The elections for Duke Student Government president and executive vice president are gearing up, and The Chronicle is here to provide coverage of the race. Voting will take place online March 5 and 6. In the meantime, here’s a preview of the four candidates in advance of full profiles, which will be published closer to the election:
Tommy Hessel (president)
Junior Tommy Hessel serves as the vice president for campus life for DSG and is a double major in computer science and economics, with a certificate in energy and the environment.
During his time on DSG, he’s worked on designing DukeHub 2.0, creating a bank of first-year dorm photos that students could view before moving in and establishing a common room tent in Krzyzewskiville.
Outside of DSG, Hessel is a teaching assistant in introductory computer science and a representative on the Campus Sustainability Council. He also participates in intramural soccer and has worked as a crew leader and director of transportation for the Project BUILD pre-orientation program.
“I have had the privilege of loving my three years at Duke, but I am aware that not everyone can say the same,” Hessel wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “Inequitable university resources, a lack of support for student health and voices, as well as an isolated student government all contribute to negative student experiences. Moving forward, I will follow my desire to leave Duke better by addressing these shortcomings with democratized resources, more student support via peer advocates and physical student spaces, and a reformed student government more connected to the student body.”
Valeria Silombria (president)
Junior Valeria Silombria was born in Caracas, Venezuela, but her family immigrated to Miami when she was young. She is a Rubenstein Scholar—a program for first-generation, low-income students who are committed to social engagement—and studies political science, with minors in psychology and Asian and Middle Eastern studies.
Silombria is currently DSG’s vice president for Durham and regional affairs, and she wrote in an email to The Chronicle that “the streak of hard-working women as DSG presidents” inspired her to join student government.
She serves on the Student Alumni Board and is a Project Build crew leader, and she works at the operations desk in the Brodhead Center. She also dances with the Nakisai African Dance ensemble.
“To DSG president, I would bring my love for helping others, my compassion for hearing problems on campus and wanting to fix them, as well as my hardworking nature for getting things done,” Silombria wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “I would like to work on equipping students with resources to aid in their transition out of Duke, project work promoting overall student wellness, facilitating obtaining mental health resources, continuing to foster a connection between Duke and Durham, improving transportation services in terms of reliability and clarity on parking rules and procedures, as well as increasing transparency and equity within DSG.”
Kait Boncaro (executive vice president)
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Junior Kait Boncaro, vice president of services and sustainability for DSG, is double majoring in public policy and sociology, alongside an Italian minor. A Rubenstein Scholar, Boncaro is passionate about education equity and chairs the first-generation, low-income caucus in DSG.
Outside of DSG, she dances with Defining Movement and works at the box office and information center in the Bryan Center. She cited attending public schools as a factor that has shaped her interests and research.
As executive vice president, Boncaro explained that she hopes to bring a “new purpose” to the position that elevates it to a greater potential.
“As EVP, I’ll bring to my role a fervor for bridging information asymmetries that exist across various dimensions of students’ lives on this campus—the importance of physical space as a platform for communities who are systemically and institutionally neglected, as well as the disparities in financial literacy and differential access to resources on campus provide striking evidence of these highly racialized, ableist, sexist gaps on campus,” she wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
Dina Qiryaqoz (executive vice president)
Sophomore Dina Qiryaqoz plans to double major in biology and psychology with a minor in chemistry—all to fulfill her dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon. The Rubenstein and Questbridge Scholar has also studied abroad in Spain, Morocco and Tunisia.
Qiryaqoz, a first-generation and low-income student, currently serves as a senator on DSG’s academic affairs committee, and she has been active in a variety of other roles on campus. She is a Baldwin Scholar and co-teaches a house course titled “Women’s Empowerment at Duke,” and recently performed in Me Too Monologues.
She does neurobiology research and interns with A Helping Hand, a Durham nonprofit that encourages self-sufficiency for older adults and adults with disabilities. In addition, she serves on DUU’s Special Events committee.
“As EVP, I would work to provide more opportunities for students to engage in social issues with the creation of an Alternative Spring Break program, be a powerful advocate for minority groups in the face of an administration that works on its own timeline, and help bring DSG further in touch with the student body by reviewing internal policy,” Qiryaqoz wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
Matthew Griffin is a Trinity senior and was editor-in-chief for The Chronicle's 116th volume.