Chris Brown, Trinity '13, was elected in February as undergraduate Young Trustee, a position that allows a student to sit on the Board of Trustees for three years. With this year's Young Trustee elections coming up, Brown spoke to The Chronicle’s Shanen Ganapathee about the highs and lows of being a Young Trustee, the campaigning process and the qualities required to be a good Young Trustee.
The Chronicle: What do you feel are the greatest qualities of a Young Trustee?
Chris Brown: It’s a complex position and there are a ton of things that go into the role of being a Young Trustee and frankly I am still learning them as well. But if I were to pick one, it would be that you as candidates would want to continue helping Duke be the best institution it can be.
TC: What do you think is the primary role of a Young Trustee?
CB: The Young Trustee is like any trustee and their role is to bring their insight and understanding from their experiences to help make sure that Duke is on the right track and the Young Trustee is heavily weighted towards their recent undergraduate experience, but it’s important to remember that the role of a trustee is inherently the role of governance rather than lobbying or representation. The undergraduate experience is just one of the data points they will be considering as they make decisions and have discussions with the rest of the Board of Trustees.
TC: What are the challenges and difficulties of being a Young Trustee?
CB: The biggest challenge is synthesizing the tremendous amount of information into the time period that you have with the Trustees. There is always more work to do to stay informed on life at Duke, the board wants you to keep up with university issues, what’s going on in the place. It’s a tremendous time commitment. We have four meetings a year when we are together for a few days and we communicate with each other constantly. It’s a tremendous amount of information that has to be communicated in impactful ways in a short amount of time.
TC: What do you like about being a Young Trustee?
CB: It’s amazing to continue of being part of the alma mater in a meaningful way—to be part of planning. It’s been incredible to see things in the drawing form or in the planning form and then come back, for example this Fall, and see it go from a picture on paper to a building in real life. A tremendous amount of things happen at Duke as an undergraduate for four years, and to be able to be involved for another three, is absolutely incredible.
TC: Do you have anything to say to this year's candidates?
CB: It was an incredible group of semi-finalists and finalists and they should all be excited about their candidacy. I very much look forward to working with them to make Duke a better place in whatever capacity, whether it’s as the next Young Trustee or as really passionate young [alumnus or alumna]. The Young Trustee finalists are a great group and should look to continue to give back, no matter what.
TC: What's the most valuable lesson you learnt during campaigning?
CB: Campaigning is a really tough process. You learn a tremendous amount about the University, about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. It serves as a great reminder to the candidates about how rich and diverse the Duke student experience is. There really is no one Duke experience. We may share a lot of events or experiences in common, but the Duke experience is different one way or another. The campaigning process forces the candidates to take a step back and take a deep look at the Duke community and the various sub-communities around them and think critically about what’s most important for the University moving forward.