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Trey Walk brings campus activism, community involvement to his campaign for Young Trustee

Young Trustee finalist Trey Walk, a senior, isn't afraid to speak out.

Walk was a leader when a group of student protesters took to the stage during alumni weekend activities last April, and he's a member of several campus and community groups working on issues like homelessness and poverty. 

“I came to Duke committed to serving it,” he said. “Loving a place means insisting that it be at its best.”

Walk, who is a Robertson Scholar, is involved in a number of campus organizations, from the Black Men’s Union to Duke’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Executive Committee. He is an organizer with People's State of the University. The demands the group raised last April ranged from institutional change in labor practices to banning medically unnecessary surgery for intersex newborns at Duke Hospital.

A columnist for The Chronicle, Walk has also served on the President’s Working Group on Community and Dialogue, the search committee for the new vice provost and vice president for campus life and the Undergraduate Student Conduct Board. 

Off campus, Walk is a member of the board of directors of the Community Empowerment Fund, a local nonprofit that aims to alleviate homelessness and poverty.

He explained that he sees a number of pressing issues facing Duke, from mental health to racial justice to financial aid and accessibility.

“The thing that I hope to bring to the room is a perspective that’s really grounded in relationships that I’ve built with people and having experience with these issues,” Walk said. “I’ve seen often how harmful it can be when administrators are thinking about decisions in terms of numbers in spreadsheets and not names and faces of people that are impacted by the decisions they’re making.”

A native of Gray Court, S.C., Walk said that when he graduated from high school, his grandfather urged him to make his Duke experience about more than himself.

“I came here with a sense that my education and my time here and after here needed to be about making the world a better place and being about something bigger than me,” Walk said.

Young Trustees are "fiduciaries of the whole university, not advocates for any particular agenda or issue,” according to Richard Riddell, senior vice president and secretary to the Board of Trustees. Walk said he believes that he’ll be able to act as a fiduciary by being strategic with his relationships and finding common ground so that he can be effective in the boardroom.

Senior Kristel Black, who has worked with Walk as a mentor for Duke’s first-generation pre-orientation program and at the Black Student Alliance, said that as a first-generation college student and activist, Walk would provide a voice that has not been there before.

“He’s not doing it for personal gain, but these are all things that affect his community,” Black said. “You just see his heart and his passion for the issues.”

Adam Hollowell, senior research associate at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, got to know Walk through the Community Empowerment Fund and meets with Walk regularly. Hollowell, who is currently working with Walk on a writing project, said he thinks Walk would be a good Young Trustee because he is “slow to speak and quick to listen.”

“When I talk to most people at Duke, I get the feeling that they have one foot out of the conversation because they might be looking around to see who else might be worth talking too or they’re in a hurry to get to the next thing,” Hollowell said. “When I’m talking to Trey, I’m getting the sense that he has both feet fully in the conversation. That is invaluable for the kind of work that the Young Trustee needs to do for the campus and the university.”


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