Senior Liz Brown has dedicated her time at Duke to improving the connection between Duke and the Durham community. As a Young Trustee finalist, she strives to continue this mission.

Brown is currently vice president of the Duke Student Government Durham and regional affairs committee, and has served on the committee for the past three years. She is also a Benjamin N. Duke scholar and co-coordinator for the Community Empowerment Fund and is studying political science and global health.

“For me, I believe wholeheartedly in public service and giving back and making the world a better place,” Brown said. “So I feel like I can’t just get this Duke education and run away with it.”

As someone who would have been unable to attend the University without the B.N. Duke scholarship, Brown said she feels obligated to ensure the same opportunity is open to students in the Durham area and all over the country.

Throughout her Duke career, she has sought to transform the campus perception of Durham and conversation around the issue of poverty. 

Brown cited her work with the CEF as the most important experience at Duke. For the CEF, she meets weekly with homeless or transitioning members of the Durham community to provide financial advice.

To address and raise awareness of poverty in Durham, Brown also founded the Coalition for Alleviating Poverty.

“We just came to realize there wasn’t a big conversation on campus about economic justice, about the realities of the haves and have-nots in the world,” she said. “Socioeconomic status really defines so much on campus and off campus, but we just don’t really talk about it—we’re on a campus with a million-dollar glass building, and it’s easy to ignore.”

She added that the organization has helped connect student groups focusing on the issue and also allowed her to coordinate with others with a similar passion.

Working with DSG, she has sought to dispel the idea that Durham is simply a place where Duke students dine at fancy restaurants or do service work before returning to the Gothic architecture of campus.

“Durham is the world. Durham is a place with racial complexity, with innovation and entrepreneurship, with history, with all of the problems we’re learning about in the classroom,” she said.

Brown added that Duke’s mission should be to promote “knowledge in the service of society” and that as Young Trustee, she would ensure that the University lives up to that standard. As a Raleigh native and a woman—only two out of the last 10 Young Trustees have been female, she said—Brown also believes that she brings unique perspectives to the Board.

Gabrielle Stewart, a fellow senior and B.N. Duke scholar, has known Brown for the past four years and has worked with her in the CEF and Coalition for Alleviating Poverty. Stewart praised Brown's leadership and speaking skills.

“She has a really, really powerful ethos for leadership," Stewart said. "[She's] equally good at listening, speaking and doing." 

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel taught Brown in his class on political leadership and has also worked with her in the CEF. He touted her ability to work well with other students.

“She is very smart, has great ideas—she’s a wonderful colleague to her fellow students,” he said. “She’s the kind of person who works beautifully with other people, and I saw her do that time and again in our seminar class.”

Schewel added that Brown’s involvement with the CEF convinced him of her strong leadership skills, which he believed would come in very useful in the Young Trustee position.

“I think that Liz would be a fabulous Young Trustee—I really can’t think of anybody else who would be better,” he said.