Access and inclusion at the helm of Sean Bissell's DSG presidential campaign

If elected president of Duke Student Government, junior Sean Bissell hopes to improve access and inclusion, equity, campus culture and intellectual engagement through well-researched, implementable and tangible ideas.

Bissell joined Duke Student Government during his first year on campus and served as a senator for academic affairs. He now serves as vice president of academic affairs, a role he has held since his sophomore year. Bissell is also a member of the the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee, where he helps advise and provide input on the direction of Duke academics.

“I was really attracted to [academic affairs] because I really felt that it could really touch a lot of different areas,” Bissell said. “Housing has to do with academics, well-being has to do with academics, dining has to do with academics.”

Apart from DSG, Bissell is on the Duke ski and snowboard team. He is also a Duke Tour Guide and was an East Campus resident assistant his sophomore year.

Bissell noted that he believes change can be slow in academic affairs because the committee works with a variety of departments, individuals and organizations. However, he said the committee has had many accomplishments since he has been on it.

He said he was proud of DSG launching the syllabus archive, which provides many class syllabi and can assist students in course selection. Bissell also worked on reducing the length and adding more pertinent questions to course evaluations, and plans to cut the number of questions in half next year. He has also assisted with modernizing DukeHub and expanding Living Learning Communities.

In addition, Bissell is also helping launch the Grunch program, which allows undergraduates to invite graduate students to lunch.

“I really love being able to take an issue, break it down and try to work with others to fix it,” Bissell said. “I love the challenge of taking a lot of different inputs, looking at a project from different viewpoints and working with administration or faculty. I love being able to represent students and being able to say what is going on and voice concerns.”

Bissell hopes to promote access and inclusion by expanding outreach and college resources to rural communities, an initiative that has already begun through Coursera and online tours of the campus. Bissell noted that he is from a small farming community and recognizes the difficulty of access in rural areas.

As part of his platform, Bissell plans on making laundry a part of tuition and will encourage professors to use open textbooks that are free and online to improve equity on campus.

To promote intellectual engagement, Bissell is creating a course about identity, purpose and well-being, and he will work to provide an Asian American Studies major at Duke.

“I think what excites me the most is probably expanding mental health resources. I think that this is something that will help this community in unbelievable ways,” Bissell said. “I think that everyone needs to have access when they have times of trouble."

Bissell emphasized that he and his running mate, junior Kayla Thompson, work well as a team. Together, they are able to accomplish tasks efficiently because they are experienced and know who to talk to, Bissell said. He believes they will be able to recognize where DSG is failing students and create a coherent DSG where projects and policies do not get lost.

Senior Jun Jun Feng met Bissell when he was a first-year during business society Scale and Coin’s big-little pairing. She believes his best quality is his dedication, regardless of how small or big the issue is.

“Sean is the type of person where if you need something, he would drop everything he's doing to attend to you because that's just how much he cares. If Sean puts just even half as much effort in DSG as he does to the people he loves, the school is in perfect hands,” Feng wrote in an email.


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