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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 look at my life & make some December 2019 I decided I needed a break & needed to take care of me for a while before I could continue actively providing mental health services to others. I zoomed out, decided what I really like about my job (solving problems, helping things get better & working with people)...combine that with a friend who already worked there & I landed myself a role at LinkedIn through a program they have to encourage diversity of thought called Unlocked. I'm in sales now, which turns out is just listening to people to help solve problems.....hello an MSW!! It's been really amazing to see how much social work skills transfer to an area I never imagined myself to work."

CCULC: How do you access the city or what are your favorite aspects of living in Chicago?

AD: "I access the city via my car, walking a lot in my neighborhood (Wicker Park) & uber of course. It's been a while since I took the CTA because I'm WFH but when life goes back to normal, I'll commute to work via train/bus...interestingly enough there will be overlap with my original commute to my internship while at the Center. :-) I love that there is always something to do in the city & if you want to experience every part of the world, you can in this city. still a major love of mine & Chicago neighborhoods don't disappoint! I still have breakfast at Nellie's in Humboldt Park, a CCULC favorite!"

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