Kayla Thompson doesn't think Duke is accessible to all, so she wants to open its doors as Duke Student Government executive vice president. 

The first-generation college student wants to increase opportunities for low-income and rural Duke students and college applicants. 

“It’s important to me because I’m a first generation college student on full financial aid,” Thompson said. “That is something that is a lot of times discussed, but important to have in a leadership position, because a lot of times, you need someone at the forefront to push those policies forward.”

A junior majoring in biology, Thompson is currently the vice president of Advocacy for Duke LIFE Low Income/First-Generation Engagement and previously served as vice president of social culture. She said she would push to eliminate application fees for first-generation and low-income applicants. Brown University, Trinity College and Bowdoin College have all done the same. 

She also seeks to expand recruitment in rural communities. Thompson said Duke is lagging far behind peer institutions in terms of recruiting students from rural areas, even though it assigns admissions officers to target minority applicants. She said the issue is also particularly close to her running mate, DSG president candidate Sean Bissell, who is from a small rural community in southwest Virginia. 

Thompson said addressing this issue would entail a mentoring program in which Duke students would serve as contacts for prospective students from rural areas.  

“Having an admissions counselor go out in the fall of senior year isn’t going to do anything for them. At that point, your grades are done,” Thompson said. “You want to start that outreach early.”

Another initiative that would benefit students on financial aid that Thompson said she would push for would be a standard laundry allocation. Duke already includes an ePrint and recreation fee into the cost of attendance, so laundry should follow suit, she said. 

Thompson also wants to improve the residential community for independent students. She said she hopes to change advertising for HDRL's already-expanding linking program, in which first-year students can opt-in and continue to live with their first-year dorm-mates after freshman year.

Another goal for Thompson is to create a Residential Model Review Committee, comprised of students, administrators and faculty to evaluate the state of housing and provide recommendations moving forward. She said it would be more of a long-term project that would not see results during her one-year tenure.

“I live in an independent house and when I see people in the bathroom, I don’t say, 'Hi,' and it’s really awkward and [uncomfortable],” Thompson said. “The best version of housing is when you are happy to go back to the place you live. That is something most first-years feel—you really feel a sense of community, even if you aren’t best friends with everyone in your dorm. That’s something we want to apply for all four years of Duke.”

Thompson opted to run with Bissell after seeing how current DSG president Riyanka Ganguly and executive vice president Kushal Kadakia had different policy priorities, and ended up working separately on a lot of things, she said. 

As the only other candidate running for executive vice president that has been on DSG’s executive board, Thompson believes she has built the relationships necessary to execute the policies she has proposed. During her time as vice president of social culture, Thompson successfully pushed to change Duke's alcohol amnesty policy so that groups who call EMS for a student at their event will not face disciplinary action. 

Junior Iris Yang, who has known Thompson since orientation week in her first year, said that Thompson is running for the right reasons. 

“Kayla’s different from other people in that she’s running because she truly thinks she’s best for the position. It’s not about the title and not about the resume. If there was someone else running that she thought was better she wouldn’t run at all,” Yang said. “She’s so confident and has so much experience in so many different realms at Duke. She will work her hardest to represent anyone at Duke.”