The Duke Career Center and Duke LIFE are excited to announce Spring Forward, a new initiative designed to provide valuable career experiences for first-year and sophomore undergraduates from first-generation and lower-income backgrounds. We believe that exposure to real-world work environments is pivotal in shaping the academic and professional trajectory of these students. In addition, it provides your organization with an early look at some amazing Duke talent.

Spring Forward is a four day, project-oriented experience that is held during Duke’s Spring Break, March 11-15, 2024. Small teams of students will dedicate time towards a project of your choice with the objective of gaining hands on experience while providing support to your team.

Program Details

  • Name of Program: Spring Forward
  • Date: March 11-15, 2024
  • Objective: To offer two deserving students the opportunity to complete a career-related project at your organization
  • Participating Student Population: First-year and sophomore undergraduates from lower-income, first-generation backgrounds
  • Duration: Three days onsite at your location, followed by a recognition luncheon on Duke’s campus
  • Project Focus: Sites can create their own project or select from a list of suggested options provided by the Career Center and Duke Life

Why Participate

  • Impact: Your organization will make a meaningful impact on the career readiness of first-generation and lower-income students.
  • Project Support: Students will work with members of your team to complete a project that could bring value to your organization and/or provide your team mentorship opportunities.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Your organization will have the opportunity to establish relationships and build brand awareness among talented and diverse students from Duke.

Student Projects

You are welcome to design a project to fit your organization’s unique needs or select a project from the list of options curated by the Career Center and DukeLIFE.

Option 1: Company Designed Projects

Organizations are invited to submit a project proposal that reflects its mission and needs. Project proposals should meet the following guidelines and must be approved by the Duke Career Center and Duke LIFE.

  • Hosted onsite at organization’s location within the Triangle (transportation of students arranged by Duke)
  • Supervised by a designated individual within the organization
  • Provides clearly defined instructions and deliverables
  • Incorporates shadowing and/or interactions with professional staff, current interns, and/or Duke alumni
  • Allows for the exploration of job functions and workplace culture
  • Encourages the development of new skills or enhancement of existing skills
  • Completion timeline of 3 days or less
  • Designed to be completed by a team of 2 students

Option 2: Duke Career Center and DukeLIFE Curated Projects

For organizations opting not to design their own projects, the following engaging options are available:

  1. Micro-SWOT Analysis: Conduct a micro-SWOT analysis on three companies, emphasizing:
    • The problem the company aims to solve.
    • Unique differentiators from competitors.
    • Constituents grid, impact estimates, or other pertinent details.
  2. Advertising Appeal: Task students with developing a compelling pitch deck or media campaign for a specific organizational need. This exercise challenges them to articulate key messaging and strategies to effectively communicate the value proposition.
  3. Customer Research: Conduct thorough research to identify companies and contacts aligning with the organization’s ideal customer profile. Emphasize:
    • Identification of the ideal customer and the rationale behind the profile.
    • Assessing the reach of the organization.
    • Gathering data to reinforce identified needs.
    • Crafting insightful questions for further review and obtaining testimonials.
  4. Pseudo-Content/Project Manager: Challenge students to create content, plan a simulated event within a specified budget, and establish connections with locals. This hands-on project encourages students to develop practical skills in content creation, event planning, and community engagement.
  5. Technology Project Outline: Task students, even those without coding experience, with creating a project outline to address a specific problem or need within the organization using technology. This project fosters creativity and problem-solving without the necessity for advanced technical skills.
  6. Operations Focus – Case Studies: Present case studies that necessitate students to address realistic operational challenges such as organizational restructuring or office relocation. This exercise encourages strategic thinking and decision-making within the context of real-world scenarios.
  7. Human Resources Initiatives: Develop case studies challenging students to tackle pertinent Human Resources initiatives, such as fostering a culture of inclusion and support within an organization. Students must determine what aspects should be emphasized, investigated, or removed, providing practical insights into HR strategy and implementation.

These alternatives provide organizations with diverse options to engage students in practical problem-solving across various domains, fostering critical skills and insights. 

Student Selection

Considering students’ preferences and the project requirements, the Duke Career Center and Duke LIFE will facilitate the connection between students and available opportunities. Details about the assigned students for your project will be provided in advance of the program date, ensuring you have ample time to prepare accordingly.

Program Logistics


Student transportation will be arranged by Duke University from campus to your location and back for each day the student is to be onsite. To ensure student safety, students should not be transported by any other way during their time onsite.


To assist with transportation logistics, we request that a consistent schedule is established for participating students prior to their first day onsite. This schedule should be shared with the Spring Forward coordinators at Duke.


We request site supervisors arrange lunch for their student participants each day they are onsite. It is encouraged to use this time to introduce students to staff, current interns, and/or Duke alumni (if applicable) to allow for informal networking and information sharing.

Employer Registration

To participate in the Spring Forward pilot, kindly fill out the Employer Interest Form, indicating your organization’s details and project preferences. If you have questions or would like discuss the program in more detail, please feel free to schedule a 30 minute Zoom call with Jared Smith and Leigh Ann Waring in the Duke Career Center. We welcome your inquiries and look forward to your participation.