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10 questions with Zoila Airall

<p>Zoila Airall talked with The Chronicle about her love for Oprah's TV channel and her dream of being able to speak&nbsp;Swahili.</p>

Zoila Airall talked with The Chronicle about her love for Oprah's TV channel and her dream of being able to speak Swahili.

Zoila Airall, associate vice president of student affairs for campus life, helps oversee the University's many cultural centers and is closely involved with religious life at Duke. The Chronicle spoke with Airall about her elephant collection, her favorite movies and her go-to eatery on campus. 

What’s the last book you read?

The last book that I read was “Black Man in a White Coat” by Dr. Damon Tweedy. He’s a psychiatrist in the medical school at Duke, and he wrote about his experience of discrimination in the medical school while attending Duke. It was a great book. I have my whole church reading the book, and we've invited him to come and talk with us.

What is your favorite place to go on vacation?

Sint Maarten in the Caribbean. There’s a French side and a Dutch side, and I like to go the Dutch side.

What’s the most interesting thing in your office?

Probably my string of colorful elephants that my sister bought me from India. I collect elephants and when people come in to see me, they always admire it.

What’s your favorite movie?

One is “To Kill a Mockingbird”—I saw that when I was 12 and have never forgotten it. The other one is “Exodus,” which is about people leaving Israel. It’s a really good movie.

What do you do when you have a day off?

I play the violin and take lessons, so when I have time, I really try to practice for my teacher so I can be as good as her students who are probably no older than 10 years old. That’s one of the things that I really enjoy doing.

What languages do you speak?

My parents are originally from Panama, and Spanish is their native tongue. When I was a child they spoke Spanish to me, and I spoke it a little. If it’s spoken slowly to me, I can understand it. But I think the language that I really wish I was able to speak is Swahili because over the years there have been a few pieces of music that I’ve heard people perform or I’ve performed in a choir, and I just love how the language sounds.

What most surprised you about Duke when you first came here?

I was coming from the Northeast, and there were two things. One of the things that surprised me was when I’d run into people, and they would say, “Hi, how are you?” On the campus that I was coming from, they didn't do that. When I first got here and would walk through campus, I used to be really shocked by it.

I was working at a women’s college and there, the students don't refer to themselves as girls, they say women. Then when I came here, I would hear students, especially sorority members, refer to themselves as girls.

Where’s your favorite place to eat on campus?

I think now the place that I really like is Faculty Commons. You can get a nice meal, and it’s relatively quiet. Sometimes at lunch time, that’s what I need.

What TV show are you currently watching?

There is a series that just started. It’s on Oprah’s channel. Lately I’ve been watching some of her short series on different aspects of black life. The other thing is, I always start my day by watching Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe.”

What’s your favorite thing about Duke?

I think what I like most about Duke is the Chapel. I’m somebody who grew up in the church, and the Chapel has a lot of meaning to me.


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