‘Giving back to our community’: Meet Undergraduate Young Trustee finalist Annie Cui

Undergraduate Young Trustee finalist Annie Cui hopes to draw on her experience as an international student and her extensive campus involvement to represent the diverse perspectives of the Duke community.

A senior from Melbourne, Australia, Cui is majoring in public policy and economics with a minor in psychology. Cui spent half of her childhood in Beijing, China, and her identity as a Chinese Australian has helped her appreciate the role Duke plays on a global stage.

As Duke determines whether to renew its initial contract with Wuhan University in 2027, Cui believes that her experience as a Chinese Australian international student who studied abroad at DKU and sits in the “liminal space of cultures and countries” will help inform the board’s decision as the University “navigate[s] this century of increasingly complex and nuanced local and global landscapes.”

If selected for the Young Trustee position, she plans to advocate for “continuing dialogue in terms of us giving back to our community.” Cui pointed to how service-learning courses, which give students the opportunity to regularly work directly with organizations in Durham, as a program the board might look to as an example of successful community engagement. 

Cui served on the Undergraduate Education Committee for the Board of Trustees during her junior year, an experience she believes provided her with a “really valuable opportunity” to contribute to the promotion of diversity in education.

Cui said that Duke’s socioeconomic diversity is an area for improvement, referencing the September New York Times Magazine article that characterized the University as one of the least economically diverse elite universities in the nation. 

“My family was completely transformed by the power of education,” Cui said. “I really emphasize the role of education for everyone, and that educational equity really sits at the center stage of my guiding principles.”

She spoke about uplifting indigenous voices as a central concern, drawing on her experience growing up in Australia and coming to terms with the country’s complicated history surrounding the treatment of First Nation people. Cui pointed to the recent push to establish a new Native American and Indigenous studies minor as an example of how the University can make progress in this field.

Cui is passionate about ensuring international students feel at home on Duke’s campus. She was an orientation project co-director for Project Global, as well as co-president of the Duke International Association, co-chair of the Duke chapter of Kunshan Student Ambassador Council and a participant in the Global Fellows Program.

After witnessing the difficulties associated with acclimating to life not only as an independent adult for the first time but also attending college in a new country, Cui spearheaded efforts to create Duke’s first International Blue Book with resources to help make the transition easier.

Cui currently serves as Duke Student Government’s attorney general and has been extensively involved in campus life, acting as a teaching assistant for multiple departments, a research assistant looking into policies around higher education and a resident assistant for dorms on both West and East Campus.

“I owe my whole life to this University,” Cui said. “It has fundamentally transformed who I am, and I have made so many valuable connections — so many lifelong friends and mentors from this [place].”

Kevin D’Arco, senior associate dean of international students, worked with Cui on the development of the International Blue Book, and also indirectly supervised her efforts to co-direct the Project Global orientation program. 

“When she is in these spaces, she is always thinking about others. She listens to others,” D’Arco said. “I think she brings the unique ability to have well-thought-out ideas and take those ideas and turn them into actual steps for clear improvement.”

Catherine Admay is a senior lecturer and assistant director of undergraduate studies for public policy who served as a mentor to Cui after teaching her in two classes. Admay praised her “really sharp intellect,” as well as her work ethic.

However, Admay feels that Cui’s most notable attribute is how she leads with empathy.

“She has a way to help us make good decisions where her lived experience enables the kind of teamwork that goes across lines of cultural difference,” Admay added. 

“We have the Duke culture — like the Duke family — of paying it forward, and I think I’m paying it forward because of the generations of Duke students before me … giving so much to me,” Cui said. “[I’m] trying to give as much as I can back to this community.”

Zoe Kolenovsky profile
Zoe Kolenovsky | News Editor

Zoe Kolenovsky is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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