Aspiring Travelers Drawn to Duke Passport Drive

November 19, 2018

Nearly 230 members of the Duke community met with the U.S. State Department to apply for new passports and renewals on Nov. 15.

Duke faculty, staff, students and family apply for passports at the 2018 Passport Drive, held at the Penn Pavilion on Nov. 15. (Amanda Solliday / Duke)

-By Amanda Solliday

For someone needing a passport, it could not be easier. In one room, experts from Duke’s Office of Global Administrative and Travel Support and the Office of Global Affairs, FedEx photographers, a Duke Credit Union representative and U.S. State Department officials were available to help process applications.

The team piloted this type of event on Duke’s campus last year and drew 160 passport applicants. This year, despite near-constant rain, the Passport Drive was even bigger.

“We explicitly opened the passport drive this year to the entire Duke community, including family members,” says Colette Watt, program coordinator in the Office of Global Affairs. “It was exciting to see faculty and staff bring everyone from their one-month-old babies to their 90-year-old parents for passports.”

More students also came to this year’s event, stopping by to secure a passport or renewal for future study abroad, says Watt. But motivations for applications varied, including anniversary travel, name changes after weddings and just sudden inspiration.

“Someday, I want to get out of bed and get on a plane,” says one first-time passport applicant. “I don’t like to plan.”

FedEx photographers take passport-sized images for applicants. (Amanda Solliday / Duke)

The volume of applicants surprised Timothy Mangum, a sales customer consultant at FedEx.

“We had to run back to the store and get another machine to keep up with the demand for photos,” Mangum says.

Also new this year, a representative from the Duke Credit Union helped applicants with paying the necessary fees, which must be in the form of a check or money order.

“By the time each applicant came to us, they had the correct payment and completed forms,” says Amber Smalls, senior passport specialist at the U.S. State Department. “Everything was set up for a good flow.”

The opportunity to review application materials in-person with a state department official helps ensure that applications will be processed quickly, Watt adds. Last year many people received their passports within 3 weeks of the drive, without having to pay to expedite them.

A representative the Duke Credit Union helps applicants with converting payments to the correct form needed to apply for a passport. (Amanda Solliday / Duke)

“It is such a positive feeling to help make what can be a complicated process a little bit easier, especially for families with children,” says Schuyler Knowles, operations coordinator with Duke Global Administrative and Travel Support. “We really look forward to the Passport Drive becoming an annual tradition at Duke for years to come.”

Related article: Duke Hosts Global Passport Drive on Nov. 15 (Working@Duke)


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