Bonnie Duen: Student Government Post Sparks a Career Path

Bonnie Duen considered a number of different career tracks before hitting upon her true passion for public service. First, she attended Adelphi University to study Biology to become a dentist.  Then, she went to Queens College to study Accounting.  The following semester she switched to Food and Nutrition.  An office job in an architecture firm led her to change her interests to a career in Architectural Design, which led her to Queensborough Community College.  There she served in the Student Government, first as Executive Secretary, then Evening Vice President, then as President – the first Asian-American female President of her class.

Suddenly, Duen was bitten by the public service bug.  She entered the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies, making John Jay her home college.  Under the guidance of John Jay faculty mentor Professor Jeanne-Marie Col, Public Management, she designed her own major, “Leadership Studies in Public Policy,” using courses from John Jay and Baruch Colleges.

Duen became a New York City Urban Fellow upon her graduation in 2006.  The Urban Fellows Program provides an unparalleled opportunity for young professionals to gain meaningful work experience in public policy, urban planning and government operations as they consider careers in public service. Duen was assigned to the Economic Development Corporation – Real Estate Development.

Today, Duen is participating in the National Urban Fellowship Inc, a nonprofit organization in collaboration with Baruch College CUNY, which involves an accelerated 14-month Master degree in Public Policy and nine months of hands-on work experience mentorship, which prepares leaders with with a strong commitment to equity and social justice issues for service in public and private organizations.

During her nine month mentorship, Duen has been with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest foundation dedicated to awarding grants for the improvement of health and healthcare, working at AARP’s National Office in Washington, D.C.  This exceptional opportunity has provided Duen with dual experience in philanthropy and advocacy.

Born in Portland and raised in New York City, Duen feels she has the best of both worlds with her Hong Kong heritage and exposure to American culture as an “ABC” (American-born Chinese).  After her interest in public service was sparked in the Queensborough Community College’s Student Government, she went on to work with Council member of District 20 John C. Liu, working on improving constituent services. In April 2005, she was chosen to participate in the prestigious Salzburg Seminar in Austria, where she studied global citizenship and World War II.  Believing that the prevention of wars lies in civic duty, she founded “CUNY Unity” at John Jay College to encourage students to be proactive in making a difference.

Duen is always refining her mission as to how she can have an impact in this global society.  Her future plans are to travel around the world to share best practices and encourage lifelong learning.  Currently, she is searching for a dual JD/Ph.D. program in Global Leadership Development.  She would like to work on projects that address the intersections between economic development, education policy and social services in all sectors and levels of government.  She is interested in running for political office with a goal of establishing a scholarship/leadership program involving all levels of government that encourages young adults in public service.  Her own experiences have taught her the importance of civic engagement and the difference that one person can make in giving back to society.