Sohn emphasizes work for underrepresented groups

After interacting professionally with two current Young Trustees, senior Michelle Sohn believes that a Young Trustee must have two qualities: knowledge about the University and an appetite for service. Sohn thinks she possesses both of these and seeks to be the next Trustee to give back to the Duke community.

On campus, Sohn has served on the Board of Trustees’ Undergraduate Education Committee and has been involved in Duke Student Government as well as The Chronicle’s independent editorial board. Sohn said these activities gave her the leadership experience Trustees must have.

“I think that both The Chronicle editorial board and DSG contributed to my knowledge of the campus and helped me reach out to students,” she said.

The summer after her freshman year, Sohn also worked with Duke’s Conference Services, during which time she interacted with Dining Service, the Duke Card Office and Residence Life and Housing Services. This experience allowed her to learn about the roles of different departments, she said.

Sohn added that she has experience working with and for underrepresented groups in the Duke community—experience she believes separates her from other candidates.

“I’ve worked with both well-represented and historically marginalized groups,” Sohn said. “My sophomore year, I taught a house course on Asians in America. I’ve also worked to enhance the undergraduate community by working to bring things like gender-neutral housing options, which is something I’m proud of and excited for.”

Sohn said she thinks the Board will face three major issues in the near future: international strategy, campus restructuring and the Duke brand. She added that Duke’s perception will be an extremely difficult issue for Trustees to concretely discuss.

“Duke has had a lot of public relations problems since 2006,” she said. “A lot of students tell administrators that what Duke is in the media for is not the Duke they know, and we should try to provide an alternative narrative instead of the unfortunate things we are known for.”

DSG President Mike Lefevre, a senior, appointed Sohn as the liaison to gender issues. He said Sohn, who also has served as an academic affairs senator, has been a vital member of his cabinet. Although Lefevre said he does not wish to endorse any Young Trustee candidate, he recognizes Sohn’s leadership skills. As part of her current DSG post, Sohn led a three-day Campus Gender Summit in the Fall.

“She has the ability to break down complex and often abstract issues, and devise actionable plans to resolve them,” Lefevre wrote in an e-mail. “We worked together on organizing the Gender Summit... and she and I have served jointly on the president’s bi-weekly campus life working group. She’s the kind of person you’re glad to have at the table.”

As a Baldwin Scholar, Sohn has also explored gender issues throughout her time at Duke. Donna Lisker, associate vice-provost for undergraduate education, has been Sohn’s adviser and mentor in the Baldwin Scholars program.

“Michelle is an outstanding communicator—a great listener, but also able to convey her opinions and ideas in a respectful, open and engaging way,” Lisker said. “Michelle has pushed her peers and the program directors to be as inclusive as possible in our work. She’s a real agent for change.”


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