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Caitlin Keefe reflects on the transformative impact her time with ACE had on her career trajectory. Currently serving as an HR Business Partner for a financial institution, Caitlin deeply values the profound sense of community she encountered during her ACE in South Africa experience in 2019. This experience instilled in her a strong desire to dedicate her professional journey to empowering and strengthening leaders, teams, and communities in the work she does.


What are you doing now? How has ACE influenced your career pathway?

I am currently an HR Business Partner supporting a financial institution. While in South Africa, I found so much joy and value in being part of a strong community. I knew that when I graduated I wanted to spend my time working with others to help build strong leaders, teams, and communities.


Share one lesson from ACE that still holds today.

During my final week in South Africa, I taught computer lessons to the men and women in the Zola community. My student was a woman named Monica who had never used a computer before. Monica could not figure out how to use the mouse. However, throughout the lesson, she kept telling me, “I am going to get it.” Four days later we were still working on using the mouse, while her peers had advanced to more technical computer skills several days prior. Finally, on the fifth day, something clicked and Monica could use the mouse. She cried tears of joy, and her peers (who had mastered this skill days prior) erupted into shouts, cheers, and big hugs. Five years later, I constantly think back to Monica, her perseverance, her determination, and the way her friends supported her throughout her process. I think of how not everything comes naturally to us, but that’s okay, as long as we keep trying and keep believing in ourselves. I also think of Monica’s friends who supported her, encouraged her, and celebrated her and tried to emulate their actions in my own relationships as everyone’s biggest cheerleader.

“My ACE Cohort – my favorite group of people exploring South Africa together.”

Describe your ACE experience in as few words as possible:

Transformational, joyful

What was the most meaningful part of your ACE experience?

The most meaningful part of my ACE experience was the relationships I built, both with the people in the Zola community and my Stanford-Duke Ace team. I want everyone who is thinking about applying to ACE to know college goes by in a blink, but the relationships you build and the people you meet will always stay with you.