'DUU is in the memory-making business': Incoming DUU President Brian Buhr talks goals for upcoming year

The Duke University Union 2018-19 executive board was recently selected and had their first meeting this past Tuesday. The Chronicle’s Rob Palmisano communicated with incoming DUU President Brian Buhr, a junior, over email to learn more about these goals, as well as what Buhr and his fellow board members are most excited about for the upcoming school year.

The Chronicle: How do you feel about the opportunity to work with the incoming DUU Exec board?

Brian Buhr: Amazing. Our executive team is filled with old and new faces to DUU and we represent a diverse array of life and Duke experiences. I’m excited for us to gel over the course of the year and bring our own unique flair to the organization.

TC: What would you say are DUU’s biggest goals for the 2018-19 school year?

BB: I think students fall in love with Duke largely through the memories they make on campus, and DUU is in the memory-making business. Whether it’s during a late night of Jazz at the Mary Lou or at one of our larger events like [DUU] Special Event’s Oktoberfest, DUU’s foremost goal is to make spaces for students to meaningfully connect with each other and our university home. Outside of that, our executive board is filled with creative personalities who will bring a fresh breath of air to campus programming while maintaining our accountability to the students we serve.

TC: What are some particular challenges you faced this past year and how were you able to overcome them?

BB: The [Graduate and Professional Student Council] challenged us this past year to improve how we engage the graduate student population. I’m happy that they’ve pushed us because this led to many productive conversations with their student leaders. We have a new position in the vice president for graduate affairs, and our inaugural VPG Jimin [Hu] brings passion and programming experience to the role. She has already begun to determine next steps that will build upon our existing initiatives.

TC: Were there any lessons you learned on the DUU executive board this year that you’re hoping will translate into your plan for next year?

BB: Lesley [Chen-Young] set many strong precedents for DUU and pushed us to grow as an organization, but more importantly as people. After meeting many of the new board members, I’m hopeful that we can push each other through new friendships, ideas, and perspectives and honor Lesley’s legacy by making our time on the board together fun and rewarding.

TC: Which DUU department is going to look the most different next year, and why?

BB: I think students can expect shake-ups throughout most of DUU because we purposely recruited executive board members with fresh ideas. That being said, a few committees and chairs come to mind—Ahmad is going to revolutionize Speakers and Stage through his personal artistry and Durham connections, Frank [Thomas] is going to build upon the foundation established by Zoe [Tang], now [executive vice president], to grow Downtown Duke, and Christina and Barbara are going to give visual artists a prominence on campus [it] so richly deserves!

TC: Are there any events or activities you’re particularly excited about for next year?

BB: Oh gosh—there are so many! I’ve recently grown to better appreciate the work of Freewater Presentations and Small Town Records, and I think I’ll really enjoy catching a free movie screening or bumping the latest song by one of STR’s signed artists. As a former concert planner with DUU, I’m excited to see what my former partner-in-crime Dylan [Posner], Caroline Levine and Serena [Rivera-Korver] have in-store for us with Campus Concerts and LDOC. Zoe [Abedon], [of] Duke Coffeehouse, and Caroline, [of] WXDU, have been prepping for our annual music festival, Brickside, which is always a hit as well.

TC: What’s something most students don’t know about DUU that they should?

BB: It’s one of the best ways to find a new passion outside of schoolwork and meet people outside your immediate communities. For example, many of our media committee members that do things like film sports events or produce movie trailers have little experience prior to joining DUU, but through opportunities in [Duke Student Broadcasting] and Freewater Productions, they soon have a new outlet from the never-ending cycle of midterms and papers.

TC: What message would you like to send to your fellow executive board members prior to the start of next school year?

BB: We’ve had our first meeting this past Tuesday and our Spring Retreat [was Saturday], so we’re well into planning and executing already! We’ve talked a bit about how we’re going to operate, but I hope most decisions can be made together rather than having messaging come from Zoe, the EVP, and myself.

TC: Why should more students get involved with DUU?

BB: Many Duke students come to school and are quickly met with barriers to involvement with their new community in the forms of applications, interviews and student/non-student gatekeepers. DUU is unique because we don’t have hoops for you to jump through if you want to gain valuable experience as a student leader, grow personally and contribute to our school community. The one exception is LDOC because they work with confidentiality clauses, but aside from that, any student, graduate or undergraduate, is welcome to join any of our committees at any time.

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Correction: This article was updated Tuesday to reflect that Levine was working on Campus Concerts and LDOC.


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