Graduate/Professional Young Trustee finalist Nicole De Brigard, a second-year juris doctor candidate at Duke Law School, hopes to bring her diverse background and selfless character to the Board of Trustees.
De Brigard applied for Young Trustee after noticing the lack of diversity on the board—not just in terms of racial or ethnic diversity, but also regarding “overall background in all types of areas and experiences.” She doesn’t believe the Board is lacking ideas; rather, “what they’re in need of most is perspective.”
De Brigard noted that she would like to see Duke operate off a perspective of risk prevention rather than damage control. Duke often finds itself operating under damage control because “they’re not including the correct voices in these discussions to possibly bring all the different perspectives of issues that may come.”
As a first-generation American and college graduate, De Brigard had to “figure out a lot of things on [her] own.” She believes the diverse perspective she brings from this experience is an asset she could bring to the Board of Trustees, in addition to having a legal background.
“My familiarity with bureaucracy and the challenges within bureaucracy is something that I really think will enable me to effectively serve because I think a lot of people fail to realize that every type of decision that this university makes has to go through so many procedural reforms, arguments, hurdles, layers of review, different people—it's really hard to get decisions through,” she explained.
De Brigard told The Chronicle that she strongly values empathy, respect and servant leadership. She described how servant leadership defines her work ethic and how she handles issues on a day-to-day basis.
“I think servant leadership ties to serving the greater good,” she explained. “You’re not advocating for a single group. You’re not narrowing your interest to just one type of interest. It’s really considering every single type of perspective whether you agree with it or not.”
As a Young Trustee, De Brigard said that she would prioritize investing in technology—particularly artificial intelligence—making long-term investments in Durham, investing more in Duke’s land and space, and contributing more to sponsorships and partnerships with universities across the globe. She said that Duke has previously “performatively contributed” to the Durham community and that many of these efforts end up being short-term that “don’t contribute a lot of growth.”
The Miami native majored in political science and criminology at the University of Florida, where she served as junior class president and was on the Dean of Students Committee until she graduated in 2020. Outside of class, De Brigard founded the Diversity in Education Program, which serves the Gainesville City School System.
Since coming to Duke in fall 2020, she has served as a teaching assistant in the Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholars Program, a staff editor in the Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, a research assistant at Duke’s Center of Law, Ethics and National Security and the vice president of external affairs for the Latin American Law Students Association. She has also worked for the Duke Law School admissions office, where she assists with tours and student outreach, and is a graduate student representative for the Racial Equity Advisory Council, established by the Board of Trustees in 2021.
De Brigard’s peer and close friend Montgomery Nelson, a second-year juris doctor candidate, said that De Brigard would be a “tremendous addition to the Board of Trustees.”
“Although Nicole has countless qualities to admire from her thoughtfulness, tenacity and generosity, I am most in awe of her ability to truly care about those around her. In a year where all of our courses were online, and it was difficult to feel part of the Duke Law School community, Nicole made a concerted effort to be an active member of the Duke community,” Nelson said. “It is impossible to be around Nicole and not want to be better and do better.”
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