Christina (Fontecchio) Wakefield

Senior Advisor Public Health; Social and Behavior Change, The Manoff Group

Class Year


Professional Background

After graduating from Duke with an English major, I worked in advertising and marketing for several years, using my Duke-honed skills to assess contexts and clients for key clues to help drive new business and brand positioning. At the same time, I began volunteering for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and decided I wanted to pursue a career in public health. I did Peace Corps in Haiti and then got a masters in health science from Johns Hopkins. I have since been working all over the world, most recently living 3 years in Zambia with my husband and two little girls, designing and running community health programs.

How has being an English graduate from Duke University help shape your professional success?

I firmly believe my degree from Duke shaped my success in several ways. First, good, concise, persuasive writing is an incredibly valuable skill no matter your field and not that many people can do it! The flexibility within the English major meant I was able to take a number of writing courses that really paved my way forward post-university. Secondly, being an English major demands a level of insight and empathy that is nearly impossible to gain in any other field. This skills allows me to fluidly move in an out of other cultures, "reading" them and asking critical questions. I also know from my foundation at Duke that there are many right answers, not just one, and being able to harmonize those answers while still driving results is paramount. I also think an English degree can be a strong partner to many other academic disciplines. While at Duke, I took a number of cultural anthropology as well as biology and chemistry courses. The pairing of the different perspectives and the ability to move in between these disciplines has also contributed to the success I have in my career. And, I can't leave out that ever since I was 4 years old, books have been my constant companion. Whether in the classroom at Duke, a sugar cane field in Haiti, or a long bumpy car ride across Africa, I am never without one (and sometimes 4-5) good book. I love fiction, non-fiction, poetry. All of it. And while I certainly had that love before college, my English degree gave me the tools to get more out of my reading. To think more about how stories apply to my own life and the world of today. To assess what it is I like and don't like about a particular book or author. And to participate more fully in a magical and critical art-form.

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