Avery Reaves and Maggie Peloso are what you might call "goal-oriented" people. One wants to be U.S. president. The other wants to end world hunger. In the meantime, both are fighting it out for the same goal - Duke Student Government vice president for academic affairs.
Thursday's election will pit the politically-oriented Reaves against Peloso, a probable marine biology major who dreams of a career in environmental policy. Both have their post-Duke careers planned out, down to the minutest detail.
"I do have high goals," admitted Reaves, a junior whose master plan includes taking a year off after graduation to work on a political campaign, then law school and possibly the Judge Advocate General corps.
Peloso, a sophomore, said she wants to intern at the World Health Organization for a few years before obtaining a master's degree in environmental management - and eventually "ending world hunger," she added with a smile.
For now, both candidates hope to bring their experience and energy to bear as the chief academic conduit between students and the administration.
Peloso believes she has the enthusiasm and dedication necessary to succeed in the job, as well as relevant expertise.
"The nature of this position has a lot to do with knowing how the system works, how to relate to administrators," she said, adding that as executive secretary of DSG, she was able to work with all executive board members and "see how everything worked."
During her one-year tenure, Peloso instituted and coordinated a work-study program to keep the DSG office staffed during normal business hours.
Peloso supported some of the election reforms proposed this year, but does not believe such changes will increase DSG's impact. "I'm not really sure that, without dissolving DSG and starting over, we can make any changes," she added. Instead, she thinks the organization's success hinges on its leadership and an active publicity effort.
To strengthen DSG's effectiveness, Peloso aims to increase student input. She also hopes to institute a system that would allow students to petition for exemption from some requirements of Curriculum 2000 and to improve pre-major advising.
Her other goals include the preservation of the Biological Anthropology and Anatomy department and increasing the number of syllabi available on SACES, although she does not support expanding the course evaluation system to the Pratt School of Engineering.
Reaves, who ran for the same office last year but lost, now says he is more prepared after a year of "shadowing" current vice president for academic affairs Lyndsay Beal, developing concrete goals and relationships with administrators.
"Last year I really had the dedication to do the job, but I didn't have the experience," said Reaves, who has spent the year working on the DSG academic affairs and library committees. "I've seen myself go from knowing nothing about academic affairs to being one of the most knowledgeable people about academic affairs at the University."
Working on this year's projects - including the implementation of SACES - Reaves said he has acquired a network of contacts and practice getting things done.
If elected, he would strengthen the pre-major advising system by giving advisers more training for Curriculum 2000; work to publicize the new Duke Community Standard, which will replace the University's current honor code in the fall; and increase the scope of SACES, broadening the program to Pratt and encouraging professors to opt in to the course evaluation system.
Reaves would like to see DSG push toward its goals harder than it has in the past. "We need to not be afraid to lose," he said, citing DSG's reluctance to confront the administration on contentious issues. "I'm not for flying into the face of brick walls, but there are some things worth fighting for."
He said the organization's effectiveness depends on cohesion within the legislature, and therefore favors a move to a ticket voting system that will allow several candidates to run together.
Beal, whom both candidates said they would like to emulate, said the vice presidency for academic affairs is the type of job that requires substantial experience.
"Although it's great to bring in fresh faces and fresh ideas," she said, "you have to be careful not to bring in too many."
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