Graduate/young professional director finalists share their visions for the position in an open meeting

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The four graduate/young professional administrator finalists shared their backgrounds and goals for the position with the students at a public meeting on Wednesday.

Margaret Epps, secretary of the board, explained that the role of young directors is to ensure that the board includes voices of individuals closer to the Duke experience today.

If elected to the position, a student will serve a three-year term on the board, one year as an observer and two as a voting board member, according to Epps. As Trustees of the University, junior trustees “must demonstrate an ability to think broadly about the University, understand the University’s role in society, be curious about the institutional issues facing Duke, and respect how universities are administered and governed,” Epps said.

An extensive process, beginning with the selection of the Young Directors Nominating Committee in the fall, resulted in the selection of four finalists: Jay Lusk, MD-MBA candidate at the Fuqua School of Business and School of Medicine; Edgar Virgüez, Doctoral School ’22; and Nicole De Brigard and Yedidya “Didi” Yeshurun, both from law school.

Christopher Kilner, Nominating Chair for Young Graduate/Professional Directors and PhD candidate at the Nicholas School of Environment, moderated a series of questions for finalists to answer.

In their initial presentations, the finalists talked about their journey and how they defined the role of the young director.

A first-generation American and graduate student from South Florida, De Brigard said her diverse background and life experiences would allow her to “bring a multi-faceted perspective” to the position of young administrator.

When she arrived at Duke Law, she tried to make Duke and Durham “feel like home” by joining the Dean’s Advisory Council and becoming a research assistant, teaching assistant and vice president of the Latin American Law Students Association, among other roles. De Brigard is an intern at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and based in Raleigh. She described her journey and those experiences as “all the other hats I’ve worn in my life.”

“All the understandings and experiences I gained in those hats lead me to wear that young administrator hat,” De Brigard said. She described the role as “being objective, independent and serving as a trustee of the University”.

Lusk, a native of Flagstaff, Arizona, described how his experience as a member of the second class of students at Yale-NUS College allowed him to “rethink what a liberal arts institution is in an institution of broader research. [should] look like.”

He served as chair of Duke’s Graduate and Professional Student Government, through which he engaged with student leaders and senior administrators and served on administrator task forces. His goal of becoming a physician and clinician-scientist to “create more equitable access to healthy living for all” aligns with his hope to contribute to Duke’s mission, which he says is “to make society a better place for all of us”.

Lusk noted that he sees the junior administrator as having a “fiduciary duty” to a range of “stakeholder perspectives,” including faculty, staff, nonadministrative staff and undergraduate students.

Born in Colombia to a low-income family, Virgüez described how his mother’s sacrifices for her children taught him that “every chance we had, we had to make the most of it.” But his mother also reminded him to “make sure that once we seize these opportunities, we open a new path for others to get into this position,” Virgüez said.

Virgüez has served on 19 Duke committees, councils, and boards, seeing “education as a tool that could change the world.” Virgüez noted that he considers the most pressing questions for the future of Duke education to be, “What do we face in the 21st century for higher education to change?” and “How will Duke build a new educational model?”

Yeshurun, who was born and raised in Israel to become a rabbi, came to Duke after studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he was part of the student union and was “exposed to the inner workings of higher education. “. He remarked on how prevalent a sense of community is at Duke, saying “something else is going on here, it’s not just academics”.

He sees the young administrator role as a way to “help make this great place last” and expand Duke’s influence globally, using his public policy background at Israel’s Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance.

When asked what they thought were the key lessons from the pandemic related to higher education, both at Duke and beyond, all of the finalists discussed the future of technology and the persistence of human interaction. They also mentioned the University’s connections to local, national and global communities, with Virgüez and Yeshurun ​​calling on Duke to consider reforms that help those who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The finalists were then asked how they have contributed to efforts to eliminate racism and inequality, both at Duke and beyond.

Yeshurun ​​highlighted his stint as president of the Hebrew University Student Union, during which he created a mentorship program for black Jewish students and increased admission and retention rates. Virgüez referred to the increase in the number of professors and students belonging to minorities, also noting his initiative to provide more scholarships to Colombian students at Nicholas School.

Lusk pointed to his efforts to end inductions into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society after noticing that non-white students had not been inducted in recent years. De Brigard stressed that diversity is “not always a numbers game,” pointing to her work with law school dean Kerry Abrams to increase diversity efforts post-recruitment.

The final question asked finalists how they would prepare for the role of young administrator and what skills they would bring as Duke enters a period of rapid social and technological change and long-term challenges. All four responded that they would seek to bring diverse perspectives.

Lusk highlighted the diverse perspectives of students, while De Brigard stressed that she would bring in “future-focused hazard prevention individuals” to combat Duke’s tendency to “operate under damage control.” “. Yeshurun ​​mentioned bringing in experts, both at Duke and abroad, to fill knowledge gaps.

Virgüez highlighted his own unique perspective as a researcher to help Duke “migrate from a university that invests in climate change research to ensure our actions speak to the same level of commitment” and disengage from combustibles. fossils.

The finalists finished by highlighting Duke’s impact on their own lives or on society at large. Lusk noted how the University’s decisions have “real world implications for the kind of society we’re all going to live in”, while De Brigard promised she would bring a “fresh, new and diverse perspective”.

“My wife and I studied here, changed our lives here,” Virgüez said. “Every time I watch it, I think Duke has to be one of the best things that’s happened in my life.”

Students who attended the meeting can share comments on which finalists the nominating committee should consider when recommending to President Vincent Price through a poll scheduled for March 21. Students who were unable to attend can watch a recording of the meeting made available on the Board of Directors website and are also eligible to provide comments.


Milla Surjadi
| University news editor

Milla Surjadi is a sophomore at Trinity and the editor of college news for the 117th volume of The Chronicle.

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