Sophomores, faculty members, administrators and junior peer advisors gathered on the main quad of West Campus for the annual Academic Homecoming on Thursday afternoon. Having declared their majors, students conversed with professors and received customized pins and t-shirts designating their departments. The Chronicle's Sasha Zients spoke with members of the Duke community present at the event, now in its second year.

“This is my first time at the event and it has great organization. It takes the place of individual departments having open houses and makes it easy for the faculty to come and have things already organized for us.”

—Cheri Ross, interim director of International Comparative Studies program and associate professor of the practice

“I’m enjoying being here and meeting students on the first day of spring.”

—Alec Motten, associate professor of the practice of biology

“I’m so happy this is going so well for the second year in a row. I think that this event is a very positive academic tradition for the Duke community."

—Duke Student Government President Stefani Jones, senior

“It is important that it gets noted that this event is the product of great collaboration between the Office of Student Affairs, Duke Student Government, the Pratt School of Engineering, Trinity College and all of the deans’ offices, but most of all, the faculty from all of the departments for allowing a space where students can engage with them in their new departments.”

—Baishakhi Taylor, assistant dean for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

“Declaring your major is literally the biggest cliffhanger. Everyone does it and then it’s like there’s nothing after that.”

—sophomore Vaibhav Penukonda, art history major

“So far it’s been great. We’ve had a lot of professor turn out, which is exciting. And walking around, I see a lot of student turn out as well and a lot of interaction. Professors are repping their t-shirts, which are a new thing this year. You see a real sense of community. I’m sure tomorrow everyone will be wearing them.”

—Junior Class Council President Bret Lesavoy

“It’s a great opportunity to mark an important transition in our undergraduate students’ lives. We’re taking stock at the halfway point, so we take another picture of you. It’s an academic ritual that marks the transition from underclassmen to upperclassmen.”

—Lee Baker, dean of academic affairs for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

“Our point here is to welcome you to a new home…. As Duke students, you have been on a journey since your arriving. You’ve been toiling away in a sense and finding your direction. So, it’s a homecoming in that sense. Your major will be the center of the remainder of your time here at Duke.”

—Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education

“It’s great that Duke does an event that collects the student body together and encourages us to get to know professors and people in our major…. It’s actually kind of terrifying, as well.”

—sophomore Betsy Mansfield, biology major and documentary studies minor

“We’ve seen the effects over time. Administrators and professors have been talking after and have been having positive reactions about meeting students in an informal setting. It’s a unique event and we’re thrilled about doing it again. It’s really our first academic tradition. Everyone at Duke is an academic, an intellectual, and this shows the spirit behind that.”

—junior Ray Li, Duke Student Government vice president for academic affairs

“They did a great job and I think it’s a good step in creating a better academic culture on campus.”

—sophomore Bryan Dinner, public policy major