Mil Duncan has always noticed the people mainstream society tends to ignore. As a girl in California, she observed children rummaging in a massive dump outside Tijuana when she went over the border on a school trip. After graduating from Stanford, she and her husband, Bill, moved to the Kentucky coalfields to work on economic development. She earned a doctorate from the University of Kentucky and then, as a sociologist at UNH, turned her attention to the causes of persistent poverty.
Duncan's research focused on three communities in Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, and northern New England. She interviewed people at all levels of society and traveled to remote areas where, she says, "there are pockets of people who get forgotten." Her internationally acclaimed 1999 book, Worlds Apart: Why Poverty Persists in Rural America, revealed how isolation and corruption help maintain a cycle of poverty in Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, whereas the open social structure in a northern New England mill town encourages upward mobility.
Today, Duncan, who is the 2010 recipient of the Alumni Association Excellence in Public Service Award, is far removed from the trailers and tenant shacks of the rural South. Yet she's helping more people than ever. From 2004 to 2010, she served as the founding director of UNH's Carsey Institute, which conducts research on vulnerable families and sustainable development. Its 40-some researchers analyze large quantities of data, often gleaning newsworthy results.
Carsey experts have produced more than 100 reports and made more than 250 presentations to lawmakers, funders, and researchers. "We believe that information makes a difference," Duncan says.
On one visit to Congress, she was able to show powerful legislators that it's not just the highly visible urban poor who stand to benefit from a tax credit; rural districts have significant numbers of poor people, too. And Carsey researchers' testimony on another occasion had an impact on provisions for rural children in the draft of a child-nutrition bill.
A number of nonprofits also rely on Carsey research to produce reports and make funding decisions. Michael Laracy, a director with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, describes Duncan and the institute as "mission-critical" partners with his organization. For Duncan, the mission is always the same: to improve the lives of the most vulnerable—and likely to be forgotten—members of society. ~
Joe Shartzer '10 spends hours every day making connections over the Internet. But the social media expert admits it's the personal connections he made at UNH that have opened doors in the real world.
For one, there's WSBE lecturer Chuck Martin, who asked for help with a January term social media class; Shartzer pitched in as a teaching assistant. For another, there's Jude Blake '77, who enrolled in a new "J term" course to see how it worked and ended up recommending Shartzer as a consultant.
"I was talking to the CEO of a company I was on the board of, and I asked him, 'What's your social media marketing plan?' He didn't have one," says Blake, who is the marketing and events executive for Peter Paul Wines and a USNH trustee. "I told him, 'I know this young guy from UNH. I think he could really help your company.'"
After a conference call introduction, Shartzer became a creative consultant with Global Wine, which operates and manages wine clubs. First, Shartzer spent two weeks in California presenting social media marketing proposals. Next up, a few trips to New York City to suggest how Global Wine's potential clients could "weave social media and Internet marketing, new technologies and platforms" into marketing. "He did one presentation to Williams-Sonoma, who accepted the plan right away," Blake says. "They never accept a plan right away!"
Shartzer says he is lucky to have developed ties with people like Martin and Blake.
"What's amazing is that there are so many like them who have high-quality connections," he says. "And they are ready to help you."
For Cory Schwartz '82, UNH's ski coach, making connections is all in a day's work.
"He stays in touch with all of his alumni skiers," says Lindsey Burkhardt Masterson '04, who skied cross country. "When anything comes up, he contacts the person he knows would be best--whether it's for a job, or someone who could help a fellow skier through a personal crisis."
For instance, when Masterson volunteered to help Schwartz design logos for a team ski suit, Schwartz thought of Grover Daniels '79, who was helping "kick up a notch" the team's annual fundraising mailings. "At first I was the go-between," Schwartz says. "Then I told them it might be better if they worked directly together."
That's when Daniels, the retired owner of a printing company and the new owner of a copy business, recognized Masterson's skills in graphic design and print and web design.
"Her skills in graphic design, combined with my print knowledge, opened up so many more opportunities," Daniels says. "We were able to launch a website and we started doing web to print." In fact, he hired Masterson, who is now a new mom and the creative director of Daniels' new online printing company, Pixxlz.com. Shartzer advises others to go beyond the classroom walls. "Companies focus on what skills you have, what you can do for them, not just on your GPA and how you excelled in the classroom," he says.
It's a message delivered through the online Career Mentor Network and the in-person mentoring program, Pathways.
"As I look at it, it's so easy to do," Shartzer says. "You take a few small steps, even while still in school, to make contacts with professors, alumni and other mentors, and before you know it, your circle of connections just kind of grows and grows and grows."
Sounds a lot like social media. ~
Starting with Homecoming 2011, the Alumni Association will be helping the classes of 2010, 2006 and 2001 hold their 1st, 5th and 10th Reunions during Homecoming weekend on Oct. 7-9."Young alumni are more 'connected' than any generation has been," says Steve Donovan, executive director of the Alumni Association and associate vice president of UNH Advancement. "Having class reunions at Homecoming will help them connect in yet one more way." In addition, he says, "Homecoming is the logical time to hold reunions for these young classes, because it's a time when alumni, especially young alumni, love to come back to Durham." Scheduling the reunions on Homecoming weekend means alumni will be able to take advantage of all the scheduled activities, including the Blue and White Parade, fireworks, athletic teams' alumni games, the Homecoming 5K road race, tailgating, the football game against Villanova, open houses and faculty talks. A full schedule of events will be online later this summer at www.alumni.unh.edu/homecoming. A web page has been established to solicit ideas and feedback from alumni on what form they think their Homecoming Reunions should take: www.unh.edu/reunion2011/. All young alumni, not just from the classes of '10, '06 and '01, are encouraged to fill out the survey and provide feedback for future reunions, or email the Homecoming staff at email@example.com. Return to UNH Magazine Alumni News