

Elliott Davis

Helping Grow the Health Humanities Lab’s Audience

By Audrey Wang

This post was written by a student in Dr. Aaron Dinin’s Building Global Audiences(I&E 250) class. You can learn more about their class project and why they’re blogging about it here.

This week in our Building Global Audiences class, we were tasked to come up with an actionable growth strategy for the Franklin Humanities Institute’s Health Humanities Lab. This requires looking at our goals, demographic and selecting specific media channels to figure out how to build a targeted audience.


Outlining Goals for the HHL

Every organization has a goal, and ways to achieve that goal, whether it be through email, flyers or social media. Take something like social media popularity, which might seem very arbitrary. Why did that girl become instafamous when your best friend looks just as good as her? Why did Obama’s tweet get retweeted 10 more times while you posted pretty much the same opinion yesterday? Why does Shakira have more followers than Beyonce on Twitter and Facebook, but Beyonce have more followers than Shakira on Instagram?

Just as every business or service has a character and a mission, every social media account has a goal. And more so than personal social media and your carefully curated instagram posts, social media marketing is targeted and deliberate. It involves delving into the mindset of what your audience would want to see, what media channels they use, looking at analytics, what other competitors are posting, and nailing the right timing.

“Content is king but traffic is god” – HHL has a lot of valuable content for a specific crowd. How do we make the HHL “blow up” on social media and beyond? Can we achieve this or is slow and incremental growth more realistic and effective for the organization?

Demographic & Audience Growth Channels

Looking at a popular social media figure today:

Beyonce- Wide fan base, ages 15-30, especially women, African American & diversity groups

Chosen media strategy (in terms of follower concentration):

  1. Instagram
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter

Interestingly, this corresponds to Sprout Social’s analytics of demographics of each social media channel: While Facebook and Instagram correspond to 88% and 59% of age 18-29 users respectively, this age group only corresponds to 36% of Twitter usage. [1]


In contrast, looking at the HHL’s demographic in a similar way, a more academic association would require a less social media centric strategy since our audience typically spends less time on such channels and normally do not look for information through social media. This was one of the biggest takeaways that we realized throughout the course of the semester – social media is not always the only way to acquire a bigger audience. However, we included it in our media strategy because we believe it is a good way to drive traffic and initiate conversation (given HHL’s goal of becoming thought leader in the space)

HHL: narrower fan base, college students and faculty, more heavily concentrated on faculty and medical professionals, academics

Media strategy we will focus on:

  1. Email
  2. Events & Collaboration with Internal, External organizations
  3. Social Media

Concrete Growth Strategy

While it would be ideal to project a 5 year long term growth strategy for the HHL, we are limited by its indeterminate funding situation that would affect the status of the organization in the foreseeable future. According to HHL coordinator Thomas Johnson, the HHL was funded for 3 years and we are now in the second year of this funding. Therefore our growth strategy is focused on goals that we believe would be achievable by next year.

The lab is currently funding 10 projects, and going down the line we believe we should focus on the channels below:


  1. Email:

Current situation: has own listserv but not actively used, not on any email list servs, name is attached to other FHI initiatives and mentioned as part of FHI activities

Goal: get onto listservs and create own content


  1. Events:  (Goal)

Current situation: have hosted events in Trent, Carpenter Room, Smith Warehouse, Bostock, held keynote event Breath, Body and Voice in October which also featured off campus locations. There were over 200 guests registered for the conference and a speaker survey was conducted from guest speakers. The conference was mostly promoted through word of mouth and associations with other on campus associations and scholarships. Listed online but unclear how many people actively search for conferences; posted on social media but reach is limited.



  • Marketing “package” that comes with each event: sending email reminders, social media marketing strategy (countdowns, shareable links instead of just reposting event flyer), creating graphic designs for flyers (clear step 1,2,3 process to follow)
  • Hosting events, increased collaboration with competitors both external and internal
    • Promotional campaign with Bass Connections, Career Center
  • Raising money at events to fund projects
    • Example: the HHL Funding of research projects provides scholars with money ranging from $750 to $3000 intended for one year of research activities
    • With funding of the HHL about to expire, the lab could consider raising the same amount at events. In the past year they have had 21 events (averaging 2 each month), meaning that approximately $150 would have to be raised at each event.
    • Assuming that about 30 people attend each event and that a probable goal of $5 can be raised per person, the funding needs of the HHL can be fulfilled
    • Questions to ask: number and amount of people willing and likely to donate, because this will affect the goal of number of attendees for each event
    • Depending on the success of this program, this would solve the HHL funding program and provide continuity


  1. Following social media analytics: excel sheet tracking

Currently: @DukeHHL

Facebook: 130 likes, 0-3 likes, Events: 0-5 interested; Breath,Body Voice- 137 interested

Twitter: 161 followers, 1-10 retweets, 0-1 comments

Instagram: 79 followers, ~ 3 likes per post


Preliminary template could look something like this, and depending on effectiveness could add more metrics such as frequency of posts per day, per week & month

Additionally, although a lot of analytics services are free, the HHL indicated that it would be open to allocate funds to analytics services to more effectively market itself online.


Timeline & Numbers

Fall/Winter 2017


  • Create template for newsletters
  • Send out newsletters monthly
  • Get onto 15 listservs
  • Revamp website (new layout template, work with FHI to do this)


  • Create centralized attendance system, ask where they heard about the event (so one can calculate reach and “return rate” of each channel (email, social media etc.)
  • Start interviewing to assess possibility of donation program, network with potential donors
  • Reach out to Duke organizations like the Medical Center, faculty, Bass Connections, Duke Engage, Duke Career Center, Pre-Health Advising for promotional collaboration


  • Facebook: Increase likes to 300-500, look at analytics to see what posts are generating most reach and interaction
    • Facebook Events: as Breath, Body and Voice conference demonstrated, it is possible to generate reach in terms of people interested in events
    • Events “interested metric”: 30-50 per event
    • Recruiting student ambassadors/ providing incentives to click interested
  • Twitter: Increase following to 300-500, tweet frequency to 2-5 every two weeks instead of once a month
  • Instagram: slower strategy because not entirely a fit for the goals of the HHL, Increase following to 150-250, generate content and photos instead of just event flyers, 10-20 likes per post


Spring/Summer 2017 


  • Expand own listserv (exact numbers TBD)
  • Revamp newsletter template
  • Launch revamped website and have direct links from email, increased interaction features


  • Build established framework for donation (payment systems – students FLEX, cash, deposits etc.)
  • Collaboration with other institutions, cross promotion
  • Joint program/events with other Duke Institutions listed above


  • Facebook: Increase likes to 600-800, modify posting strategy and content according to analytics
    • Events “interested metric”: 50-100 per event
  • Twitter: Increase following to 600-800 (to match competitors), regular tweet frequency, 2-5 every week
  • Instagram: Increase following to 300-400, 40-50 likes per post

In 5 years:

  • Twitter: 2500 followers
  • Facebook: 1500 followers


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