Provost Peter Lange discussed his role at the University at Tuesday's GPSC meeting.
Provost Peter Lange discussed his role at the University at Tuesday's GPSC meeting.

The Graduate and Professional Student Council meeting Tuesday focused on electing new leadership as well as the Provost's role in shaping the future of the University.

During the meeting, GPSC elected six of the 13 representatives to the Executive Board, including Ben Shellhorn, a second year J.D/M.B.A. candidate, who ran for the GPSC presidency unopposed after daytime military MBA student Paul Escajadillo declined his nomination. Shellhorn, who previously served as the Student Life Co-Chair, plans to restructure GPSC General Assembly.

“One of the things I want is to have the GA called to more legislative action, as more of a legislative board," Shellhorn said. "I’m really focusing on trying to continue to build engagement while also empower some of the schools that don’t really have a graduate student council…to possibly form one.”

Other officials elected were Vice President Abigail LaBella, a third-year Ph.D. candidate in genetics and genomics; Director of Finance Yillin Liu, a second-year Ph.D. candidate in medical physics; Director of University Affairs Colleen McClean, a second-year medical student; Director of Operations Kevin Anderson, a second-year medical student; and Escajadillo as attorney general.

"It's exciting. We don't always have contested positions," LaBella said.

Graduate students also hosted speaker Provost Peter Lange, who shared insight into the role of the provost in a university setting.

Opening with a joke, Lange asked the crowd why a provost is comparable to the manager of a cemetery.

“The reason…is that there are many people under him, but nobody is listening,” Lange said.

The structure of the schools is decentralized by nature, Lange said, as every individual school keeps the majority of the revenue it brings in and makes some of its own decisions.

“It puts the decision making at the leadership level, which is far closer and far better educated than the provost can be about what goes on in the different schools,” Lange said.

Lange added that his role is to act as the "centripetal force" that brings the schools back together.

“It is right for me to ask, to demand, to question—but I have to listen to the answers,” Lange said.

He said that strategic planning is an important exercise in determining the collective direction of the University.

Lange also discussed plans for Duke Kunshan University, noting that the liberal arts program will grow from an exclusively study abroad and study away program to an undergraduate degree program of 500 students.

“What they want from us is teaching innovation,” Lange said.

Lange added that he thought the three biggest problems facing the University are upholding unique innovation, managing with a lower budget and maintaining intellectual renewal despite the lack of faculty turnover.

In other business:

The GPSC budget was presented by current Director of Finance Eden Ellis, a second-year MPP/MBA student. A creation of the Financial Committee, the budget was unanimously approved. It increased expenditures by 6 percent or $11,000. This increase will mainly go towards the GPSC House, increased group funding and general assembly meetings.

The Student Life Committee announced a month full of events, including Thirsty Thursday, this Saturday’s beer tasting, the first family-friendly Field Day, a Durham Bulls outing, and the graduate school’s celebration of the last day of classes.

Ralph Michael Peace, a second-year Ph.D. candidate in pathology, and Ben Gaines, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in mathematics, were confirmed as the Basketball Campout Co-Chairs. They said they will work with the athletic department to create a more family-friendly event, incorporating feedback from this year’s surveys.