Undergraduate Young Trustee finalist Priya Parkash hopes to join the Board of Trustees in order to help expand Duke within the global space and advance the University’s relationship with Durham.
Parkash, a senior, is an economics and statistics double major with a minor in religious studies. At Duke, she is involved in Duke SPIRE Fellows, Duke Student Government, Bass Connections, the Duke Pakistani Students Association and research initiatives. Sitting on the Board of Trustees has been a long-term goal for Parkash, who has been thinking about this position since her first year at Duke.
Having grown up as a Hindu attending a Catholic school in Pakistan, a Muslim majority country, Parkash considers her multi-faceted identity as having helped her “understand what it really means to be international.”
“With Duke's mission and vision of really becoming global … over the next couple of years, I think I can play … a great role in kind of pushing us forward and bringing that global perspective to Duke,” Parkash said.
She has four initiatives where she hopes to collaborate with the Board of Trustees: increasing Duke’s focus on STEM retention for women and people of color, helping Duke become a leader in the global space, focusing on inclusion and diversity and increasing Duke’s relationship with the Durham community.
“Duke may be renowned as a STEM hub, but still experiences a lack of people of color and women in STEM fields both at the student and faculty level,” Parkash wrote. STEM retention in middle and high schools is an “opportunity for institutions to put their money where their mouth is and rebuild trust in the local communities while confronting their racist histories.”
Parkash wrote in an email to The Chronicle that she hopes to “use [her] global work orientation, developed via global experiences such as [her] multicultural upbringing, youth ambassadorship aimed at improving relations between Muslim-majority countries and the United States post-9/11 and advocacy for minority rights around the world, to help the Board realize their vision of a truly global Duke.”
Following many of the discussions about Duke gentrifying Durham, Parkash also hopes to use a position on the Board to change campus perceptions of Durham and help Duke commit to “facilitating sustainable development, poverty alleviation, and affordable housing” in Durham.
Parkash believes she is in a “uniquely advantageous position” to represent the student voice on the Board of Trustees because she has been involved in a lot of areas at Duke: research, student groups, administration and DSG.
“The way I bring the student voice to the Board is recognizing that first and foremost, I have had these experiences myself where I'm in a good position in terms of really recognizing what my peers value,” she said.
Parkash hopes to build a culture at Duke where students and faculty are comfortable feeling vulnerable, where “we're willing to let go of this idea that we are perfect,” she said. She said that administrators have a responsibility for making sure students are comfortable voicing their opinions and struggles and that administrators need to lead by example to create spaces where students feel comfortable.
Jesse S. Summers, adjunct assistant professor of philosophy, has known Parkash since her first semester at Duke. Summers said that Parkash “showed her commitment even then to empower marginalized voices in her first paper for the course, on a difficult topic involving gender, class and international concerns.”
Summers and Parkash worked on a project together to assist international students through a complicated aspect of the visa process.
“She is clearly someone who cares deeply about Duke and will be unafraid to push for what’s best, balancing competing interests, but always attentive to those whose voices may not already be heard as prominently,” Summers said.
Jenny Wood Crowley, assistant vice provost of the office of undergraduate education and director of the SPIRE Fellows Program, has mentored Parkash during her time at Duke. “She is an engaged and intelligent student who approaches her education with sincere curiosity and a deep commitment to community engagement,” Wood Crowley wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
Wood Crowley highlighted that SPIRE as a “multi-year living-learning community dedicated to equity, diversity and academic interests is a reality because of Priya’s incredible leadership and dedication to the program.”
“Her deep sense of commitment to the fellowship community, her unwavering willingness to accept new challenges, her inexhaustible work ethic, and her ability to successfully lead a group of often-intractable young scholars towards achieving a shared goal have been invaluable to the program,” Wood Crowley wrote. “Her work is important and needed.”
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Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.