The Person Behind the Stories: Celebrating Program Assistant Thalia Halloran’s time with the Hart Leadership Program

Thalia Halloran headshot in a garden

Thalia Halloran, Duke Class of 2022

If you’ve read one of the Hart Leadership Program’s (HLP) news stories the past two years, then you’re probably already familiar with Thalia Halloran! Thalia (T’22) has been work for the HLP as a program assistant since fall of 2019. Since this is her last semester with us, the HLP team wanted to share just how great Thalia has been during her time with us.

Thalia is an English major with minors in creative writing and history. She is the co-founder of Duke University’s first Stand-Up Troupe (DUST), and she considers that “most important fun thing” she’s done during her undergraduate career. Another milestone of Thalia centers around the Duke Immerse Program, Rights & Identities in the Americas: Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples, and Contemporary Challenges. It  was an incredible experience for her and sparked an interest to investigate and critically think about issues of borders, immigrant rights, migration, and citizenship and how we define all of those. An Indiana-state native with Puerto Rican roots, Thalia is a writer, of mostly fiction. She’s begun to dabble in various other genres, including radio and podcast storytelling. She’s passionate about finding and telling the most interesting stories she can and always find the human side of things. Her writing has allowed her to flourish as an individual, and has acquired awards and recognitions, including the Anne Flexner Award for Fiction at Duke University (twice!) and the Reynolds Price Award for Fiction at Duke University.

Thalia and Ana in the Duke Woods

Thalia and Associate in Research for the HLP, Ana Ramirez

Thalia began to work with the HLP during her sophomore year. Her attraction to the job posting stemmed from the word “leadership” – as she was hoping to learn more about what that truly means. She had previously taken Faulkner Fox’s “Writing Across Borders” class – which is affiliated with the HLP– and that had sparked her interest in Hart as well. Thalia’s time with the HLP has been very dynamic, dabbling in a little bit of everything. She’s written articles about students, programs, and news. She’s helped design our newsletter, social media content, and promotional flyers. Most importantly, Thalia has helped us provide student perspectives in the work we do. Her insights into how to mobilize diverse student voices in the Why Vote Competition at Hart were invaluable.

During the beginning of her junior year, the pandemic had shifted the ways we all do our work and Thalia wasn’t sure how things were going to play out. Out of the uncertainty emerged a task that would become a fond memory for Thalia. The Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL) fellows had to navigate the effects of the pandemic on their summer projects. All of them had to shift to remote work, as many of us did during that time. Professor Lalita Kaligotla – who at the time was the instructor for the SOL program – asked Thalia to write an article that details the work the SOL students were able to accomplish despite the pandemic. What was initially a writing assignment turned into a really great opportunity where, as Thalia reflected, “I got to talk to inspiring students doing lots of really great work.”

Gunther and Thalia in an office library

Thalia and Director of the HLP, Gunther Peck

Thalia’s biggest takeaway during her time with the HLP has been learning the importance of teamwork and flexibility. Now that she’s seen the inside of how programs work and all the steps involved to design, operate, and implement programmatic work and events, you and your team must be willing to embrace new ideas or try different things from what you first envisioned. Most importantly to Thalia, you must “welcome the help of other people and try to help them where you can.” Thalia will be departing the Hart Leadership Program at the end of the semester to take part in the Duke in L.A. program. The program involves courses in media and entertainment, an elective class at the University of Southern California, and an internship in the entertainment industry.

When asked about her time at the HLP, Thalia states, “The most important thing in working with Hart has been learning from amazing people around me – both faculty/staff, and the students in the programs. I’ve been really inspired by the incredible work that students are doing every semester and every summer to make the communities that they’re in better, more equitable, more democratic. That is something that I’m going to definitely take with me, is just the power of setting your mind to something and making a difference. Any person can!”

“The Hart Leadership Program is going to miss Thalia,” Director Gunther Peck reflected. “She’s one of the most creative, collaborative, and innovative students I have worked with since becoming Director of Hart. She made all of us smarter and better at what we do.” We wish her luck and good fortune on all of her future endeavors!  Look out LA, here she comes!