Young trustee finalist Bunia Parker's post-Duke plans are a bit different from those of most students. The economics and African and African-American studies double-major hopes to move to Ghana within a year of graduation and start a business that exports agricultural products.
Parker, a senior, got the idea while studying in Ghana during the summer of 2000. The enterprising Detroit, Mich., native has made numerous business contacts over the past two years in the small west African nation, and hopes he can find enough investors to support the venture.
It is this ambition and love of enterprise that Parker hopes to bring to the undergraduate young trustee position.
"I've been working on projects since I've been here at Duke," Parker said. "As young trustee, I would hope to give back to the University that has given me so much."
Parker is the student co-director of the Community Service Center and the African-American Mentoring Program.
He has also served on Duke Student Government and Central Campus Council, and was an important leader in cultural center discussions.
Parker said the latter is the accomplishment in which he takes the most pride.
"I was a sophomore and was not an officer of any student group," he said. "There was an idea to expand the cultural center, but all I heard was a lot of talking about it. I finally asked, OWhy don't we just go for it?'"
Parker was one of several students who wrote a cultural center proposal for President Nan Keohane and the Board of Trustees.
"Bunia is very passionate about issues concerning equity on campus," said Assistant Vice President Judith White, director of the Residential Program Review and a member of the task force studying the cultural center.
"Everyone on the committee knew there was no way he was going to back down on certain issues, but Bunia also understood how to let ideas evolve and better ideas emerge. That's one of the marks of good leadership--to keep your eye on the goal."
This year, Parker has focused his attention on service endeavors, following the lead of his father, who operates a non-profit organization.
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"I've found Bunia to be a natural born leader, " said Elaine Madison, director of the Community Service Center. "He's very articulate and very decisive."
Parker conceded that at times he has taken on too much responsibility and has become involved in too many projects. "At one point last year, I was helping run the business side of Duke Motor Sports," Parker said. "I realized that I was spreading myself too thin and decided to really focus on the issues that I cared about."
Among Parker's top issues has been work related to Central Campus, where he has lived for three years. As a DSG Central Campus representative, he led the charge to repave roads, install emergency blue lights and bring a Flex deposit to Central. He is currently working to install bus shelters at West Campus-bound stops on Central.
Thaniyyah Ahmad, co-director of the mentoring program and a member of DSG and the Black Student Alliance, said Parker's work has not just been limited to his own constituents. "Bunia's been a great represenative for Central Campus, but even more for the entire student body," she said.