Courtney Spence on How Duke History Classes Fostered Openness to Foreign Culture

In Chapter 10 of 15 of her 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive and Students of the World founder Courtney Spence answers "How has your Duke education history degree helped you be more open and accepting of foreign cultures?" Spence shares how while studying history at Duke University she learned to be more open-minded when engaging foreign cultures. Duke's history department contributed to Spence's holistic collegiate experience by teaching her multiple viewpoints on world history. The process taught Spence and her classmates to appreciate the differences and go out and experience the cultures and explore the world to form their own opinions.


Erik Michielsen: How has your Duke education history degree helped you be more open and accepting of foreign cultures?

Courtney Spence: My experience at Duke was incredibly positive, it was a community that was very supportive of students, of big ideas, crazy ideas, dedicated themselves really to I think providing a holistic collegiate experience for their undergraduates. Every year that goes by I am more and more thankful for that opportunity. Particularly within the history department it was very… it was again like, everything that I had known, you know all of my education in American history, world history growing up I just had to sort of throw out of the window because I got there and I was taking Russian history and Intro to Latin American history and the African American Slave Trade and really things that were opening my eyes to the world was not as how I thought it had been, the history that I had built up in my head of ‘this is how the world worked’ wasn’t necessarily true and learning that within the framework of studying history you – there are different versions or different theories of historical study, so you can view history through a feminist lens you can, you know and seeing that – appreciating that there are so many different lenses through which we tell the story of our world and our community and our time.

It really has impacted me in the way that I go about my job because again I may think the situation in Northern Thailand is one thing but when I get there and you’re on the ground, it’s completely different and it’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just not what you thought and so being open that and not being scared by that I think is an important thing that I’ve taken away.