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Humans of Duke Sanford

For a Veterans Day edition of Humans of Duke Sanford – we are sharing one of our favorite student stories, written for Sanford’s 2023 graduation.
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Rusty Cotterman MNSP’23 is a warrior in every sense of the word. As a member of the Army's Third Special Forces he has been deployed to conflict zones around the world including five tours in Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sahel, and most recently in Cote d’Ivoire training Ivorian Special Operations forces. It was when he returned stateside that he faced the fight of his life. 

In the first weeks of the MNSP program, during his first on-campus immersion at Duke University, Rusty received the devastating news that he had stage 4 cancer of the head and throat. He knew this diagnosis changed everything. He rushed back to campus and met with the program administrator, Tim Nichols. He talked with his wife and family and struggled to decide whether he should step away from the program to focus on recovery, or to continue while undergoing what his oncologist called “aggressive” treatment.

Rusty says the University and Tim Nichols offered him the option to walk away from the program at any time, and resume later, but he was determined to finish. While undergoing daily radiation treatments that made it painful to eat or drink, he kept working. 

“The reading, the writing, and the engagement of the program helped me mentally, so I could endure the physical,” Rusty said, adding that having class deadlines and student engagement, plus the constant support of his family, pulled him through the toughest days.

“This whole process has just made me extremely grateful. I wake up each day and ask myself who can I thank today?”

Rusty is a proud member of the first MNSP cohort. “This program, without question, has given me so much in both knowledge and tools to better serve the soldiers I will lead.” 

We are proud to have Rusty as part of the Duke family, and we wish him continued health, happiness, and success. #HumansofDukeSanford #MNSP #veteransday

For a Veterans Day edition of Humans of Duke Sanford – we are sharing one of our favorite student stories, written for Sanford’s 2023 graduation.
*
Rusty Cotterman MNSP’23 is a warrior in every sense of the word. As a member of the Army’s Third Special Forces he has been deployed to conflict zones around the world including five tours in Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sahel, and most recently in Cote d’Ivoire training Ivorian Special Operations forces. It was when he returned stateside that he faced the fight of his life.

In the first weeks of the MNSP program, during his first on-campus immersion at Duke University, Rusty received the devastating news that he had stage 4 cancer of the head and throat. He knew this diagnosis changed everything. He rushed back to campus and met with the program administrator, Tim Nichols. He talked with his wife and family and struggled to decide whether he should step away from the program to focus on recovery, or to continue while undergoing what his oncologist called “aggressive” treatment.

Rusty says the University and Tim Nichols offered him the option to walk away from the program at any time, and resume later, but he was determined to finish. While undergoing daily radiation treatments that made it painful to eat or drink, he kept working.

“The reading, the writing, and the engagement of the program helped me mentally, so I could endure the physical,” Rusty said, adding that having class deadlines and student engagement, plus the constant support of his family, pulled him through the toughest days.

“This whole process has just made me extremely grateful. I wake up each day and ask myself who can I thank today?”

Rusty is a proud member of the first MNSP cohort. “This program, without question, has given me so much in both knowledge and tools to better serve the soldiers I will lead.”

We are proud to have Rusty as part of the Duke family, and we wish him continued health, happiness, and success. #HumansofDukeSanford #MNSP #veteransday