Building Community at Duke

Earlier month, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting that examined many aspects of community, hate and bias at Duke. Upon leaving this meeting, I found myself thinking endlessly about two ideas (among many others):

  1. How has my experience been as a member of the Duke community?
  2. What is my role in bettering the Duke community in my four years here?

I went through a little bit of a rough-patch last semester, the atypical “junior slump” if you will. I love Duke, but I was too busy to allow myself to love it as much as I had. On the whole, I would still call it a good semester, but I did not have the time to find as much joy as I usually do here. Many friends went abroad while I stayed at Duke and I threw myself into my extracurriculars and getting a job for the upcoming summer. I wound up isolating myself without even knowing it.

This semester, though, has been a full 180. I have re-committed myself to the communities that make Duke so special. Putting myself out there and pushing myself just past my comfort zone, I have found myself so, incredibly happy. The love and support that I feel at this school is so strong.

But how did I get so lucky? I think there were a few factors playing into this. Upon coming to Duke as a first-year, my brother, then a senior, showed me the ropes and introduced me to communities that he knew I would love and grow in. Another factor is the privilege I have that Duke provides so many spaces for me, a privilege that not all students have, based on their identity, background and/or personality.

As someone so lucky, I have made it a personal goal of mine to build up the Duke community, which could make the spaces for those without the spaces already available to them. This is a significant goal of the First-year Advisory Counselor program, for which I serve as co-chair of the board. The First-year Advisory Counselors — or the FACs — act as student-mentors for the incoming first-years and help them through orientation week and beyond. The vision of the program is, in large part, building the Duke community by connecting students to identity centers, supporting students in having important conversations, stressing the importance of vulnerability and helping students make some of their first friends at Duke.

The current Juniors on FAC Board at our annual retreat!

I am so proud to be a part of the FAC Board, a group I love so much. I am so impressed by all of its members and their unique perspectives, voices, backgrounds and identities. Each member pushes every other member to be better, whether that is through working with identity centers or having conversations about selection bias when we choose the new FACs. I absolutely cannot wait until this upcoming Orientation Week when we get to work with the next set of first-years and support them through their transition.