MD-Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering Shannon O’Connor hopes that her close involvement with graduate student life will make her a graduate Young Trustee who can help the University “be even more extraordinary than it already is.”
O’Connor, who is currently working on the Ph.D. portion of her dual degree, believes that the primary challenge graduate Young Trustees have faced in the past has been their distance from student life. She has worked as vice president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council and is currently the GPSC student representative to the Medical Center Academic Affairs Committee—a standing committee of the Board of Trustees. O’Connor believes she has had a chance to learn about both the common needs of Duke's nine graduate and professional schools and also what it is like to work alongside members of the Board.
“It seems to me that a student that is engaged in the community and here for the next two years would be an ideal candidate, and I think that that would be me," O’Connor said. "I would be honored to take on this role.”
Although O’Connor cites her current involvement in GPSC as her primary way of staying attuned to the needs of the graduate and professional student community, she feels that her plans to hold easily-accessible office hours and maintain open communication with members of the GPSC executive board will allow her to stay informed of student needs if elected.
Fuqua professor Joseph LeBoeuf, who met O’Connor through her involvement in the Faegin Medical Scholars Leadership Development Program, noted that she was a responsible individual who would be able to keep the promises she made during her campaign.
“Shannon is the complete package in a lot of ways,” Leboeuf said. "When she says she’s going to do something, she does it, and I think you want people in this program who are all in and who are going to give it their best effort and she will do that.”
Fellow MD-Ph.D. student Tanmay Gokhale noted that prior to O’Connor’s involvement as a GPSC representative for the medical school, medical students rarely felt involved in the greater graduate student community, but that O’Connor’s enthusiasm and work ethic helped change that.
“Shannon is very personable and one of her greatest strengths is her ability to communicate with her peers as well as with faculty and administrators,” Gokhale wrote in an email Tuesday. “Shannon has a clear passion for improving the lives of graduate and professional students, which will serve us well in a future Young Trustee.”
For O’Connor, serving as Young Trustee would be a way to repay the Duke community for all that it has done for her.
“I want to dedicate my life to health care and to science and to research, and through that I find that I have a responsibility to the community in which I live to make it better than when I found it," O’Connor said. "Even though it started out phenomenal, everything can be improved. Duke has places to go and I want to help it get there.”