“Always Say Yes”

student smiling
Duke undergraduate student Andrew Carlins posing with refugee Faustin

Collaboration Story

"Always Say Yes"

How a professor’s advice changed the trajectory of one student’s college experience.

Duke undergraduate student Andrew Carlins posing with refugee Faustin
student smiling

Andrew Carlins arrived at Duke planning to focus on economics. But when he decided to participate in a FOCUS program his first year, he stumbled across a very different class that piqued his interest.

“The class was called Refugee Rights and Resettlement, taught by Professor Suzanne Shanahan,” explains Andrew. “There was something so different about it and outside my comfort zone.”

Dr. Shanahan’s class combined traditional classroom discussions with a practical, on-the-ground service component where students mentored local refugees.

“I was quite nervous and out of my element crossing cultural boundaries that I was definitely not used to,” says Andrew. So he met with Dr. Shanahan to get some guidance. “I’m not sure that I provided any sage advice other than ‘jump in, listen and see what needs doing, and do it,’” says Dr. Shanahan.

Dr. Shanahan introduced Andrew to Faustin, a young man from Rwanda who was the same age as Andrew. The two immediately bonded and soon they were working together to reach Faustin’s goals.

“Andrew really invested himself in Faustin’s challenges and success,” says Dr. Shanahan. “He knew that Faustin wanted to go to college, but had a huge way to go with his academic work and ACT prep, applying for college, and applying for financial aid. But he worked with him step-by-step to make those dreams a reality.”

Fast-forward almost two years later, and both Faustin’s and Andrew’s trajectories have changed, thanks to their experience. While Faustin is preparing to begin college at UNC Greensboro, Andrew’s experience led him to an internship with the Irish Department of Justice and Equality working on refugee policy. Since then, he’s also added certificates in global migration and history.

This summer Andrew will continue putting what he learned from both Faustin and Dr. Shanahan to good use in another internship working with the African Refugee Development Center in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Dr. Shanahan’s advice for Andrew’s next adventure: “Unless it’s illegal, always say yes. Say yes to every conversation and every opportunity, big or small.”