Shannon O’Connor was elected as the next Graduate Young Trustee by the general assembly of the Graduate and Professional Student Council Tuesday evening.
O’Connor—a fifth-year Ph.D./MD candidate in biomedical engineering—beat GPSC President Amol Yadav, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering, and Bill Hunt, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate and GPSC member. O’Connor currently serves as the vice president of GPSC.
“I’m truly honored to be given this opportunity to voice the concerns of graduate and professional students and to represent Duke as a whole,” O’Connor said.
As Young Trustee, O’Connor plans to form a partnership between GPSC and the Board of Trustees, be more proactive in engaging with the trustees and encourage more student connection.
“Why would I not want to plug into the ideas of the graduate and professional community as much as possible?” she asked.
O’Connor highlighted her goal to integrate graduate and professional interests into University standing committees. She expects this goal to be significantly more long-term, estimating needing about two years to come to fruition.
The current graduate Young Trustees have immense initiative in meeting with graduate students before Board meetings, O'Connor said, adding that she will be able to continue this tradition given that during her tenure, she would still be attending graduate school and living in Durham.
After receiving about 15 online applications, the Young Trustee Screening Committee interviewed five candidates and selected the three finalists.
“You kind of know seeing these three candidates that they were gonna be big contenders,” said YTSC Chair Stephanie Reist, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in romance studies.
Reist said they looked for campus engagement and knowledge of the position during the screening process.
Prior to voting, each candidate gave a five-minute speech followed by five minutes of questioning by the general assembly. Representatives then voted to close the deliberation before selecting O’Connor.
O’Connor opened her speech by explaining her passion for the University.
“From the moment that I knew I wanted to do an MD/Ph.D., I knew I wanted to be here,” she said. “I feel every day that I’m lucky to be here.”
She said that her proximity to campus would help alleviate some of the challenges connecting to the campus that previous Young Trustees have faced.
When asked about improving Duke and Durham relations, O’Connor referred to her work on the Davison Council—a medical school student government—which is involved with the Durham community.
“I think the [General Assembly] made the right decision,” Yadav said.
Yadav is considering running for a position on one of the Board’s standing committees.
Hunt was not available for comment following the GPSC meeting where they elected O'Connor.