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DSG’s Campus Life Committee hopes to improve student experience through mentorship, improving outdoor spaces

<p>DSG at its Nov. 3 meeting.</p>

DSG at its Nov. 3 meeting.

What if you could see the syllabus for a class before registering for it? One committee on campus is trying to make that happen.

Duke Student Government's Campus Life Committee is implementing new projects and improving old ones, including revamped outdoor seating, an institutionalized Blue Devil Buddies program and a class syllabus bank. This year, the committee is focusing on projects primarily related to transportation, dining and the student experience. 

To support the first-year experience, junior Lana Gesinsky, vice president of the committee, hopes to institutionalize Blue Devil Buddies this year. The program, which began two years ago as a response to COVID-19 restrictions, connects an incoming first-year with a current Duke student. Currently, Blue Devil Buddies is fully student-run, though Gesinsky and her fellow peers hope to convince the administration to back the program. To do so, they will collect data on the program’s impact on first-year students and the University’s other community-building initiatives. 

“If you look at QuadEx, [Blue Devil Buddies] fits in perfectly with that model, especially if you make the buddy in the same linked quad,” Gesinsky said.  

Though Blue Devil Buddies was originally created as a short-term program, Gesinsky hopes to expand its scope. 

“We envisioned it as a year-long [program]. But once you get to campus, if you’re not friends with your buddy, it kind of disconnects. So we’re trying to think of how to maintain it during the year,” Gesinsky said.

Gesinsky hopes to implement incentives for buddies to stay connected, from free coffee to special programming.

The Campus Life Committee is also supporting the implementation of the syllabus bank, a database which will compile syllabi from numerous departments and classes for students to view before registration. The goal is to make it easier for students to determine what classes they are interested in, based on teacher reviews, workloads, grade breakdowns and more.

“By providing the syllabi for students prior to registration, we hope to expedite and ease that process because registration is already super stressful,” sophomore senator Saanvi Goenka said. “Personally, I feel like I [have] tunnel vision towards certain classes, but to be able to see the syllabi for a bunch of courses could open my horizons to a lot of other subjects and topics.” 

Goenka is working closely with the syllabus bank and hopes it will support the registration process. Although the database has been in the works for five years, this year’s DSG senators are looking to finally roll out the program in time for fall 2022 registration. 

In another attempt to improve the student experience, the Campus Life Committee is continuing their efforts to increase the number of functional outdoor spaces on campus. Last year, in the wake of COVID-related indoor dining and seating restrictions, the committee sought more ways for students to congregate outside. The committee started simple with the addition of new patio chairs and tents, though they are hoping to add more creative outdoor spaces this year. 

“It sounds weird, but if you think about seating it can be conducive to community building, like fun hammocks, egg chairs or a human-sized chess set. There are ways you can create outdoor spaces that make the campus more engaging,” Gesinsky said.

Goenka emphasized that these simple yet fun additions to outdoor spaces can help connect the community. 

“In terms of community building, outdoor spaces are such a great way to ensure that Duke students get to meet each other, especially since campus is so pretty,” Goenka said. “So, we’re working on getting a lot more round tables. We’re working on trying to get hammocks—just more fun and entertaining things that we can add to fill the atmosphere in some of these outdoor spaces.”

On top of additional seating, Campus Life senators are working to improve outdoor lighting, especially outside of Marketplace on East Campus. 

“This year, we’re working on improving lighting outdoors, because, especially as the winter months come, lighting is a really big issue across campus,” Goenka said. “It’s also an issue about safety. By providing numerous safe outdoor spaces for students, the committee hopes improved seating and lighting will help foster further community building.”

Ultimately, the Campus Life Committee is hoping to support and enhance the student experience through their projects. From easing the first-year transition to improving campus life, or simply helping all students connect and build community, senators are working hard to help foster an inclusive, inviting identity at Duke. 

“Overall, in terms of these projects, it’s like, what sort of identity are we building at Duke?” Goenka said. “How can we make that a sustainable identity?” 

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