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Who to know at Duke: Administrators, students, staff and more

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Chronicle File Photo

If you’re just arriving on Duke’s campus, the thousands of new faces you see may be a bit intimidating. But The Chronicle is here to help—here are some of the University’s most prominent administrators, staff, students and animals to keep your eye out for as you get adjusted to campus life.


Special to The Chronicle

Valerie Ashby

Valerie Ashby is dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, a title she has held since 2015. She is a chemist by training and chaired the department of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2012 to 2015, where she did research on synthetic polymer chemistry.

In recent years, Ashby has championed a reform of Trinity’s introductory undergraduate curriculum, which some departments are beginning to implement.

Courtesy of Duke Today

Ravi Bellamkonda

The Vinik dean of the Pratt School of Engineering, Ravi Bellamkonda came to Duke in 2016 after teaching at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He formerly served as the president of the American Institute of Biological and Medical Engineering.

Courtesy of Duke Today

Mary Pat McMahon

Mary Pat McMahon has entered her first year as Duke’s vice provost/vice president for campus life. Formerly the vice president of student affairs at Tufts University, McMahon oversaw a reorganization of Tufts’ undergraduate residential life and curriculum.

She replaced Larry Moneta, former vice president for student affairs, whose final years at Duke were marred with controversy after numerous hate speech incidents.

Vincent Price 

President Vincent Price is entering his third academic year at Duke’s helm. Price’s tenure has seen the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, an increase of the University minimum wage to $15 per hour and the renaming of the Carr Building to Classroom Building. 

He can sometimes be spotted strolling across campus with his dogs Scout, a golden doodle, and Cricket, a labradoodle. 

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Tallman Trask

Executive Vice President Tallman Trask has been Duke’s chief financial officer since 1995 and has presided over significant capital fundraising campaigns for the University. He was also Duke’s liaison to GoTriangle in the negotiations to build the Durham-Orange County Light Rail, which Trask and Duke declined to endorse in Spring 2019 due to concerns about electromagnetic interference at Duke Hospital, among other reasons.

Trask’s tenure was marked with controversy in 2016, when parking employee Shelvia Underwood accused Trask of hitting her with his car and calling her a racial slur. Trask has acknowledged hitting her with his car, but denies the allegation that he used a racial slur.


Sandy Darity

Sandy Darity, Samuel DuBois Cook professor of public policy, is known for his study of inequality and reparations. Politico recognized him as one of the top 50 political thinkers in 2017, and he has served as editor-in-chief for the International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences.

Darity was recently asked to testify before the House Judiciary Subcommittee regarding his reparations research, and submitted written testimony.

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Michael Gustafson

A long-time Dukie, Michael Gustafson, associate professor of the practice of electrical and computer engineering, has racked up Duke degrees. After earning his bachelor’s in 1993, he returned for his master’s and doctorate in 1998 and 1999, respectively, before becoming part of Duke’s faculty.

Interested in undergraduate course development, Gustafson is often the professor for the University’s introductory engineering classes and has taught more than 5,000 students.

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Robert Lefkowitz

Robert Lefkowitz is the James B. Duke professor of medicine and one of two Nobel laureates currently at the University. Honored as one of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry recipients, Lefkowitz is credited with discovering G protein-coupled receptors, important components in biological signaling pathways with a role in everything from vision to cancer.


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Mike Eubanks

Mike Eubanks, or Big Mike, is a bus driver known for his enthusiasm and energy. Greeting students with a fist bump—and sometimes by name—as they get on the bus, Big Mike can be spotted flashing his signature “L” hand gesture while reminding students that “life’s good.”

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Courtesy of Duke Today

Chandra Guinn

Chandra Guinn has served as the director of Duke’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture since 2005. She has taught classes at both Duke and UNC in the departments of sociology and African and African American studies.


Special to the Chronicle

Guinness world record holders

Students in the Duke Electric Vehicles club have been hauling in the awards over the past years, claiming a second Guinness world record this summer—the record for electric vehicle efficiency. Guinness confirmed the record of 797 miles per kilowatt-hour July 9.

The 17-member team included current students and recent graduates. 

Special to The Chronicle.

Liv McKinney

Senior Liv McKinney serves as president of Duke Student Government and aims to increase the University’s physical and financial accessibility for students. McKinney was also behind the increase in the first-year meal plan, which hiked the number of food points from 500 to around 800.

She formerly served as vice president for services and sustainability.


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A golden retriever who makes appearances all over Duke’s campuses, Nugget provides stressed students with a respite from their hectic schedules. Her owner is Keith Upchurch, Trinity ‘72, who is spotted alongside Nugget and gets to know many Duke students over their four years on campus.

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Peaches, a calico cat with her own Facebook group of fans, lives in a heated home near Keohane Quad on West Campus. To the untrained eye, other campus cats—such as Mamabean, another calico cat—may appear to be Peaches, but don’t be deceived.

You might hear of a student-created rivalry between fans of Nugget and Peaches, but there’s no reason you have to pick sides.



Although the campus squirrels aren’t called by name, they’re an omnipresent part of Duke’s campus. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ll undoubtedly encounter squirrels popping out of trash cans and refusing to budge from the middle of campus walkways as you stroll to class.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Trask admitted hitting Underwood but denies using a racial slur. 


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