As a Graduate/Professional Young Trustee finalist, Joshua Crittenden hopes to “understand who we are to each other” in the Duke community, broaden engagement with the Durham community, and strengthen wellness resources.
Originally from Windsor, Conn., Crittenden is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in environmental engineering, an Alfred P. Sloan Scholar and a trainee in the Duke University Superfund Research Center.
Crittenden grew up in a large West Indian community, with his mother’s side of the family coming from Jamaica and his father’s side of the family from Alabama. He described the key principles and values instilled by his family of giving back to the community and “[sacrificing] a portion of [oneself] for the greater good.”
Crittenden graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2018. He was involved in UConn’s National Society of Black Engineers chapter and became the president during his junior year. In this role, he helped provide financial assistance for members to attend academic conferences and career fairs.
“Those early leadership experiences as an undergraduate really forced me to be an extrovert so I learned how to work the room and meet the needs of memberships. Some of the needs were academic needs and some of them were social needs,” Crittenden said.
Crittenden still serves as a leader for his communities on campus. He is currently the president of the Black Graduate Professional Student Association at Duke. The BGPSA was the “first place [he] found community on campus,” which “changed [his] trajectory at Duke.”
“I have had to step out of being a Pratt student and [build] relationships with people in the Law School, [the School of Nursing], School of Medicine, Sanford, Divinity School … I have engaged with these different people, which has been able to give me a holistic view of what it means to be at Duke and specifically what it means to be a Black graduate or professional student at Duke,” Crittenden said.
Crittenden has also served as a graduate resident in the Bell Tower dorm on East Campus for the last three years. He believes it is important to understand “the perspective that first-year students have on trying to get the ‘picturesque Duke experience’ and understand how important wellness and community-building is for them” to guide the experience of future Duke classes.
Through his five years at Duke, Crittenden “has been able to embrace the community,” which he defines to be one community encompassing both Duke and Durham. Crittenden’s experience at Duke has “transformed [his] life in a positive way” and “[enlightened him] about higher education and research,” which sparks his desire to continue in service to the University.
In Durham, Crittenden has been heavily involved in the Beta Theta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He has been able to work with many community leaders in the chapter who have been in Durham for decades.
“I have been able to really listen to [the community leaders], listen to their stories about Durham, about North Carolina and about Duke, and understand Duke’s role in each of these different capacities. It has inspired me to seek out the role of Young Trustee,” Crittenden said.
As a Young Trustee, Crittenden aims to influence “conversation for where higher education is going,” citing the upcoming affirmative action decisions and its impact on universities’ diversity efforts.
Crittenden believes it is important to understand that Duke and Durham “need each other to survive” because University decisions affect local community members and University members are “not separate from what happens in Durham or what happens in North Carolina.”
In addition to understanding what the Duke community broadly entails, Crittenden values the priority of prioritizing and strengthening wellness resources for the entire university community, not just students.
“If we’re all one community and one part of the community is doing well and the other part of the community is not doing well, that is going to affect the whole entire University system,” he said.
Vanessa Keverenge, third-year juris doctor and master of laws candidate at the Law School, met Crittenden in the BGPSA. Keverenge credits Crittenden as being integral to how she views herself in relation to the Durham and Duke communities.
She described Joshua as a critical thinker. “He really thinks about institutions. I feel like he is ahead and is really great at seeing blind spots ... He is great at seeing things a lot of people can't that are crucial, the kinds of things that are liabilities or weak spots for an institution,” Keverenge said.
J Alan Kendrick, assistant dean for graduate student development, serves as the advisor for the BGPSA and has worked closely with Crittenden, describing him as a “doer.”
“Joshua just does not sit back and work through others: Joshua is in the mix,” Kendrick said. “When he says he will do ‘A’, he does ‘A’ and helps to bring ‘A’ to fruition.”
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Amy Guan is a Pratt senior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.