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Burnett draws on interdisciplinary approach

Graduate Young Trustee candidate Malik Burnett, now in his ninth year at Duke, wants to call attention to graduate and professional student issues.
Graduate Young Trustee candidate Malik Burnett, now in his ninth year at Duke, wants to call attention to graduate and professional student issues.

Malik Burnett, currently in his ninth year as a Duke student, wants to enhance the graduate student experience if elected as graduate Young Trustee.

Burnett, who graduated from Trinity College of Arts & Sciences in 2007, is now a fourth-year student in a joint medical doctorate and MBA program at the School of Medicine and the Fuqua School of Business. With a wide range of experiences in Duke’s various schools, Burnett said he has always been interested in University issues. He is particularly concerned with graduate student life and an unsaid notion that they have “second-tier status” compared to undergraduates—an issue that he would bring forward as a member of the Board of Trustees.

“I’ve been at Duke for the past nine years, and so I’ve seen how Duke has grown,” Burnett said. “I can articulate the experience of graduate and professional students well and juxtapose it against undergraduate students.”

He noted that issues such as space, parking, health care and child care for graduate and professional students have been discussed for several years with no results. There is a Board committee that addresses undergraduate student life specifically but not one for the upper schools, he added.

“Given that the issues experienced throughout the graduate schools are so vastly different, being able to make a unified graduate school experience is very difficult and requires leadership from the top down,” Burnett said.

Burnett said he likes to stay busy in addition to working toward a medical degree and an MBA. He currently serves as the graduate student representative on the Board’s annual fund executive committee and sits on the Student Health Advisory Council. He previously sat on the Graduate and Professional Student Council and was class president in his first year of medical school.

Burnett said he is also knowledgeable about the Duke University Health System, University fundraising, faculty research and Duke’s competitive standing among peer institutions.

Burnett, who also served as president of the Black Student Alliance in 2006-2007, worked with Benjamin Reese, vice president of the Office of Institutional Equity, as an undergraduate. Reese said Burnett has continued to be an engaged member of the University community, despite his busy schedule as a graduate student. Burnett still mentors undergraduates, as he attends campus programming regularly and recently joined the planning committee for Duke’s 50th anniversary of the admittance of its first black students.

“[Burnett] can digest multiple perspectives—often in emotionally-charged issues,” Reese said. “He can bring together individuals and groups that might have seemingly opposing viewpoints and can help them see productive ways to work together and further the University.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said Burnett is deeply committed to Duke. Moneta, who has worked with Burnett several times regarding various campus issues, described the candidate a a personable and analytical thinker who consistently makes informed decisions.

“He is always looking six or seven moves down the road,” Moneta said. “I don’t know if he plays chess, but I think he’d kick my butt.”

Burnett added that he considers himself logical and pragmatic, which helps makes him an effective leader.

“I’ve always looked at leadership as an opportunity to help people, that’s why I went into medicine,” Burnett said. “I want ultimately to make a better experience for people.”

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