Alumni Spotlight | Christie Lawrence '16
In the AGS Alumni Spotlight, we have Christie Lawrence, Class of 2016!
Graduation Year: 2016
Degree: B.A. Public Policy with certificate in foreign policy; Minors in political science and Turkish language and culture
Other activities while at Duke:AGS Councilmember, President of Public Policy Studies Majors Union, member and treasurer of Ubuntu, You Don’t Say? Campaign founder, Wellness Center student intern for the It’s Your Move! campaign
Q. Tell us a little about yourself...what you do now, what you’ve done since graduating.
A. I am currently a consultant at Oliver Wyman. During my time at Duke, I interned at a non-profit in Serbia and had two internships at the State Department (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the Office of Near Eastern Affairs, and at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok). Both of those internships highlighted how interconnected the private, public, and civil sector are: often government organizations, non-profits, and private corporations all work together towards the achievement of the same goal. Therefore, I decided to pursue a career in the private sector because I felt the most effective leaders in the future would have experience in all three sectors. I’ve found my time in consulting to be extremely rewarding! Throughout my two years, I have focused on the financial sector, particularly on regulatory and risk work, and have even had long-term projects in Bangkok. However, I do hope to eventually return to the public sector and pursue my interest in international conflict resolution.
Q. In what ways did AGS impact your goals, current profession, etc.? How did AGS prepare you to enter the "real world"?
A. I believe AGS impacted me in several key ways.
First, AGS exposed me to foreign policy leaders that were working on issues or problems that I simply didn’t know about before, broadening my professional aspirations and helping me realize my mid-term and long-term career goals.
Second, attending the AGS events – whether they be dinners, lectures, or staff rides –really provided “real world” experience that you often cannot get in the classroom. It was wonderful to converse with leaders, get out of the academic bubble, and be reminded of what goals I had after Duke.
Third, I’ve made very close friends through AGS who continue to push me. We like to keep each other accountable to our goals and I think that will be important as time goes on.
Q. Did you meet anyone during your time at AGS who deeply inspired you? Tell us about them and what about their life impacted you.
A. There are too many people I met through AGS that inspired me! My peers on the AGS council are all inspiring, and, importantly, I truly believe I could reach out to any of them and they would be supportive.
With respect to speakers, I enjoyed so many of the events, with Wendy Sherman, Tom Donilon, and Denis McDonough as highlights. I was also extremely impressed with Gen. David Petraeus; during our dinner he could respond to any question with an extremely thorough, well-researched answer. It was very clear that he was a bit of an academic at heart. All of the speakers increased my understanding of what it means to be a good leader and dedicate your career (and often life) to foreign policy. They opened my eyes to the diversity of people who are working in what would fall under “American Grand Strategy”.
Q. Do you wish there was anything you could go back and change about your time at Duke or with AGS? What would you do differently if you had another chance?
A. Although I am happy with my path at Duke, I really wish I had been able to take the AGS class with Professor Feaver. I was unable to take any classes with him because of DukeImmerse, study abroad, and my major core courses, but it is a very big regret.
Q. Do you have advice or inspiration to offer current AGS students?
A. First, I think students should try to take a long-term approach to their careers.
It is hard not to be focused on the immediate future while you are in college and I would be remiss to claim that I am always great at applying this perspective, but I do think it makes you more resilient and sets you up for success. This long-term approach requires some realism and flexibility: you may want to find a job that aligns perfectly with your niche interest, and it is great if you do. However, it might also be helpful to think about what skills you have and what skills you don’t have and fill those gaps. Try to think of each job as a stepping stone towards your dream job. The job market also becomes a lot more manageable when you relieve yourself of some of the pressure to find “the perfect job”.
At the same time, don’t stay in a position that is not helping you learn and grow. As long as you are learning and growing, and you can see the path forward, then you should be confident the job will help you in the future. Once you start to lose sight of what you are doing and why you are doing it, it is probably time to reflect and make changes.
Second, it’s important to keep up with people from Duke. Don’t feel scared to reach out to people you barely knew. I’ve talked to people who reached out because they were interested in consulting and I encourage everyone to reach out. More often than not, people want to help you.
Lastly, I firmly believe that the most effective leaders are those who are willing to collaborate and work across sectors to solve issues. It is important to try to keep the big picture in mind to understand other people’s motivations and drive towards a solution.