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Meet the finalists in the race for Graduate Young Trustee

With the undergraduate Young Trustee race in full swing, graduate students are gearing up to elect one of their own to sit on the Board of Trustees as well.

The Graduate Young Trustee is a sitting member of the Duke Board of Trustees, and can be either a former or current graduate or professional student at Duke. Elected annually by the Graduate and Professional Student Council, the Graduate Young Trustee serves either a two-year or three-year term, where the first year is spent as a non-voting observer, and then they become a full voting member. 

Here are the three finalists. The election will take place Feb. 11.

Kelly Tang

Young Trustee finalist Kelly Tang is committed to helping graduate students grow individually and within their respective Duke communities.

The San Diego native and daughter of two Taiwanese immigrants is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in Art History.

Tang served as a graduate resident for upperclassmen on Central Campus for four years, where she was responsible for residential community building. 

According to Tang, her time as a GR helped her to gain familiarity with the worries of her fellow students, such as affordability, support systems, employment and the different ways to approach these concerns. 

She also treasures the valuable connections she has made, especially in being able to engage with students pursuing different areas of study.

“I didn’t want to be sequestered in just the art history side of things, or even just the humanities. There is just a world of other people out there,” Tang said. “I made really great connections with people from all the disciplines and worked together with them on different events and initiatives.”

After stepping down from her GR role this year, Tang began work as a Graduate Student Affairs Administrative Intern, a position she currently holds. Here, she is able to help support graduate student well-being, professional development opportunities and diversity and inclusion.

Hoping to improve the general well-being of her graduate student body, Tang founded the Graduate Women’s Wellness Club in 2016 after feeling “the need to be more intentional about wellness.” The club has hosted activities such as book club, basketball workouts, cardmaking and calligraphy.

“It has just meant that no matter what, as the semester goes, there will be these moments where I can see other people going through the graduate school journey and just not feel like it’s isolating,” Tang said.

Tang also believes that she brings “a broad perspective that is generous and forward-thinking,” and seeks to use this to tackle the issues of affordable housing and community for graduate students. 

Having lived on campus for four years, Tang finds that many of her peers wish for a similar experience as hers at Duke.

“There are so many graduate students that want to live on campus and be a part of the family in that way,” she told The Chronicle. “So, what does that look like? What are the guiding principles of that? I think my experience speaks directly to that.”

Tang also wants every graduate student to have a strong support system and and foster meaningful relationships at Duke.

She has been living in Durham for six years, “the longest [she has] lived anywhere as an adult.” 

“I know what it’s like to not belong,” Tang said. “I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t really have anyone to advocate for you.”

A sense of community and support, Tang believes, is necessary for all students.

“It’s a factor in your success and thriving on campus,” she said.

Travis Dauwalter

Young Trustee finalist Travis Dauwalter is a proud veteran and currently a third-year joint Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy and Economics.

Prior to Duke, Dauwalter served in the United States Air Force for five years. He also led a North America sales team at General Electric Power & Water, where he participated in the GE Veterans Network. He then moved to The Haskell Company as the Director of Business Development.

Due to his work in the private sector and military service, Dauwalter has moved 13 times throughout his life. 

“I think that all these different experiences, whether it’s the avenue through which I’m getting my education, the type of work that I’m doing or the place that I’m living has given be a really broad perspective,” Dauwalter told The Chronicle.

Dauwalter is a member of the Student Veterans Council, where he and fellow veterans can discuss ways that Duke can further support their experiences.

He was elected President of the Graduate and Professional Student Council at the end of his first year at Duke. During his term, Dauwalter expanded funding to support the Community Pantry, helped implement the weekly bag program and reduced food insecurity for about 100 graduate students.

Dauwalter also created the GPSC task force on hate and bias, as well as the task force on inclusivity.

Under Dauwalter, GPSC worked closely with Provost Sally Kornbluth and Paula McClain—dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education—to address Ph.D. fellowship stipends. Together, they created a policy where Ph.D. students could receive their first stipends at the end of August as opposed to September. In addition, starting in 2022, Duke will offer five years of 12 month stipends to every Ph.D, thanks in part to his efforts.

Last year, Dauwalter also served on the Board of Trustees Graduate and Professional Education and Research Committee.

“I’ve done exactly the sort of work that’s demanded of a Young Trustee and I’ve formed relationships with many of these Trustees,” Dauwalter said. “I feel comfortable raising issues with them and voicing my opinions.”

This year, Dauwalter was selected as the Provost Graduate Fellow and now works for the Office of the Provost.

He hopes to be able to tackle issues regarding mental health on campus, prioritizing not only student well-being but also offering support to faculty and advisors.

“Students who are studying in fields with underrepresentation of some or many facets of their identity are struggling to find mentors who can understand their lived experiences,” Dauwalter explained. 

He expressed concern for faculty mentors who are then “overtaxed” in trying to provide all of the mentorship and support for these students.

Additionally, Dauwalter hopes for Duke to continue moving towards “lifelong learning” and expanding the realm of higher education.

“I also think it’s an issue that needs to be continually raised at the Board of Trustees level,” Dauwalter said. “Where’s Duke going, and how do we need to get there?”

Ashlie Tyler

Young Trustee finalist Ashlie Tyler, a second-year Fuqua Daytime MBA student, challenges Duke to expand its connections both with the Durham community and within its student body.

Tyler grew up in Boston and attended Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences as an undergraduate before studying at Fuqua. 

Through involving herself in campus activities and projects, Tyler hopes to engage herself across Duke as a whole, beyond just Fuqua.

“It was really important for me to do things that I felt would give me exposure not only to things that are going on here, but also across the university,” she said.

In doing so, she served as a graduate mentor for Black in Business, an organization for undergraduate black and African-American students at Duke who are interested in finance careers. 

She is involved in the Gender Equity Working Group, an organization seeking to “bring parity to the MBA experience across genders,” according to Tyler. This year, their efforts are focusing on sexual assault advocacy, diversity and emotional intelligence for students.

Tyler also works with the Admissions Fellows, a group of second-year Fuqua students who interview prospective students. She enjoys this experience and learning how to “shape [the Fuqua] community on a broader level.” 

Additionally, she serves as the Graduate Representative to the Board of Trustees External Engagement Committee. She sees this as not only a great professional development opportunity, but also as a chance to “learn more about the University’s priorities.”

The relationship between Duke and Durham is of special importance to Tyler, as Durham reminds her of Roxbury, the neighborhood in Boston in which she grew up.

“It’s similar in that it’s a place rich in history that’s very diverse but also has this academically strong, predominantly white institution within the community,” Tyler explained. “You have to think about those relationships.”

Tyler also wants to emphasize diversity beyond the scope of race and gender, adding focus to gaining stronger perspectives from the Durham community on the Board.

“Durham is Duke’s home, and I would love to see more Board members who have a Durham perspective or Board members who grew up here,” she said.

While reaching out to the surrounding Durham community, Tyler also advocates for a more “interconnected” graduate and professional student body. She finds that there aren’t many opportunities for graduate and professional students “to really get to know each other well as people.”

Tyler also hopes for Duke to more strongly focus on technological advancement and entrepreneurship. She believes that emphasizing these tools will help the University and its students to stay at the “forefront of education and research” within the coming decades.


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