Duke University | Baldwin Scholars Program

Cydney Ross


Cydney Ross

Cydney has always been willing to take a risk. 

 

Without any campaign experience or working knowledge of grassroots campaigning, she was accepted to work as an Organizing Fellow in St. Louis on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. She recalls, “In 2008 I was a doe-eyed, optimistic, high school graduate who was hell-bent on creating a positive change in the world. I was a shy girl who experienced anxiety when talking to strangers and didn’t look a day older than 16, but for some reason I thought it was a great idea to sign up for a 2 month long, unpaid internship that required thousands of cold-calls, registering strangers to vote, and making small-talk with a bunch of random people. Although I was aware of these personality traits of mine, I never thought that working as an Organizing Fellow was a risky decision. In hindsight, it was one of the riskiest, yet greatest decisions of my entire life. I was forced out of my comfort zone—I got over my fear of talking to strangers, I learned how to handle failure, and I learned so many great skills for dealing with individuals who adamantly disagreed with my cause, who treated me like a sexual object, and who did not take me seriously because of my age. To be a successful organizer, I had to learn how to be confident in who I am and what I stand for; there could not be a doubt in my mind as to my skills, my talents, or what I could do. I developed an unwavering sense of self-esteem and ‘stick-to-itiveness’ that has guided my actions and behavior ever since. If I had never gotten over my fears, I am not sure if I would have the self-assuredness to pursue my goals and dreams with the vigor and passion I have today.”

 

Cydney has channeled her passion into running.  As a member of Duke’s Varsity Women’s Cross Country and Track and Field Team, she balanced 20 or more hours per week of training, practice, competition, and travel with her schoolwork.  As a senior, she was selected to be a Team Captain.  She mentored first-year athletes, joined other athletes in tutor in Durham schools, worked in the Duke Athletics Business Office and interned for two summers at Nike’s World Headquarters in Oregon.

 

She graduated in 2012 with a major in Public Policy Studies and a minor in African and African-American Studies.  She stayed for an additional year, maximizing her eligibility as a student-athlete and completing a Master’s degree at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

 

After a successful running career at Duke, winning many All-ACC and All-American honors and breaking school records for the 500 Meters, 600 Meters, and 4x800 Meter Relay, Cydney decided to turn professional.  She initially joined the New Jersey*New York Track Club and transitioned to the Boston Athletic Association's High Performance team in September 2014.

 

Cydney credits her grandmother as her biggest role model. “When I was a kid, my grandmother was the woman who spoiled me with over the top love, plates of delicious food, and bundles of fabulous clothing. She emanates fabulous; an advocate of always being overdressed rather than underdressed, never leaving your house without earrings, and keeping your brain sharp with crossword puzzles. For a long time my grandmother was just my grandmother, selfless, caring and bringing sparkle to her life and mine. But as I’ve grown older, my grandmother has transformed from the fun-loving spirit I know into a real woman. As I matured, she began to share stories about her life, her struggle, and her womanhood. She told me of being teased as a child because of the complexion of her skin, of heartache and lost love, of her journey as the first African-American St. Louis County police officer, of motherhood, and of the life she dreams for me. I began to see the woman who has persevered through struggle, taken risks, done stupid things, but most importantly lived her life on HER terms while never forgetting that a smile and a laugh go a long way. I’m 24 years old and I can definitely say that, at 73 years old, my grandmother is far cooler than I can ever be. She has taught me how to lead a purposeful, fun-loving, and fabulous life and I will continue to look up to aspire to be like her for the rest of my life.”

 

Cydney advised first-year Duke women to prioritize what is important to you. “There are so many things going on during your first-year and so many cool activities, groups and opportunities that it is very easy to become overwhelmed with all of the available options. You will have four years at Duke; there is no need to rush into every organization or get involved with everything you see. The first year is a transition that is not easy. It is important to find one or two organizations that are fulfilling and make you feel like Duke is your home away from home.  My second, but equally as important, piece of advice is don’t skip sleep! An adequate amount of sleep will protect you from many of the nasty colds, give you the energy to feel alert during class, and just make you a happier person to be around.”