Three finalists chosen for grad Young Trustee

Three finalists have been selected for the graduate and professional student Young Trustee position, screening committee members announced Monday.

Sara Becker, a fifth-year clinical psychology student, Audrey Ellerbee, a Fall 2007 graduate in biomedical engineering and Xing Zong, a fifth-year physics student, were chosen from a pool of five semifinalists after an application and interview process.

Graduate and Professional Student Council representatives will convene Feb. 26 to choose a Young Trustee.

Although the hearing process was revamped last year so that the candidates could all be questioned at the same time, the process this year will revert back to its traditional format involving separate question-answer sessions, said Gautham Pandiyan, chair of the Young Trustee Screening Committee for GPSC.

"Last year, we tried having all three of [the finalists] present at the same time during questions, and we weren't quite sure we accomplished what we wanted," said Pandiyan, a fourth-year molecular cancer biology student.

Finalists will each present a speech, and each will then separately participate in a 10-minute question-and-answer session. Members of the Duke community will then participate in an open discussion, and the process will end with closed deliberation among GPSC members and standing committee representatives to the Board of Trustees.

Pandiyan said some of the questions asked last year were "unfair," adding that the reinstated individual sessions improved the selection process.

"If we weren't having them debate each other there wasn't any reason to have all three of them present at the same time," he added.

The Young Trustee will serve a three-year term on the Board, assuming full voting privileges for the final two years.

Becker, who has served as treasurer for GPSC and as a student representative to the Board, wrote in an e-mail that she has been able to build valuable relationships with campus leaders and administrators. She added that she gained her most useful experience for the position as a student coordinator of the Duke Psychology Clinic, which she said gave her a "deep appreciation of common concerns, obstacles and challenges that influence the quality of life of Duke students."

As president of GPSC during the 2006-2007 academic year and a former student representative to the Board, Ellerbee said she has a familiarity with the Board that would be helpful to her if elected Young Trustee. "I really love Duke in general as a school," she added. "I spent five years there and got to learn about it, and it really grew on me as an institution."

Hailing from China, Zong has been involved in a number of campus organizations to promote Duke's international presence. He was president of the Duke Chinese Students and Scholars Association in 2005 and later co-founded DukeChina.org to build the University's reputation in China. "If I were very lucky to become a Young Trustee, my goal would be to make Duke more digital, more visible and more global," he said.

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