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CCULC Alumna Feature: Audra Duren, Fall 2010

CCULC: Why did you decide to spend a semester with CCULC and how did it enhance the four years you spent on campus?

AD: "I decided I wanted to spend a semester with CCULC after they visited campus. When I was a senior in high school I visited Chicago on family vacation & fell in love with the city's energy. I knew I wanted to move away from Nebraska & to do social work in a big city, but had no clue how to make it happen. After meeting with CCULC about programming, it felt like the best way to get a foot in the door in the city. I had no idea how much life was going to change!! My social work practicum was everything I had hoped for & it built upon what I had learned in class in ways I had never imagined it could do. It's one thing to study human behaviors & advocacy, and it's another thing to be dropped into one of most diverse cities in many people are lucky enough to get that experience at such a young age & with guidance to navigate it too?!?"

CCULC: How did your experience with the Center impact you personally and professionally? How did it inform what you decided to do post graduation?

AD: "There isn't a single part of my life that hasn't been impacted by my experience at the Center, I genuinely believe I did more growth in 3 months at the center than in my 4 years on campus.More than that though, my view of the world changed immensely because of the center, I gained better knowledge of what my identity means in the world & was able to hear first hand experiences of people I would not have otherwise gotten to meet. Getting to experience so many cultures & neighborhoods in Chicago is a privilege most native Chicagoans aren't even granted...let alone someone from Nebraska! My family still talks about how much the center changes them too, I came home with information they hadn't been faced with previously & the means to hold discussions with them to challenge beliefs because of the supportive environment I was provided at the center to explore those areas of life."

Post graduation, I was able to secure employment out of my internship, so life changed pretty immediately with a permanent move to the city...almost 11 years later & Chicago is still the best! The challenges I was faced with at the center sparked more curiosity which led to grad school at UIC & a desire to continue impacting the world in ways that I can. In Chicago that looks like continued giving back & advocacy work with various organizations for social justice & equity for all! Outside of Chicago, you can find me engaging in 'hard' conversations with people in my life (often on facebook haha) to hopefully spark change.

CCULC: What is your career now and how did you get there?

AD: "I'm currently a Relationship Manager at LinkedIn (yes the one you're thinking of), after finishing at the Center in January 2011, I worked in Foster Care & Adoptions for approx 2 years before feeling a little burnt out & a desire to have more impact with the kids I was serving so I went to get my MSW at UCI & finished in May 2013 (accelerated program). Post MSW, I started working in community mental health in the western suburbs of Chicago. I spent the next 7 years in the crisis department, I started as a therapist, moved to the coordinator & eventually the program director for a 24/7 crisis intervention team. We did emergency mental health assessments for both kids & adults, serving schools, ERs & police departments. I learned so much!! I also had zero boundaries between work & personal (I was on consultation 24/7 for approx 15 employees), which as you can imagine lead to major burn out. I had to take a hard loo