By day, junior Emily Aviki is an economics and biology double-major, and by night she plays the guitar in two local bands—unless it’s Thursday night, when she’s inevitably planted in front of the television watching The OC. But she still manages to serve as a leader of several student organizations, and she hopes to continue that as next year’s president of Duke Student Government.
A native of Auburn, Ala., Aviki spent her freshman year at the University of Alabama, where she was active on the student senate. After only two years at Duke, Aviki has climbed to the positions of junior class president, Persian Student Association vice president and DSG assistant vice president of athletics and campus services, among others.
“I’ve been involved in a different variety of organizations, not just student government,” Aviki said. “I see what people need, and I just can’t pass up an opportunity to make such a change on Duke’s campus—a positive change.”
As DSG president, Aviki hopes to develop five main areas of Duke’s student life.
She looks to create social outlets for large on-campus events with provisions for safe alcohol consumption. She is also exploring the possible renovation of the Intramural Building or Alpine Bagels and creating a bar where students can have a leisurely beer with their professors.
But Aviki hopes to forge a tighter-knit community through more than just new social opportunities. She also hopes to bring back many of the University’s traditions, such as bench-building contests and bonfires.
“One of the first things I would do is go to City Council and just say no. [The bonfire] is one thing that we have to have at Duke—that’s one of our traditions,” she said.
She would also like to see an annual President’s Ball, similar to the community dance held last semester after President Richard Brodhead’s inauguration.
“I think DSG can program it,” Aviki said. “There’s no reason not to—we have the funds, we have the brainpower and we have the manpower.”
Safety improvement is a current hot topic on campus, and Aviki has plans for bolstering the current system. She sees the need for DSG to annually fund safety groups such as Duke Escort Service that do not presently receive adequate funding. She also expressed qualms about SafeRides, saying the service is unreliable.
“If it takes senator volunteers to drive on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, that’s something that I will do,” she said. “If they’re going to take you off [campus], they have to bring you back on.”
Aviki envisions students annually interacting with and serving the Durham community in a program she calls “The Great Event.” She said student volunteers would be deployed into the community for projects like building a wheelchair ramp at a nursing home or renovating a park in an effort to strengthen Duke-Durham relations.
Student leadership is a top priority for Aviki and she hopes to promote it in her peers. She said she would convert her summer stipend into a $1,000 scholarship for freshmen showing exemplary leadership skills throughout the year.
Aviki hopes her passion, genuine concern and undeniable enthusiasm lend her campaign another dimension. She says she is not running on a “platform,” because she is looking toward doing more than just making a few changes to the University.
“I want to change DSG so it has more of an impression—more of an effect—on the Duke experience. Right now, policywise, it does enhance the Duke experience—programmingwise, it doesn’t,” she said.
DSG has not had a female president since 1999 nor a female presidential candidate since 2002. Aviki believes the prevailing all-male trend needs to be changed.
“Without a woman on [the executive board], DSG is not representative of the student body. The student body is 50 percent female, and that female vote needs to get out there,” she said.
Her colleagues acknowledge her ability to lead such an organization.
“Emily has succeeded at every position she’s had. She comes up with great ideas and knows how to execute them,” said junior Ajay Kori, DSG director of student services. “I think she would make a great president, especially from a programming aspect.”