Graduate Young Trustee finalist Andrew Barnhill said he has “outrageous ambitions” for the University.
Barnhill, a third-year graduate student in religion and law, wants to draw on his experiences as an involved member of the student body to push the University toward the future through greater collaboration. Barnhill, who has been involved in admissions, residence life and political activism, said he gathers his inspiration from Terry Sanford, former N.C. governor and Duke president. Sanford coined the term “outrageous ambitions,” as an unofficial motto for the University.
“I have that sense of outrageous ambition, and that is what drives me and hopefully the institution forward,” Barnhill said. “I really hope we don’t do what many of our peer institutions do and settle for being a mediocre institution.”
Barnhill said one of his top priorities is to connect undergraduates with graduate students, noting the importance of uniting Duke’s various schools in shaping future conversations and projects.
A North Carolina native, Barnhill said a key part of his vision is to enhance collaboration between Duke and Durham. If elected Graduate Young Trustee, Barnhill said he hopes to bring together a council of Durham and Duke leaders to work on future projects to better meet the needs of Durham. He said he considers civic engagement a part of Duke’s responsibilities.
“We have tried to [bolster collaboration] through the Duke-Durham Relations office, but I think we have fallen short,” he said. “Duke tries to bandwagon what’s going on in Durham already, instead of working alongside from the beginning and providing leadership.”
As Graduate Young Trustee, Barnhill would want to increase scholarship and financial aid opportunities for all students.
“I’ve been at several meetings where that’s been discussed but not really come to action,” Barnhill said.
Barnhill is graduate resident on Central Campus, instructs a house course on religion and American politics and serves as a graduate assistant in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions—organizing Blue Devil Days in the Spring. This past Fall, he planned and hosted a symposium through the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Duke University Initiative on Religion. He said these opportunities have provided him a variety of “touch points” at the undergraduate and administrative level that allow him to better understand the University.
“He’s just done so much,” said Susan Waters, senior assistant director of admissions. “He knows Duke amazingly well, and he’s only been here three years.”
Terry Lynch, associate dean for Central Campus and staff development, said Barnhill is an ideal candidate for Graduate Young Trustee.
“He’s very proactive and not necessarily reactive,” Lynch said. “He’s looking out for the best interests of the people he’s working with, and there have been several times I’ve thought ‘I’m really glad to have Andrew Barnhill on my team.’”
Waters added that Barnhill is not only creative but also someone with the energy and ability to implement ideas.
“A lot of graduate students are interested in their particular program but not necessarily in the University as a whole, but I’m very interested in the administrative side, as well,” Barnhill said.