The Graduate and Professional Student Council elected Malik Burnett, a fourth-year student in a joint medical doctorate and MBA program at the School of Medicine and the Fuqua School of Business, to the position of graduate Young Trustee at its meeting Monday.
In the race to represent the graduate and professional student body on the Board of Trustees, Burnett beat two other candidates—Will Evans, a second-year Slavic and Eurasian studies masters candidate, and Felicia Hawthorne, GPSC president and a fifth-year genetics and genomics doctoral candidate. The candidates were voted on by members of the GPSC General Assembly in a secret ballot with no complications, said GPSC Executive Vice President Bill Hunt, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in English.
Burnett, who graduated from Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is currently in his ninth year at Duke. After graduation this Spring, he will begin his first year in general surgery.
“I’m completely honored that the Graduate and Professional Student Council decided to pick me,” Burnett said. “Both of the other candidates were extremely qualified.... I’m very fortunate to be in the position.”
The initial vote did not yield a simple majority, so Burnett was chosen in a subsequent run-off vote, Hunt said. He was unable to provide a numerical breakdown of the votes.
The vote followed a five-minute presentation from each of the candidates, with an additional five-minute question and answer session. Some non-voting members of the graduate and professional student body were present at the presentations, Hunt noted. Afterward, the general assembly went into closed session to discuss the candidates.
Burnett will officially become a nonvoting member of the Board in the Fall. He will serve in that capacity for one year and then spend one year as a voting member. As the Board representative of the graduate and professional student body, Burnett said he would like to like to address the needs of his peers, which he believes have been largely ignored in the past, especially compared to undergraduates.
“I want [the Board] to take a look at graduate student issues in a more intentional way,” he said.
In addition to his heavy course load, Burnett 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. As an undergraduate, he was president of the Black Student Alliance.
Despite the outcome, Evans said he does not regret running for the position. He added that Burnett’s experience and personality will help him to be an excellent Young Trustee.
“It was an amazing experience—I got to meet some incredible people on the way, and it was an honor to be considered for the position at all,” he said. “[Burnett’s] experience is so broad, and I think that’s an important trait to take to the Board of Trustees.”
Hawthorne added that through working with Burnett during her time at Duke, she has noticed his ability to express thoughts well. He will represent their peers well, she wrote in an email Wednesday.
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Burnett said he is grateful for all the support he has received from the Duke community.
“Everybody has been very congratulatory,” he said. “My inbox has been pretty full today.”