The 20 undergraduates who participated in the inaugural session of Duke in Silicon Valley (DSV) this summer have a hard time picking their favorite part of the four-week program in northern California. But they are unanimous about one thing—how invaluable the academic, professional, and personal lessons were.

The opportunities to explore their passion for entrepreneurship came daily. There were lectures and case studies led by Matt Christensen B.S.E.’02, CEO of the investment firm Rose Park Advisors and a starting member of Duke's 2001 championship basketball team. His father, thought leader and New York Times bestselling author Clay Christensen, taught for two sessions.

The students also toured the headquarters of Sequoia Capital, the leading venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, design innovator IDEO, and social media giants like Facebook and LinkedIn. Another highlight was meeting Eddy Cue ’86, senior vice president of Internet software and services at Apple Inc., where the program’s classes were held.

“DSV has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at Duke. I love that it combines the technology side of engineering with the logical and social side of business,” says Rachel Albright, a rising junior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in finance.

“The program helped me solidify my interests in working in entrepreneurship. Every company we visited and speaker we heard from spoke to the importance of innovating," she says. "It’s something we hope to bring back to Duke to help expand entrepreneurial action and spirit on campus.”

Another rising junior, Michael Marion, called it a “life-changing experience” that inspired him to now aim for business school.  

“There was a lot of emphasis on finding your focus—asking what your values and beliefs are and how to translate them into viable career options along with balancing a personal life,” says Marion, who is majoring in computer science with minor in psychology. He is also pursuing a Markets and Management Studies certificate.

“As the resident ‘Apple Nerd’ on the trip, it was a dream come true to sit in the same Town Hall where the first iPod was introduced. Meeting Eddy Cue was a surreal experience. It’s not every day you get to meet one of your idols.”

Duke in Silicon Valley was born from the success of an Innovation and Entrepreneurship internship program launched in 2012 funded by a $100,000 gift from Lisa Blau ’97. Also last year, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative received a $15 million gift from Duke trustee David Rubenstein as a catalyst to establish and grow programs and curriculum.

Led by program director Kimberly Jenkins ’76, M.Ed.’77, Ph.D.’80, program coordinator Amy Unell ’03, and academic director Emma Rasiel Ph.D.’03, an associate professor of the practice of economics at Duke, DSV aims to arm students with an understanding of the resources, skills, and planning required to launch a new product or service. Outside of the classroom, connections forged with speakers during DSV also helped students land internships in Silicon Valley.

“I had tremendous fun. I walked away stimulated and with a deep appreciation for our next generation,” Jenkins says. “They are going to make the world a better place.”