Leslie Durgin: “Follow Your Head and Your Heart”

Those who missed dynamic speaker Leslie Durgin on Feb. 23 missed an engaging and informative lecture focused on her career after Wilson.

A 1969 alumnae, Durgin spoke about the years following her graduation and how her skills, picked up during her time at Wilson, have helped her throughout the years. Like many, Durgin experienced quite a few career changes including volunteer work, human services, banking, women’s health, and government.

As many Wilson graduates are known to do, Durgin found herself challenging the thinking of those around her were thinking, providing new perspectives that helped to solve problems. Her time in banking realized her passion in public service when Durgin pitched an idea to change the bank in order to help the public. She later found herself in the public sector, becoming a four-term mayor of Boulder, Colorado as well as the senior vice president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Throughout the twists and turns of her career, Durgin has gained a wealth of knowledge and advice to give to students that is invaluable.

Much of her lecture was focused on the idea of knowing oneself. She encouraged students to find humor in situations and to know what it is that you truly want. Durgin advised, “Take issues seriously, others seriously, yourself not so seriously and give it a whirl.” When it comes to job offers, she asks herself, “Is it really what I want? What’s the conversation in my head?”

Career decisions will come and go. Durgin advised students to take the opportunities and discover their passions. “Follow your heart in love and career,” she said. “Follow your head and your heart.”

She challenged graduates to bring science to the humanities, to hold a creative and inquiring mind, to create and frame the information given, and to learn from their failures. Durgin also advised current students to pay attention to “transferable” skills—skills that can be applied to one’s career—and one’s own personality traits.

“Understand your tolerance to risk,” she said. “Put people on your team by asking for help… asking for help I truly believe to be a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.”

Even she admits that she often has trouble turning down offers, and she recommends students to ask for advice from others who can offer a different perspective on the situation.

Durgin herself has a comical indicator of when she knows to turn down the offer. This happens when coming home, her husband remarks, “‘Two bottles of wine?’ I don’t think this is going anywhere good.” She also reminds students that it is okay to recognize when it is time to give the opportunity to someone else.

The speaker series at Wilson will continue with its theme of success on Thurs, Apr. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Brooks Science Complex auditorium, the speaker soon to be announced.


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