Duke’s leaders are the people who champion the University community during good times and bad, inspiring others with their emphasis on values and progress.
The leaders featured on this year’s Chron15 list are student leaders and advisors who used their power for good as they helped the community return from the pandemic, encouraged others to speak up and worked tirelessly to improve the Duke experience.
Carlos Diaz’s time at Duke has been marked by a deep commitment to student advocacy. Diaz started his Duke journey in 2018, inspired by Latinx Student Recruitment Weekend. His sophomore year, he joined Mi Gente’s executive board as Unidos Chair and began working for the Center for Multicultural Affairs. His junior year, he stepped up to the plate as president of Mi Gente.
Diaz guided Mi Gente through tumultuous times and engaged with administration on COVID-19 policy as well as racial bias training following summer 2020. Any time there was an equity issue, Carlos was there to advocate for student-facing solutions even if it meant clashing with administration.
During his campaign for Duke Student Government president, he put issues on the table concerning Title IX and cultural groups and called the University out on classism like no candidate had done before. Despite ultimately losing, conversations surrounding these topics persisted on campus and through DSG. Carlos eventually became Duke LIFE president and worked to continue reviving these identity spaces as the University relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
Aside from having an impressive impact on the administration, Carlos has also been a mentor and close friend to many. Nearly all of those who come through La Casa know the name Carlos Diaz. His campaign slogan “Todo El Trabajo Para Mi Gente,” meaning “All the work for my people,” isn’t just a saying to him. Diaz’s time at Duke in many ways has been emblematic of this, with his tireless commitment to underclassmen inspiring many others to tackle the same issues he has.
- Anthony Salgado, Trinity ’24
In his four years at the University, Shrey Majmudar, Trinity ’22, undoubtedly played a role in redefining the Duke experience for thousands of students.
Majmudar, a first-generation Indian American, recently graduated with a major in public policy, minor in computer science and certificate in science and society. Much of Majmudar’s work originated in Duke Student Government, where he served as its chief of staff, vice president of academic affairs and founder of DSG’s mental health caucus.
He helped lead Duke’s undergraduate COVID-19 response as chair of the Student Advisory Board, a role in which he worked 60 to 80 hours a week in the summer of 2020. Majmudar also helped found Blue Devil Buddies, the popular mentorship program that pairs incoming first-years with upperclassmen. Other initiatives included the syllabus bank and a revamping of the University’s incapacitation form to acknowledge mental health issues.
Beyond DSG, Majmudar, a 2022 undergraduate Young Trustee finalist, served on two standing committees of the Board of Trustees. He also served on over 20 university committees, councils and search committees, including the Next Gen Living & Learning 2.0 Steering Committee and the Provost’s 2030 Working Group on Education, and worked with many senior administrators.
With extensive involvement in both the student and administrative sides of Duke, Majmudar’s work hinged on the relationships he built with students, administrators and faculty in efforts to better the University. At Duke, Majmudar was particularly skillful at centering student voices and advocating for policy changes, utilizing his unique knowledge of the University’s structure and its players.
Majmudar recently received the 2022 Terry Sanford Leadership Award from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. In a video, Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president of student affairs, dubbed Majmuadar a “once in a generation talent.” It’s an apt description for a man who has given so much of his time, care and attention to better Duke, unfailingly passionate and dedicated to the University—with all its current successes, but also, always, what he believed it could be.
- Milla Surjadi, Vol. 118 editor-in-chief
Penny Jacobs Fleming
Penny Jacobs Fleming’s passion and care for Duke is evident in every interaction she has with the community. A leader with untold hours of volunteer service to the University, she is distinguished by the level of dedication, insight and sought-after institutional knowledge she provides.
Fleming’s stewardship of the parent Facebook page during the COVID-19 pandemic has left a mark on many. As the University implemented online classes and restrictions on in-person gatherings, Fleming calmly answered anxious parents’ questions about University protocols. If she didn’t have an answer, she provided comfort, wisdom and a steady hand to Duke families during unprecedented times.
Beyond her role as an omnipresent Facebook page co-administrator, Fleming is everywhere on campus. She’s a first-year move-in volunteer at the beginning of the Duke experience and graduation ceremony volunteer at the end, and an attendee at countless athletic events and campus happenings in between.
Fleming is also an adjunct instructor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, an undergraduate advisor and a member emeritus of the Duke Parent Advisory Council.
If you haven’t yet met Fleming, be sure to say hello when you see her zipping around to the next event on campus. Her Duke blue shoes are as recognizable as her unparalleled passion for the University.
- Steven Kaplan, Parent ’21 and ’18
It’s hard to find an aspect of Duke campus life that senior Victor Clifton hasn’t touched. From serving as president of the University’s National Pan-Hellenic Council to being vice president of community building for Duke Low-Income First-Generation Engagement, Clifton has proven himself to be a reliable leader, advocate and friend.
Clifton became involved in his various activities because of an intentional choice to impact the area around him, he said. In his hometown of Henderson, North Carolina, he mentors high school students who have questions about applying to college. His main motivation for this comes from wanting to be someone who students can “talk to freely without being judged.”
This is the same motivation behind his desire to attend graduate school for psychology, become a therapist and open a free clinic.
Many of Clifton’s efforts have been focused on the African American community. Aside from having membership in the Black Men’s Union, Black Student Alliance and Alpha Phi Alpha, Clifton helped charter a Duke chapter of 100 Black Men of America. According to Clifton, he and around eight other men focused on creating Duke-specific traditions, fostering a mentorship program and networking with other campus chapters.
When reflecting on his influence at Duke, Clifton looks to an idea he said derives from Maya Angelou—the measurement of the person you are is the effect you have on people.
“Oftentimes people remember the things you said and did to them more so than anything else,” Clifton said. “I want individuals to say, ‘Victor was active, Victor was a part of the community.’ That’s all I really want, it to be known that I was one of the individuals that tried.”
- Alison Korn, V. 118 enterprise editor
Ling Jin’s official title at Duke is the assistant director of International House, but “assistant director” cannot fully represent the role that Jin fills on campus.
Despite an understaffed IHouse, Jin has worked tirelessly this past year while also maintaining the bubbly attitude that she is beloved for. From guiding international students through the convoluted visa services and tax filing processes to overseeing the Global Fellows Program through a successful first year, Jin has proven herself to be a kind, responsive and most importantly, a compassionate leader.
Jin’s impeccable management of the Language Partners Program and English Conversation Club has been central to highlighting Duke’s sometimes hidden international community. On an individual level, Jin has also been an invaluable resource for international students, visiting scholars and their families, helping them adjust to Duke and address any challenges they may face. Jin’s genuine desire to improve Duke is crystal clear to anyone that meets her.
Jin completes the Duke community. She is selfless, warm and always equipped with snacks to give out anywhere at any time. We hope the 2022 Chron15 is the first of many outlets where Jin receives the recognition she deserves for all of her hard work.
- Ashley Bae and Annie Cui, Trinity ’24
To see the rest of this year’s Chron15 selections, click here.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Fleming worked with the Durham Performing Arts Center. It has been updated to reflect that Fleming is a member emeritus of the Duke Parent Advisory Council, which is a group of parents that provides feedback to Student Affairs. The Chronicle regrets the error.
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