Duke University | Baldwin Scholars Program

Debbie Chen


Debbie Chen

Find your balance.

Debbie Chen was an active undergraduate student, participating in Campus Crusade for Christ, singing a cappella with Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and guiding first-year women as a Resident Advisor in Jarvis.

Through her involvement with the Army ROTC program, she gained valuable leadership skills and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army days before her graduation from Duke. Selected for the aviation branch, Chen follows in her family’s footsteps -- her grandfather flew with the legendary Flying Tigers, an American volunteer air corps that defended China against Japan. 

Chen, who is training to fly Black Hawk helicopters, said there is more to life than her profession. 

“It's important to have a sense of balance in life," she said. "It is awesome to know what you are called to do, be passionate about it and then pursue it. At the same time, what makes a person is not their profession or wealth; a person is physical, emotional and spiritual. It's important to take time to develop and enjoy yourself in all three aspects.”

Her company commander, Captain Kristina Connelly, is an excellent role model for Chen and her peers.

“Through her life, example and words, she has modeled that sense of balance and is an outstanding officer," Chen said. "What makes her unique is that she understands us as individuals and encourages all of us to strive for excellence in our lives both within and outside of the Army.”

Chen advises first-year women at Duke to slow down and remember what makes you “you.” For her, that involved taking time for God and creating life-long friendships.  

“Take advantage of the great opportunities Duke has to offer, pursue that dream profession and change your world, but if all you live on is a dream, then one day that dream will burn you out and disappoint you," she said.

As a first-year student, Chen said she was aware that she was young and naive and would need to seek out new experiences to help her see the world through a different perspective.

“I chose to not sit idly by and just hope I would magically become someone who makes a difference," she remembered. "People who change the world choose to grow, and then they encourage the world to grow with them.”