Duke Student Government presidential candidate Lana Gesinsky wants to usher in a “cultural reset” in DSG by building campus community and forging stronger connections between the student body and its representatives.
At present, DSG “feels very mysterious,” Gesinsky said. “No one knows what DSG is or what DSG does,” despite its purpose of being accessible and serving students.
“Right now, we're not doing the best job with our mission,” she explained, “so I think you need a president that is down to earth and accessible, who’s willing to just be on the ground and talk to students. And I think that my personality embodies that.”
A junior from New York, N.Y., Gesinsky is majoring in political science, minoring in psychology and earning a certificate in ethics and society. She is currently DSG’s vice president for campus life and was a senator of campus life for the two years prior. Gesinsky is also a Baldwin Scholar, Duke Presidential Ambassador and member of the First-Year Advisory Council Board, and she works with resettled refugees through the Kenan Institute for Ethics.
When Gesinsky first arrived at Duke, she didn’t plan to join DSG. But when she attended the fall activities fair as a first-year, she felt overwhelmed and disoriented; there, she saw a need she could help fill. She decided to run as a first-year for a DSG senator position in order to improve the organization of the fair. After she won, one of her first projects was to revamp the fair and streamline its organization.
“A lot of my projects center around easing the transition for first-years. Duke is just really hard, so if there are any projects I can do that make Duke more manageable and less stressful for students, I want to do that,” she said.
Gesinsky helped spearhead the Blue Devil Buddies program, the popular one-on-one mentorship program that pairs incoming first-years with current Duke students. She also helped to bring more outdoor seating to campus when COVID-19 hit, and she worked on clarifying communication between administration and students regarding COVID-19 policies.
Gesinsky’s platform has three pillars: community, clarity and communication.
For community, Gesinsky hopes to help Duke rebound from COVID-19 by revitalizing campus traditions and fostering a more vibrant student life.
She hopes to make alcohol policies on campus more open and less restrictive, including organizing parties on campus and reinstating a bartender in The Loop. She also wants to improve sexual assault prevention by amplifying the work of Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention & Education (SHAPE).
“As a female-identifying student, sexual assault prevention is very important to me. It’s very close to home,” she said.
As for clarity, Gesinsky hopes to work on reforming DSG by improving recruitment efforts and encouraging more mentorship of first-years. She also wants to create “Physical and Text Pulse Checks” to make the DSG president more accessible to students. These would entail having physical office hours on the Bryan Center Plaza as well as creating a phone number and texting line that the DSG executive board would monitor.
Currently, students who want to meet with the DSG president must book a meeting on Calendly and they often meet in the DSG board room, according to Gesinsky.
“It’s very inaccessible and kind of intimidating,” she said. “I want to place myself on the [Bryan Center Plaza] or [the Brodhead Center] for a few hours every week and just be sitting there with a poster, like, ‘Come talk to me.’”
Finally, for the last prong of her platform, Gesinsky wants to work with student groups to help them collaborate more closely with DSG. She said she would have student groups nominate their own students to the cabinet. Gesinsky would also send out a survey to students asking them which projects they most want to see implemented, and then have senators pick from those projects.
Junior Nancy Beaujeu-Dufour first met Gesinsky through the Project Wild pre-orientation program. The two have been “inseparable” ever since, and Beaujeu-Dufour is now Gesinsky’s campaign manager.
“She is one of the most committed people I know. Once Lana sets her mind to something and gets involved and begins caring about a project, a person, an organization, she does the very best of her abilities to get things done,” Beaujeu-Dufour said. “Whenever she’s working on anything or doing anything, she’s always thinking about the people that the project or the organization involves, the people that it’ll affect and how they’ll be treated.”
Sue Wasiolek, an adjunct associate professor in the program of education and the former dean of students, got to know Gesinsky when Wasiolek was faculty-in-resident for Gilbert-Addoms, where Gesinsky was a first-year resident.
“She really cares. She cares about other students, she cares about the institution, and I think most of all she cares about community building,” Wasiolek said. “And I don’t recall a conversation where we didn’t in one way or another express her concern about other people.”
Wasiolek added that Gesinsky is “very approachable.”
“She’s got a spirit of life,” Wasiolek said. “What do the French call it … Joie de vivre. That’s how I would describe her.”
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Chris Kuo is a Trinity senior and a staff reporter for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously enterprise editor for Volume 117.