Sophomore Lavanya Sunder plans to encourage student involvement on-campus by promoting student-driven projects.
As the current Duke Student Government vice president for services, Sunder is running for DSG president with the goal of increasing student engagement with campus life. Sunder has been involved in a number of extracurricular experiences including Common Ground, Awaaz, Duke Debate, Women’s Center Programming and the Think Before You Talk campaign. Her experience and success in the DSG senate separate her from other candidates, she said.
“There are a lot of great student ideas, but there’s a lack of great communication between students and administration,” Sunder said.
Sunder emphasized her work with Fix My Campus, noting that as the program’s director, she has a good handle on student opinions. The Facebook page—monitored and addressed by DSG members—allows students to post problems on a variety of issues and has become one of Sunder's biggest initiatives.
Sunder noted that she has made student-sponsored projects a priority in her time here.
“I’ve only really pursued projects that came from students,” Sunder said.
She is especially proud of her work restarting the bike-sharing program, an initiative begun after she received several Facebook messages from concerned students.
“Students were passionate about it, so I became passionate about it,” Sunder said.
Working on this program meant interacting with many different committees as well as important faculty members, such as Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta and Vice President of Administration Kyle Cavanaugh.
“This experience has prepared me for future interactions with high-level administration,” Sunder said.
She hopes to expand some of the programs she worked on with Duke Dining. She has collaborated with Director of Dining Services Robert Coffey to create a survey for students to rate Merchants-on-Points vendors and food trucks. In the future, this may lead to a system that allows students to taste food on-campus and rate it immediately.
Sunder also plans to improve communication about campus construction by creating a centralized online interface to update students on construction and allow them to provide feedback on plans.
Sunder is the only presidential candidate who has served on the senate. Although she noted the benefits of people voicing opposing views on DSG policies, she said her knowledge of the organization's inner workings would be helpful as DSG president.
“It's fine to have a negative view of DSG…. We can be an internal-facing organization sometimes," Sunder said. "[But] I don’t think you can say I’m going to reform DSG senate without having been on DSG senate."
Sophomore Keizra Mecklai, DSG senator for equity and outreach, noted Sunder’s experience and authority with the senate.
“Lava would be a great president because she’s the only candidate that ever served on the senate…so she’s the best candidate to reform DSG if that’s what the student body wants. Even more than that, she’s demonstrated leadership," Mecklai said. "She will be able to put these to work because of her demonstrated leadership in her position."
Magda Silva, a lecturer of Portuguese in the Romance Studies department, spoke of Sunder’s academic abilities, noting that Sunder became interested in Portuguese language after a trip to Brazil.
“She’s a great student, and she’s very responsible," Silva said. "She learns really fast, and she’s always very interested in class."