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Dreaming is envisioning

My parents told me that when I was a young toddler, I wanted to be a doctor, dancer, writer, flight attendant, singer, and actor all at once. I was constantly envisioning myself as a new person each time I came up with a new profession; I was always living in the future. I could never pinpoint what I wanted to do. Duke changed that.

Duke, what’s up?! My name is Hanan (rhymes with the bomb.com), and I’m a dreamer.

When I dream, I not only escape my reality, but I imagine my life in a new way. I like to stretch reality—why can’t I be a dancing doctor who writes while being a singing flight attendant that acts on the side? The truth is—I can do all of these things, and it all begins with a simple dream. I find dreaming incredibly empowering—I am in complete control, I decide, I conquer, I achieve.

Dreaming is envisioning. While my future is still a bit fuzzy, it’s slowly manifesting itself. As a Public Policy and Global Health double major at Duke, I see myself using my health policy education to become a global citizen in the world. I hope to utilize the skills I’ve gained in the classroom to contribute to our ever-changing world. My main interest lies in humanitarian work, with an emphasis on social justice/human rights issues, women’s health, and global development.

My heart lies in Africa. I’ve traveled to Africa six different times and traveled to four different countries in the continent (hopefully more countries in the future). While some may feel like they know Africa, in reality, many people’s understanding of Africa is very limited, due to the media’s negative portrayal of the continent. Mass media fails to provide a dynamic perspective of the continent, and instead unfairly emphasizing the dysfunctions of Africa. As Mos Def once said, “if Africa stands in good stead, then the globe will be positively affected.” Thus, it’s vital for people to realize the beauty of the continent, and not be so wrapped up in the media’s narrow portrayal of Africa. Africa has a special place in me—I love its rich history, culture, traditions, and diversity. It’s why I constantly find myself gravitating towards the continent; I enjoy spending weeks on end in African countries at any chance I get.

Duke helped wipe the mist off the foggy lens that is my future, but spots of fuzziness still remains. I’m confident that things will clear up by the end of my time at Duke. And your future will clear up to; everything will work out the way it should, when it should.

Stay dreamin’
Hanan

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Diversity, Change, and You

Hello! First, I would like to give you a warm welcome into the Duke community and congratulate you for making the best decision of your life by choosing to call Duke your home for the next few years.

My name is Milton Padilla, and I am originally from the greater Philadelphia area. I am a rising sophomore double majoring in Economics and Public Policy with every intention of going to law school and running for political office (Padilla 2032!). I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel across the country and compete with Duke’s Mock Trial team and I am so excited to be a member of the True Blue cast this fall.

College both attracts diversity and breeds change. I used to consider myself as diverse as they come; I’m Puerto Rican and Scottish, I live in a suburban town a stone’s throw away from one of the biggest cities in the country, I listen to everything from rap to alternative, yet I was amazed by the diversity of Duke’s student population. At college, you are exposed to so many different people, ideas, and interests that your worldview will assuredly change.
So for me, True blue is not just about sticking to your core values and beliefs, but also being open to the good kinds of change that college fosters. I emphasize “good” because attending college brings just as many temptations as it does freedoms.

Pressures come frequently, and even from unexpected sources. I can remember several Saturday nights when I chose to stay in and finish homework while my parents and friends back home were messaging me things like “Where’s the party tonight?” or “I’m sure you’re out with friends.” The stereotypes surrounding the college experience will stress you out at one point or another, and that is why the Duke Wellness Center is here, to support your efforts to stay healthy and balanced while you traverse the rigorous landscape of college.

It will NOT be easy, and it will test your character and your beliefs, but if you stick to your True Blue, I can assure you it will be rewarding, and a lot of fun! Good luck!

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A Brave and Startling Truth

Dr. Maya Angelou delivered the convocation address to incoming Duke students for the past 24 years. With her passing, we offer A Brave and Startling Truth, which she delivered to the Class of 2016. The poem was first delivered in June 1995, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

A Brave and Startling Truth
written by Maya Angelou
Dedicated to the hope for peace, which lies, sometimes hidden, in every heart.

We, the people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth.

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And face sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and
     daughters
Up with bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets
 

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi
      who, without favor,
Nurtures all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the       
      dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people, on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That, in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing,
     irresistible tenderness,
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

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Collaboration & Change for a Common Good

 

Collaboration & Change for a Common Good
A Reflection on Collaboration in Campus Life
India Pierce and Sean Novak

 

One way that we can work effectively to create change for a common good is to work collaboratively across communities. With this in mind, India Pierce from the Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity (CSGD) came together with Sean Novak from the Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA) to create a program that explored the intersections of race and sexual orientation. As part of the CMA’s En/Countering Racism series (E/C), they created a program for students to gather and explore intersectionality. This was done in order to deepen participants’ understanding of themselves and others as a means to building stronger coalitions for social justice.

En/Countering Racism is one part of the CMA’s Race Speaks Initiative. The series aims to provide a safe space for people to share their experiences encountering racism and build participants’ capacity to effectively counter it. The more we explore intersectionality, the more we will see that life is much more complex than our politically polarized times might suggest.

In the beginning, the focus was on doing good works and providing students the opportunity to enrich their understanding of themselves and others. However, in the midst of the project the true essence of collaboration became apparent. As much as they wanted the students to leave anew, they walked away from the experience impacted themselves. The project became more than just another event to host or dialogue to facilitate. It was a lesson in how to successfully collaborate. On the heels of the recent rollout of the Student Affairs Leadership Development model, India and Sean thought to share some insight regarding their experience.

Sean’s thoughts…

I had the pleasure of collaborating with India this past semester for our En/Countering Racism Series. I approached her with a very broad idea. I felt there was a need to host a program that explored the intersections of race and sexual orientation. I came to India with that basic starting point and little expectations. I know that I desired for the program to primarily be geared toward stimulating ideas for how and why individuals and organizations should work across communities (Ex. Black community and Asian Community) and movements (LGBT justice and racial justice movements.)

After a few brainstorming sessions, we came up with a concept about “challenging the face of privilege.” As we talked, India and I found a common desire in challenging ourselves to think about our privilege. On the surface, you can assume that I am White and I am male. Additionally, you can assume that she is a woman and Black. I knew from conversation that we had a similar social economic background, coming from a poor and/or working class background. With our education and current profession, we are both experiencing relative mobility in that aspect of our life. However, both of us are more than just this. As we talked, it was clear that we both acknowledged that we have multiple and intersecting identities. We both acknowledged that we needed to consistently bring our whole selves to the table and not just our racial identity, or sexuality, or gender identity, or class background, etc. We both believe that no aspect of our experience pertaining to our identity operates in isolation of other identities. It all intersects. We thought it important that we all explore our privilege instead of just pointing fingers at those who we perceive as “the privileged.”

In my opinion, what worked so well with India and I was that we were both willing to be open, honest, and vulnerable. We threw ideas around. We had a level of trust built that allowed for us to brainstorm without worry of being ridiculed for our ideas. Neither one of us had ulterior motives. This wasn’t a case of either one of us putting together a collaborative program in order to build our professional portfolio. We did this for the love of the work. India appeared to have a common desire for creating and expanding community and empowering students to work for equity. We had a common goal of providing people a space to explore the complexities of their lived experience not only to see how unique and distinct those experiences are but also, how we might be able to find common interests.

Next, I feel that we had mutual respect for and were resourceful with one another’s strengths. Instead of positioning ourselves against one another, we just focused on the work. I love the work I do. That’s why I committed to it. That’s why I chose this as a profession because I had a deep desire to work particularly with racial reconciliation and justice. It was obvious to me that India had a similar passion and commitment. After observing her track record in the short time she has been here at Duke and the conversations that we’ve had, India had similar motivations as I to embark on this journey together.

Additionally, what worked so well with our collaboration was a mutual willingness to compromise. India may have had an idea and I may have not initially agreed or thought differently. Instead of resisting, I discerned her suggestions. Sometimes, I might come back and say, “I think we should do this instead.” She agreed at times and disagreed at other times. Nonetheless, it was never personal. We had built a strong foundation from the start so we had a common goal. There were no suggestions that intentionally led us off course from that goal. Compromise can be a long and tedious process when you’re trying to organize a collaborative effort. I could easily have taken this program on myself (as could she) and created all the content. It would have been quicker and easier in the short-term. However, I am a firm believer that when you build bridges with weak foundations they are bound to collapse. Compromise and equitable collaborations are absolutely necessary for a sustainable initiative or program. If I wanted something for my professional portfolio, I could have just thrown it together and advertised it. In my opinion, compromise in collaboration is the difference between (1) being seen as a leader and (2) being a leader.

The last item that I will touch on is that we both put in our work. There was a mutual effort. We delegated duties and when one of us thought the other was taking on more than they should, we expressed it. After all, how could we take an inequitable approach to developing a program partially geared toward empowering participants to be more equitable? That wouldn’t be establishing a solid foundation. Sometimes, I was caught up with other projects or was simply slacking. I was open and honest about it with India. She was honest with me when she was falling behind as well. We made adjustments and knew what we were working with most of the time.

It truly was a pleasure working with India and I am going to enjoy working with her to build a larger initiative off this collaboration.

 

Thoughts from India…

I have been at Duke for a little less than a year but it did not take me long to understand how much of a buzz word “collaboration” is for folks around here. Yet, it seems to be at times easier to talk about than it is to do. Call it newbie naivety, but I believe that if us Student Affairs folks could figure out how to succeed with our collaborating efforts we will all win. I remember sitting down with my supervisor early on during my time here, sharing with her all of my ideas for how we could work with other identity/cultural centers. Encouraging of my enthusiastic spirit she encouraged me to consider every opportunity that presents itself.

Unwavering in my opinion, that’s exactly what I did when I embarked upon a wonderful collaborative project with Sean. He approached me about creating an event that would work for the CMA’s En/countering Racism series and I don’t want to brag but the experience was the stuff dreams are made of. I say this because I have often been approached about collaborating on events where the real intention was simply to use our space or for us to provide financial support. I wasn’t being asked to be a partner in the creation of an event, most of the time the planning for the event was already completed. In those instances I can’t help but feel a little confused because that is not how I see collaboration working. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot and do not want to collaborate on everything. However, what I am normally asked for is to be a sponsor of an event not a collaborator on the creation of an event. It would have been easy for Sean to fall into the same pattern, as En/countering Racism is a series that he plans on his own. He could have come to me with a vision and plan for how we would work together and what the event would be, leaving very little room for me to interject; I appreciate that he did not do this.

Our first few meetings were us just talking about the issues that are important to the students we serve. We discussed the types of programs that were the most successful in each of our offices and sought to take some of those elements and include them into the work we would do together. I can’t remember how we came to the topic of privilege but when we got there everything seemed to fall in place.

Working on this project showed me that there is a clear difference between working with people and collaborating with people. In any working relationship there are some pretty basic expectations that one has for their teammate, like completing tasks and meeting deadlines. However, successful collaborations go beyond the logistics…beyond the things on paper. Successful collaborations push and cultivate the growth of us as individuals. Our project focused on challenging the traditional notions of privilege, a topic that could not be taught to others until we did a little of the work ourselves. We had numerous conversations about the spaces in which we felt we had privilege and those that we didn’t. For both of us, we discovered that it is important that we bring our whole selves into our work. In order to do that we must first see beyond the check boxes of identities and see ourselves as the complex individuals that we are. At first glance it doesn’t seem that Sean and I would have much in common, aside from the fact that our home sports teams were rivals, Michigan and Ohio State.  Despite Michigan’s inferiority to Ohio State, we found out we’ve had some similar experiences in certain aspects of our life and others that were completely different. It was on those things that we were able to build a strong foundation for our work. I didn’t feel the anxiety that I’ve felt when working with others where I had to do x, y, or z otherwise it wouldn’t get done. Most importantly I was able to be myself, I admitted when I didn’t know something or was swamped with other things. It was our flexibility and openness that helped Sean and I work well together. We discussed how we approach creating events and when we’re at our best so we could support one another where we were and not where we would prefer the other to be.

At the center of every collaboration must be trust, and it is probably the hardest part of any true collaboration. We by nature are looking for ways to save our own butts. We expect the worst in others and over compensate for bad things that haven’t even happened yet. Those approaches are a disservice to those who we are committed to serve. I am of the belief that the best collaborative experiences often look like magic. Magic is something that can be taught, you teach it by encouraging people to think outside the box and embrace the process of stepping into the unknown. If we want our division to be one in which we are truly collaborating and creating meaningful programming for students we must first start by teaching the skills that people need to be successful at those things like emotional intelligence, communication skills, and effective management skills.  I believe that these skills helped cultivate a healthy working relationship between Sean and I. I look forward to what happens next as we build off this collaboration.

Sean and India closing…

We had a wonderful time working together. This started off as a one-time program to explore the intersections of race and sexual orientation and it is now developing into a half-day workshop. We plan to restructure and expand this program to provide an opportunity for students to engage even deeper into the complexities of intersectionality. One of the primary purposes will be to galvanize and equip students to work across identities and movements. Additionally, we will be altering this workshop to provide a professional development opportunity for colleagues to consider an intersectional approach to advising student organizations as well. As advisors, we think it is important for students to work collaboratively and not always in isolation from other organizations and communities.

In closing, we believe that collaboration is a vital component for us to provide the best service possible for our students. It is difficult to be influential in encouraging students to work together if we are not setting the tone for what it looks like. One of the most powerful things we can do to increase our ability in advising students is to first advise ourselves. Working collectively can be a daunting task with competing interests. However, we believe that enduring the struggle and fighting through the dissonance can produce sustained initiatives that will prove to serve students and ourselves well.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

India & Sean

 

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Passport to Penn Winners!

We are proud to announce the winners of our Passport to Penn Pavilion promotion that took place 3/19-4/23 where students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to purchase an entree from each venue at Penn Pavilion for a chance to win one of three prizes! Drum roll please.....

Our winners are:

Junior Nana Amma Mpiani won the IPAD!

Freshman Keith Sobb won the 26" Men's Mountain Bike!

Sophomore Allison Draper won the Duke Gift Pack!

Thanks to all for your participation-stay tuned for more Duke Dining fun in the upcoming year!

 

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It’s a Celebration!

You’ve worked hard and deserve to celebrate milestones-whether it is the last day of classes (LDOC), graduation, or your birthday.  I’m a big fan of celebrating these events and am a believer in calories not counting on your birthday (birthDAY, not birthMONTH).  One day of celebratory eating does not mean that you’ve “fallen off the wagon” but can rather be part of an overall balanced and healthy diet.  That being said, there are so many good things in life that it’s important to know how to enjoy events while keeping your health goals in mind.

  • Aim for balance.  When eating, aim to include some protein so that your meal or snack is more satisfying.  If you can include some vegetables, that’s an added bonus!
  • Don’t “save” your calories.  It’s important to eat healthy throughout the day before going to the celebration.  If you allow yourself to become too hungry beforehand, you’ll likely overeat.
  • Listen to your fullness cues. Eat until you’re satisfied, not stuffed.
  • Alcohol counts!  If you remember from our previous blogs, alcohol can be a significant source of calories.  Limit the amount you’re consuming by setting a drink limit before events.  If you need more than 2 drinks per hour, you may need to reevaluate why you’re drinking. 
  • Think of the 80/20 rule-if 80% of your overall diet is pretty healthy, it’s fine that 20% consists of higher calorie or “fun foods”.

Eating is all about balance-meeting your nutrient needs while including items that you really enjoy.  You can “recover” from an unhealthy day by getting on track the next day-eating meals that include all the food groups and being physically active.  Have questions?  Make an appointment with one of the dietitians at Student Health by going online or calling 919-681-9355. 

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Green Dining Awards

Duke Dining locations recognized for sustainability efforts!

It isn't uncommon for Fares Hanna, the owner of Twinnie's and Blue Express eateries on campus, to spend time researching user-friendly, compostable to-go containers or rearranging his kitchens to accommodate reusable china and silverware.

Both locations were just crowned "Most Improved" in the Green Dining Awards, which highlights Duke eateries and their sustainable practices every year, since 2010.

Read more.

 

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I Don’t Say “Queer"

During last week’s Greek Ally Week, Blue Devils United hosted a student panel about being both Greek and LGBTQ on Duke’s campus.  The next day’s Chronicle article incorrectly identified one of the African-American panelists as “queer,” which made her uncomfortable.  “What is ‘queer’ supposed to mean?” she asked me later.  The term is vague, politicized, and simultaneously lacking a concrete meaning while burdened with decades of history.

Picking a label is one of the most difficult parts of coming out.  Speaking in stereotypes, “lesbian” calls to mind masculine-of-center women with buzz cuts and motorcycles.  “Gay” often refers to flamboyant, cisgender men.  Many people believe “bisexuals” don’t exist, but when they do exist, they’re hypersexual animals—for example, when I came out to my parents as bisexual, my mother thought I just wanted to have a boyfriend and a girlfriend at the same time.

When I was a freshman, I identified as “queer” and moved primarily within the LGBT community, where people knew what the term meant.  PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) defines queer as “an umbrella term…[anyone] who feels somehow outside of societal norms in regards to gender, sexuality or/and even politics.”  Academic E. Patrick Johnson, however, believes that “queer” is only for white people, and that blacks should identify as quare: “Odd or slightly off kilter…one for whom sexual and gender identities always already intersect with racial subjectivity” (Quare Studies, 2001).

As my friend groups changed and I transitioned socially to Duke’s “Black Community,” I couldn’t leave behind my sexual orientation.  As I came out (or was outed) to new people, I had to pick a label.  When I picked no label, people assumed I was a lesbian.  When I said “queer,” people didn’t understand.  “Bisexual” was the most familiar; people had at least heard of bisexuals, even if they didn’t understand the particulars, and so that’s what I’ve chosen for the past two years.

This isn’t to say that black people are unenlightened or homophobic—we’re no more “unenlightened” than any other racial group in the United States.  And some of the most progressive, gay/bi/queer/quare/anti-oppressive, anti-normative, anti-labelist activists I’ve ever met at Duke are black.  To that end, I also don’t say “queer” to white folk; if I had joined a PanHellenic or Multicultural sorority instead of NPHC, I would have come to the same conclusions. I don’t even say “queer” to myself anymore.

Maybe it’s my job to educate people about the nuances of the LGBTQIA community.  I should start conversations about the differences between being genderqueer and genderfluid, the subversiveness of drag, the dynamics of being capital-A Aggressive versus capital-F Femme, and the politics of polyamory.  The list goes on and on.  The LGBTQIA (and I’m still missing letters) community is diverse and lovely and confusing.  By hiding its nuances, I’m doing it a disservice and erasing people from the conversation.

I’m getting better about starting these conversations, because I know that I don’t give people enough credit.  As I have come out to people within the Black Community and within Duke’s campus at large, they have accepted me.  They have wanted to learn more.  And some have even come out to me, confused about their place in the broader LGBT community.

I no longer identify as queer because I feel that it doesn’t apply to me, but the next time someone asks, I won’t be afraid to have that conversation.

 

Original Duke Chronicle Article

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What’s Eating You?

If you’ve never heard the term ‘mindless eating’, you are not alone. Mindless eating is much more common than you would think especially in college students.

What is mindless eating?
When you eat an amount of food large or small in quantity (usually large) while not paying attention to the food or how your body feels as you eat it.

Mindless eating typically occurs:
Late at night after long periods of studying, watching TV
● If you have gone long periods of time without eating
When you finally eat you are so hungry you consume a large amount of food quickly which can lead to overeating.

So how can you prevent mindless eating? Good question!
It is important to know there are two pieces to help you avoid mindless eating; physical and emotional.

Physical:
• Eat regularly throughout the day (three meals and snacks in-between as needed). This will help prevent you missing meals and then becoming too hungry later in the day.
• Try to identify your own personal hunger cues (they aren’t the same for everyone). Physical hunger can be your stomach talking to you (growling) and feels empty or you begin to feel weak and low on energy, you may lose concentration or become cranky (“hangry”). Those are all signals your body uses to tell you it needs fuel and you need to eat. It is important to honor these cues by eating either a meal or snack.

Emotional:
• Learn to cope during periods of higher stress in your life. During periods of higher stress many of us turn to food for comfort whether it is for reward, or coping with stress and anxiety. When you catch yourself wandering to the vending machine or fridge or that box of cereal sitting in your room, and you don’t feel physically hungry you are about to mindlessly consume whatever is the next thing you eat.
• There are many ways you can cope with periods of stress in your life. Attending a yoga class, meditating, deep breathing, talking to a friend, taking a walk, working on a puzzle or doing moderate (45-60min) exercise at the Wilson Recreation Center can help. If you feel you need more help and want to talk to someone, Duke Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) can help.

On the flipside you also want to be a mindful eater
Pay attention to what you are eating
● Notice the tastes, feels, and smells of foods
● Notice how the food makes your body feel
● What type of mood are you in before you begin eating?
Positive moods make it easier to eat mindfully versus negative or sad moods make it difficulty to eat mindfully.
● Do you get hungry soon after eating these foods; do you feel energized or sleepy after eating?
● Pay attention to how well the food you eat makes you feel. And most of all enjoy your meals.

If you would like to talk to a nutrition professional in more depth about how you can become a mindful eater visit Duke’s Student Health Nutrition Website.  You can email any of our Registered Dietitians and make an appointment. This service is included in your tuition and does not cost extra.

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First-Year Student Blog Series: The Duke Chapel

In this week’s segment of my blog series describing “The ‘What’s,’ ‘Who’s,’ and ‘Where’s’ that Make Duke So Special”, I will introduce you to a campus celebrity who ironically happens to be one of Duke’s best-kept secrets. His name is Oscar Dantzler, his title is Chapel Housekeeper, and his wisdom is absolutely remarkable.

For anyone visiting or exploring Duke for the first time, I would certainly recommend that the first place he or she should visit is the Duke Chapel. It is undoubtedly a campus landmark and is full of history and character. On the other hand, I would recommend that the first person he or she should meet is Oscar, because he is someone who can really bring that history and character to life.

I first met Oscar in a serendipitous way during my first semester. One early morning, I entered the Chapel while it was vacant. I was in search of a quiet place to think and reflect on my own before starting another busy day. Before I knew it, a kind man wearing glasses, a baseball cap, and blue collared shirt approached me to ask how I was.

During my first encounter with this man, I learned that his name is Oscar Dantzler, and he prefers that everyone call him Oscar. Oscar quickly establishes a first-name basis with everyone he meets. He is the kind of person who you can be sure has interest in getting to know you from the very second you come across him.

In addition, I learned two more basic things about Oscar…

1. Oscar works diligently from within the Chapel.
Oscar’s job is to work daily from 5am onward cleaning the Chapel. As he likes to describe it in the words of his mother, “if you can't keep the House of God clean, you can't keep your own.”
2. The Chapel’s beauty and serenity works similarly from within him.
Having worked at the Chapel for quite some time, Oscar has truly gotten to know it inside and out. His positivity and wisdom are representative of the Chapel’s ambience and his personality is representative of its beauty.

The Chapel is one of the most beautiful symbols of Duke as well as one of the most visible chapels among American research universities. It was constructed and completed in 1932 and, since then, has served the Duke community in more ways than one. According to the Chapel’s mission, “It serves students by convening and contributing to a dynamic and diverse culture of religious life on campus—a culture that models respectful and enriching engagement in the context of profound difference.” The Duke Chapel is certainly unique, and so is everyone who walks through its doors. Sunlight pours into it through seventy-seven stained-glass windows and fills it with warmth. In addition, people like Oscar embody its spirit and further its mission of “engaging all to look to the future with faith, gratitude, and hope.”

On another note, Oscar happens to be somewhat of a campus celebrity. On the first day that I met him, he introduced me to The Philosopher Kings, a documentary about college custodians like – and including – him. The film introduces its audience to several custodians from some of America’s most prestigious universities. According to IMDb, a major movie database, The Philosopher Kings teaches us that, “wisdom is found in the most unlikely places.”

After meeting Oscar, I wouldn’t simply call him the Chapel custodian. I would call him a friend. Without knowing who I was, Oscar was genuinely interested enough in how I was doing to approach me in the Chapel that morning. I am certainly glad he did.

In the next blog post of this series, I will introduce you to another campus landmark that I admire. Wallace Wade stadium is the home of Coach Cutcliffe’s excelling Blue Devil football team… as well as some of my fondest memories of Duke athletics thus far. 

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