Graduate/Professional Young Trustee finalist Edgar Virgüez, Nicholas School ‘18 and ‘22, hopes to continue his quest for a new educational model for higher education based on key standards of inclusivity, diversity and equity.
Virgüez is an energy systems engineer whose work focuses on the transition towards decarbonized electric power systems. After receiving his master’s and doctoral degrees at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, he joined Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University.
Virgüez is originally from Colombia where he grew up during the longest civil war in the country’s history. Witnessing violence, crime and damage to Colombia’s social world motivated Virgüez’s ultimate drive to help others.
“I am continually motivated to heal my surrounding communities. I completed an undergraduate engineering degree to help others,” Virgüez said. “While I enjoyed engineering to heal my community, one of the most important tools to heal my community was education. At a given point in my career, I was faced with the opportunity to develop myself in higher education and I hope to continue to help others in the higher education community.”
At Duke, Virgüez has been recognized for multiple prestigious awards for graduate students including the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Forever Duke Student Leadership Award.
“I have passion for improving higher education, and when you have passion, it is more important than anything else,” Virgüez said.
Virgüez’s passion for inclusive education was paramount in his successful design and implementation of the Voices in the Environment course, which provides students with the opportunity to develop their Spanish communication skills while understanding environmental challenges facing Latin American countries and exploring ways to advance these countries’ sustainable development.
Virgüez has mentored first-generation students and founded the Nicholas School Global Connections Initiative which supports social integration, career development and academic initiatives. He has also participated in the Board’s Activating the Global Network Taskforce, resources committee and Racial Equity Advisory Council.
“There is a lot of discussion about diversity, but if that discussion doesn’t translate into data, it is failing,” Virgüez said. “The data must translate into meaningful actions. We must consider key points of how many international students there are, the demographic map of our community and how many students belong to the lowest stratifications of society and may not have adequate resources to come here.”
Virgüez said that he saw how working with the Board of Trustees would be an "effective way to make sure medium- and long-term visions aligned with current work that is being done."
"We have so many opportunities to make a significant change," he said.
Virgüez believes the development of a new educational model can serve to lead other top institutions towards adopting similar models based on inclusive education, diverse environments and equitable opportunities for everybody. He said that he wants Duke "to be a place where everyone can improve and get the best of their educational experiences."
Lauren Heckelman, Pratt ‘16, M.S. ‘17, Ph.D. ‘22, and a friend of Virgüez for many years, believes Virgüez “embodies all of the qualities one should look for when selecting a Young Trustee.”
“He is kind, thoughtful, humble, an excellent friend and mentor and he bleeds Duke blue. [Virgüez] feels so blessed to have completed his graduate studies at Duke, and he has spent the bulk of his time as a Duke student advocating for change. He has been on a number of committees, and he has strived to make Duke a more welcoming place for students of diverse backgrounds,” wrote Heckelman in an email to The Chronicle.
“[His] work ethic is tremendous. He lives his life in alignment with his values. He is thoughtful, grateful and data-driven. That trio—combined with his dedication to the Duke community—will make him an invaluable asset to Duke’s governing board,” wrote Molly Goldwasser, associate vice provost for academic affairs and undergraduate education, in an email to The Chronicle.
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Amy Guan is a Pratt junior and health and science news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.