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David Robertson highlights diversity of experiences in undergrad Young Trustee race

In his campaign for Young Trustee, senior David Robertson has made representing the diverse array of student voices on campus a key priority.

A first-generation college student from Fairfax, Virginia, Robertson has been involved in a range of diversity and equity-related initiatives on campus—serving as the co-director of the Common Ground retreat, a mentor in the 1-G pre-orientation program for first-generation students and a head first-year advisory counselor. In addition to his work on campus, Robertson has also sought to strengthen the relationship between Duke and Durham as the vice president of the Durham and Regional Affairs committee in Duke Student Government, a position which has also allowed him to serve on the Board of Trustees' institutional advancement committee.

These experiences, Robertson said, have taught him to listen to the “hundreds of stories at Duke” that exist.

“After sitting on the Board [of Trustees] for the past semester, I realized that there are a lot of perspectives that aren’t getting heard,” Robertson said. “If no one stands up and voices those opinions or brings in perspectives from people who don’t have a seat on the board, then they simply won’t be taken into consideration.”

If elected, Robertson said that he would work toward ensuring diversity and access in Duke’s current programs, pushing for innovative expansions to the University’s curriculum and elevating the relationship between Duke and Durham.

Robertson added that he would put college affordability at the top of his agenda. Robertson noted that he would not have been able to attend Duke if it were not for the generosity of the University’s financial aid. Expanding in financial aid in terms of loan-free education, Robertson said, should be a key priority.

“Right now, Duke is one of the few schools that does not offer loan-free education, [while] a lot of our competitor schools do,” Robertson said. “We’re also one of the only schools that offers full merit scholarships….That just seems like an inconsistency in values.”

Tommy Sowers, visiting assistant professor of the practice of public policy, noted that Robertson did not shrink from challenges in his public policy course. Although a number of seniors and graduate students dropped out of the course due to the difficulty of the material, Robertson was determined to “squeeze the juice” out his Duke experience, Sowers said.

Initially, Robertson had planned to spend three hours every night of his campaign, meeting and initiating conversations with students—which, Sowers added, was the right type of work.

“He wasn’t just going to give his spiel—he actually wanted to listen,” Sowers said. “I think that is a quality of the best public servant. The people they represent—that’s their agenda.”

Sophomore Zachary Gorwitz, a friend and colleague of Robertson in DSG, said that he was confident Robertson would be able to bring his “conversational leadership” to the Board of Trustees.

“David has been a great friend in the time we have known each other, but he has also worked tirelessly on behalf of Duke,” Gorwitz said. “He has a wide range of diverse experiences on this campus. Not to mention that he leads some of Duke's best students through difficult conversations, whether they be on the Common Ground retreat or on the FAC Board.”


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