Michaela Kerrissey spent her time at Duke exploring and merging her two great loves: language and social entrepreneurship. She spent her first summer as a Robertson learning about the challenges faced by recent immigrants to the American south through an internship with UNITE. During her second summer, she traveled to Cuba where she volunteered with the Pogolotti Community Center and trained staff in English and computer skills. For her final summer, she worked with a professor at the University of Cape Town to conduct a project on racial identity ten years after apartheid. Meanwhile, Michaela taught a course on performance poetry to Duke students, wrote a book of poetry, and led hiking trips in western North Carolina. She graduated magna cum laude in 2005 with a dual major in English and Political Science.
Upon graduation, Michaela received a Hart Fellowship to travel to Uganda to work on HIV/AIDS for ten months. New to the health sector, she was fortunate to fall under strong mentorship at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During this time, she designed and piloted an HIV prevention intervention at a CDC partner organization called Reach Out Mbuya. Working at this innovative, grassroots model for health service delivery, Michaela gained invaluable experience designing and managing health programs in difficult contexts. After achieving successful results with the pilot project, Michaela helped the organization win a grant to implement the intervention on a larger scale, and she remained in Uganda for a second year to do so. This program is now the model throughout East Africa. Having developed an expertise in prevention program design, she spent a third year in Uganda as an independent consultant and was hired by a number of multinational organizations to design and revamp health-related programs.
Michaela is now studying in a master's program at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she received the Catherine Reynolds Foundation Fellowship for social entrepreneurs.