Senior Finn Brauer hopes to increase school spirit, strengthen Duke University Union operations and foster a strong sense of community through his role as president of DUU.
DUU is the largest programming and media body at Duke, made up of 17 committees, such as the Last Day of Classes Committee and Campus Concerts. WXDU, Small Town Records and the Coffeehouse are also included among DUU’s committees.
Brauer, a native of Rochester, New York, spent his childhood running through the halls of the University of Rochester and St. John Fisher College, where his parents are professors. He is pursuing a psychology major and biology and chemistry minors.
Brauer joined DUU in his first semester at Duke, where he “fell in love with that sense of community that I was able to find inside of the organization.”
Initially a member of the Campus Concerts and Special Events Committees, he then chaired the Special Events Committee Chair, before becoming the Last Day of Classes Celebration Co-Chair in the past year.
Brauer’s decision to apply for DUU president was strongly influenced by his love for DUU and desire to achieve his goals for the organization.
But he was not always sure he wanted to run for the position, according to Ysanne Spence, Trinity ’22 and former DUU president.
“He was like, 'I don’t know if I would do a good job, I don’t want to disappoint,'” Spence said.
She said that it was a “concerted effort” from current DUU leadership and Michael Croal, assistant director for student involvement and advisor to DUU, to encourage Brauer to apply.
“I wasn’t surprised when the committee chose him,” Spence said.
Bringing back fun
As Duke emerges from the pandemic, Brauer believes “it’s a perfect time to really go all in” with programming “to try and bring back a big sense of Duke spirit, Duke energy, Duke fun.”
The pandemic had a large impact on DUU’s programming, which Croal described as “a lot of the fun of DUU [going] away.”
In the next year, Brauer hopes to give the committee chairs as much freedom as possible in order to best serve students. He emphasized that he is always “looking to see how [DUU] can do better” in providing “inclusive and diverse programming and media.”
“I’m super excited to see what the committee chairs come up with in terms of their creative new approaches to kind of fostering that sense of community,” Brauer said.
He pointed to this year’s LDOC programming as an example of what he hopes to continue during his term. Activities included the LDOC concert, headlined by A$AP Ferg, as well as screen-printed tote bags, face painting, succulent making, chapel climbs and a bouncy house obstacle course.
“We broke all the records this year—we had the most attendance, we gave away the most shirts, most wristbands,” he said.
But more importantly, when people walked around campus on LDOC—the first in-person LDOC in two years—they told Brauer that they felt “a palpable sense of Duke.”
“It made me really pumped. It was real. That’s what [DUU] is all about,” Brauer said.
As DUU president, Brauer is excited to “contribute, collaborate and provide for the student body” as he leads DUU’s 17 committees. His overall goal is to foster togetherness within the Duke student body and strengthen the internal processes of DUU.
Croal said that Brauer focused on internal growth throughout his application and selection process. These three areas include the use of attendance tracking, bringing back “pride within DUU” and making internal processes more efficient.
Attendance tracking will allow DUU to better collect data and identify who is not attending its events, according to Croal. And both Brauer and Croal see room for internal improvement in streamlining the onboarding process to be more welcoming for new DUU members. Brauer plans to center the experience of committee chairs and provide them with more support.
Spence explained how the internal DUU community is “left lacking” because leadership is “so focused on trying to create programming for everyone else.” Next year, Brauer said he will invest in curating increased commitment from DUU committee members and chairs to maximize the programming they can create.
During her tenure as president, Spence focused on restructuring the executive board of DUU to “operate at maximum capacity” and “create clear lines of communication.” Croal said that this new internal model has “set [Brauer] up for success.”
“He brings a level of analytics that we haven't had before,” Spence said, describing Brauer’s detail-oriented personality as a departure from her tendency to view things in the big-picture.
“It’s great to have someone that is so in tune to all the fine details and will make sure that every piece of the puzzle is fitting and working smoothly,” Spence added.
Leading by doing
Though Brauer is a self-described big dreamer, he also spoke to the importance of flexibility as a leader.
“What your goal might be, it might change, and it might shift over time, but you can still have an amazing output,” he said.
“I’ve definitely seen his leadership grow over the three years. He is not the first-year student I met,” Croal said.
Croal described Brauer as an “inspirational leader” and is continuously impressed by his willingness to “do whatever needs to be done.”
“He is also someone who’s not afraid to get down into the weeds of stuff. He is not afraid to set up tables, move tables, move barricades for LDOC, he will do whatever needs to be done,” Croal said. “And I think that is what is remarkable of a leader is not necessarily telling people what to do, but showing them what to do.”
“He's always the first one to be like, ‘Hey, how can I help? Hey, are you okay?’” Spence said.
She described his leadership style as a balance of “I’ll let you lead and make mistakes” and noticing where things “don’t seem to be going well and being able to step in.” Spence noted that this style of leading without judgment and meeting people where they are will be particularly beneficial because DUU’s executive board is younger and less experienced than in the past.
Brauer is particularly skilled at entering a room and “creating the environment where friendships can blossom,” Max Miller, Trinity ’22 and former vice president of internal affairs for DUU, said. He described it as a trait that will be helpful when forming relationships among committee chairs within DUU.
“It’s really hard not to love him,” Miller added.
When asked about Brauer’s vision for DUU, Spence responded with one word: community. It’s a simple answer for an intimidating goal, one that Brauer is committed to for the next year—bringing an entire student body together through DUU.
“I see the deep care and affinity that he has for this group. And I see how much he wants to better the Duke experience for other students,” Spence said. “And that is all you can ask of a DUU president, is someone that cares deeply enough about the experience of others to step into this role and want to do all that.”
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Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.