Duke University | Baldwin Scholars Program

Katie Behr

Katie Behr

Growing up in Westfield, New Jersey, Katie Behr wanted to be the CEO of Disney.  In 2006, she began her professional career in federal law enforcement.

Behr attended the College of William and Mary and received an undergraduate degree in Economics and International Relations, with a minor in Spanish.  She was one of a few students accepted directly from an undergraduate program to the Public Policy Master’s degree program at Duke. 

Although extremely bright and capable, Behr felt like an imposter.  She reflects, “I felt awed – and intimidated – by the depth and breadth of experience of my classmates.  Instead of focusing on how my knowledge and experiences could contribute to the class dynamic, I worried that I just wasn’t good enough.   I did a lot of second-guessing during my first semester at Duke; maybe public policy was not for me.  I eventually realized that this anxiety was crippling my graduate school experience and I made the conscious decision to stop second-guessing myself.”

Behr credits her mother for both constant support and challenge.  She remembers trying out for the forensics team as a high school freshman.  Behr panicked at first, thinking, “There is no way I will be able to stand in front of a panel of judges and give an extemporaneous speech on an unknown topic!”  Her mother advised her to go for it!

“For as long as I can remember, my mother has encouraged me to step outside the safety and familiarity of my comfort zone.  She instilled in me the confidence to study abroad, write a senior thesis, pursue a Master’s degree, and move to Washington, D.C. – all of which seemed rather intimidating at the outset.  Had I not had her motivation and support, I may very well have missed out on some of the best, most rewarding experiences of my life.”

Behr cannot shed much light on her current role in federal law enforcement but does explain that the experience that best prepared her for her current position was, without a doubt, the Master of Public Policy program at Duke's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy.  “Sanford's faculty, staff, and students helped me to develop a core set of analysis and communication skills that I use on a daily basis.  The program's emphasis on effective memo-writing and group work has proven to be particularly valuable in my current role.”   She hopes to be an executive briefer within her organization after completing her two-year Presidential Management Fellowship.

At Duke, Behr also made time to take Spanish language courses, ride horses, work for the Baldwin Scholars program, and serve as a live-in Graduate Assistant in Wilson House for Residence Life and Housing Services.

Behr advises, "Duke offers so many amazing opportunities. Seize every moment. It's easy to get bogged down in due dates, meetings, and schedules. While these are all important, also take the time to listen to a guest speaker, view a Nasher exhibit, or chat with the faculty-in-residence. Apply to a study abroad program or research assistant position. Explore Durham. Your Duke experience is only four years; don't regret not having done something."