Our Founders - Danny Heller and Jennifer Shen
Hi, we're Danny and Jen. We are just two somewhat foolish, somewhat regular friends from college that somehow ended up in graduate school together at Duke. Instead of catching up the normal way (e.g. bowling, eating salads, and etc.), we decided to start a new organization that would bring graduate students from all over campus to work on consulting projects for nonprofits.
Here's our story:
Our very first name for DISI was "The Nerd Group." Even though our current name is somewhat more informative about what we do, the former name better captures our spirit: we just want to bring people together, give everyone an opportunity to show off their nerdy prowess, and do some good. Our group is DISI as we know now because of other people. When we started pitching the idea across campus, one faculty member told us that our original mission of "solving social problems" was way too naive. We agreed. We refined our mission to be a group centered on practical team-based learning and problem solving for social organizations. Another faculty member then told us that our new mission was way too ambitious for students to achieve. We somewhat agreed. Being people who tend to follow through with whatever crazy thing they commit to, we dove in, and were scared throughout.
Now that we are entering DISI's second year, we are far from a perfect organization. Perfection was never our intention: we were founded on hard work and humility, and know that while we will always make mistakes, we will work hard to continue improving ourselves to be better for Duke students and the community. The best and most important aspect of DISI is of course, the people. As founders, we were really lucky to have truly amazing, enthusiastic, hard working, and humble people become a part of DISI. We hope that as DISI grows, we continue to spread the mission of learning through problem-solving and interdisciplinary collaboration, because we believe that this is the future of higher education.
And in the end, if all else fails, we are happy just knowing that DISI is a way for graduate students to give back to the community, and have fun doing it.