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Dean of Students

Dean of Students

Jerry (Bei) Sun, 1994-2015

Jerry (Bei) Sun, a Duke University biology student, passed away Wednesday, March 4, from a rare form of cancer. Jerry was scheduled to graduate from Duke in 2016.

Duke flags were lowered to half-mast in his honor.

"Jerry loves every one of you," said Jerry's mother, Cathy Liu. "He appreciated all the help the Duke community gave him. Although he may not have been in contact with you during the past few months, I know Jerry missed all of you very much!"

Jerry first came to Duke as a high school student at North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham to do an independent study project in the Center for Biomedical and Tissue Engineering. The lab became an important part of his life at Duke.

"Jerry came to us as a talented student with a deep interest in science. He was curious and bright, and learned complex materials quickly," said Jun Chen, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery, who oversaw his work both as a high school student, and subsequently as a Duke student beginning in the fall of 2012. "Jerry worked and thought creatively, and his contributions were equivalent to those of a junior graduate student."

Jerry was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor this past spring. During his treatment, he expressed great thanks and wonder at the support he received from his friends and family.

"You guys... I don't know even know where to begin," he wrote in a recent Facebook post. "I left my inbox alone for a day and it completely exploded. Thank you for the overwhelming support. Thank you for sharing my story. Thank you for your kind words. I've been humbled every step of the way by the kindness and support of the community around me."

"Jerry was the type of guy that you could trust your deepest secrets with and he would never tell a soul," said Lucy Ma, a close friend. "We talked about classes, friends, lab work, relationships. He was great at giving advice and maintaining an objective perspective. He was dedicated to his friends, academics, and family. I miss him dearly."

Jerry is survived by his parents, Jingli Sun and Chunying Liu; a younger sister, Lily May Sun; paternal grandmother, Sulan Xia; maternal grandmother, Zhilan Cui and maternal grandfather, Yixun Liu. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, Huaide Sun.

Services will be held Saturday, March 14. at 2 p.m. at Chinese Christian Mission Church, 4528 Bennett Memorial Road in Durham.

Memorial contributions may be made online to Duke Cancer Institute through https://www.gifts.duke.edu (in memory of Jerry Bei Sun).

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The Flu Forecast

The forecast isn’t great for the flu season this year.  It started a little earlier than usual; one of the strains that is going around – H3N2 – is a little more aggressive than usual; and even though this year’s vaccine targets H3N2, it isn’t a great match for the strain that’s actually going around.

The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and people who have it usually experience the sudden onset of fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue and occasionally nausea and vomiting.

People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away through droplets made when they cough, sneeze or talk. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose. You can avoid spreading the flu to yourself and others by staying away from sick people and avoiding others if you are sick. Covering your cough and washing your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also a good idea.

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get your flu vaccine, even during seasons like this one when there is a less than ideal match for one virus. (Flu clinic: Wednesday, 1/21, from 5-8pm in Wilson Rec.) The vaccine may protect against the other viruses floating around, and antibodies made in response to vaccination with one flu virus can sometimes provide protection against different but related viruses.

All Duke Students can get a flu shot at the Student Health Center or one of the flu shot clinics we offer around campus.

Luckily for most Duke Students, the flu will resolve on its own after a few days of feeling crummy with the help of rest, fluids and over the counter pain and fever reducers.  However, there are prescription medications that can shorten the duration of the illness in severe cases if started early enough. If you are worried that you might have the flu, call the Student Health Center to speak to one of our nurses or make an appointment to see one of our health care providers.  We are here to keep you healthy!

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On the greatness of counseling

Let me be entirely honest and open in what I’m about to say. Honesty after all, is so little found in conversations about mental health and yet so powerful when it is. I have, like 1 in 4 other young people my age, struggled with my mental health on and off. There have been times when I’ve been sick with hopelessness and misery, consumed with self-loathing and hatred. Likewise, there have times when I’ve been ecstatically happy and grateful. My emotional health is a mental rollercoaster and contains the best and worst memories for me. But it is not all of me.

There was however, a point this semester when it got a little too much. I was exhausted with faking positivity to myself every day and pep-talking myself out of bed, throwing on smiles when all I wanted to do was cry. My sense of self-worth was at an all time low and life at Duke seemed unbearably overwhelming. I made an appointment at CAPS. It was not the first time. I had talked to woman once my freshmen year, when things had gotten particularly stressful. There seemed however, a difference to me between a one-time chat and regularly seeing a counselor with the intention of understanding yourself. And I decided that I was tired of having the emotional lows but no real answers. I was tired of believing in untruths about myself that led me to think in despairing ways.

So I decided to sign myself into regular counseling sessions. It was both frightening and liberating. A part of me was angry and afraid that I needed help in the first place – what was wrong with me? Another part of me was relieved because, for the first time, there was another option, one that validated my emotions instead of dismissing them.

I’m about five sessions in now, and I think going into counseling has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It has surprised me and taught me how little I really knew about myself. If anything, it’s been an independent study in my own persona, to work out how I react to situations and why I react that way. This is information I feel that anyone young and uncertain can use because it has yielded insights richer than I could have hoped. How much do we really think about our ways of coping? Or whether the way we see ourselves is accurate? Or whether we need, sometimes, to catch ourselves when we self-hate and reassess the situation?

Counseling is not simply lying on a couch and talking about how you feel, like every film Hollywood makes. It’s an intimate leap into your own mind and it’s uncomfortable sometimes and it’s confronting. It’s shown me how little I truly know about myself, and helped me determine my values and priorities. It’s showing me slowly how to be happier. And it’s great.

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Family Weekend 2014 Recap

It was wonderful to have so many families on campus for Family Weekend 2014! In all we had more than 2500 registered guests that made the trip to Durham to share in their student’s college experience. This year’s programming included a wide variety of events, presentations, and performances from throughout the Duke community.


Among the highlights:

  • An address from President Richard Brodhead
  • The Family Weekend kickoff address by the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Sue Wasiolek 
  • Special discussions from two of Duke’s acclaimed faculty members, Dr. Mohamed Noor and Dr. Denise Comer
  • Emmitt and Pat Smith hosted an incredible event with the Library, hosted by their daughter Jasmin (who really stole the show) 
  • Wonderful concerts from Duke a capella, jazz, chorale groups and more
  • Student performances including Duke Improv, Hoof n’ Horn


Duke Athletics also enjoyed a successful Family Weekend with wins by several Olympic sports teams. 

We hope all of our visitors enjoyed their time at Duke. It was wonderful meeting so many of you, and please know that we really do view you as partners in your student’s success.

Many have begun to ask about the dates for Family Weekend 2015, and when they will be confirmed for next year. Stay tuned to www.studentaffairs.duke.edu/parents for the latest updates and details.


Best regards,
Parent & Family Programs

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The ‘Surgeon General’ for Duke Students

Dr. John Vaughn, Blue Devil of the Week

An interesting day at work for me: All the various medical departments have grand rounds at which they invite someone to come speak on a topic. The Pediatrics department invited me to come do a grand rounds presentation on college health. I think that was a memorable moment for me because it let me present my vision of how higher education and medicine can work together to make innovative changes in how health care is delivered.  One of the reasons I came to Duke is that student health is considered an active participant in the medical community as well as the university community. The positive reception I received at those grand rounds confirmed that I came to the right place.

Read more.

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Service Information for Alexander Rickabaugh and Kaila Brown

Student Affairs will be arranging transportation to the funeral and memorial services of Alexander Rickabaugh. We hope to accommodate all students who would like to attend these services via chartered bus.  In order to meet transportation demands please complete the following questions to reserve a spot:
https://duke.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_dhBDLU8uCZJY9KJ

We are working out options for food on the bus for the way out and back, but if you have specific dietary needs, please bring food with you.

Services will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Details below.

Friday, September 26th:
The funeral service will be held at Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem (646 W. 5th St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101). The family will receive friends following the service.

The schedule will be as follows:

  • Bus staged at 4:00pm
  • Bus departure time from the West Campus Bus Stop at 4:45pm
  • Funeral at Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem at 7:00pm
  • Bus leaves from Winston-Salem at approximately 9:00pm
  • Bus returns after the funeral to the West Campus Bus Stop at approximately 10:30pm

Saturday, September 27th:
Memorial program at Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, NC
If you would like to attend this memorial program please note the following. Bus transportation will be provided for students interested in attending, leaving from the West Campus Bus Stop at 8:00am.

The schedule will be as follows:

  • Bus staged at 7:30am
  • Bus leaves at 8:00am
  • Memorial Service at Forsyth Country Day (5501 Shallowford Rd., Lewisville, NC 27023) 10:00am
  • Bus leaves from Forsyth Country Day at 11:30am
  • Bus arrives back on West Campus at approximately 1:30pm

Sunday, September 28:
Additionally, On Sunday morning at the start of the 11am worship service in Duke Chapel there will be a silent procession of roses for Alex and Kaila. This is a way of remembering them, honoring their lives and providing a space for community grief in the midst of Duke’s weekly Chapel service.

We have not yet heard anything more about memorial plans for Kaila Brown. I'll be sure to let you know if we do.

We will continue to do all we can to offer support and comfort to all. I urge each of you to take advantage of all opportunities for care should you or anyone you know be in distress. All students can contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 919-660-1000 and in an emergency, please call Duke Police at 919-684-2444 or by dialing 911.

You can also contact DukeReach (http://studentaffairs.duke.edu/dukereach1) at 919-681-2455 or at dukereach@duke.edu.

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A Whole New World

First of all, I would like to say congrats to the class of 2018 for choosing to come to Duke!  Soon you will realize that it was the best decision you have made in your entire life; personally, I could not be happier here.

My name is Justin Johnson, and I am a rising sophomore from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, home of the Krispy Kreme doughnut and Chris Paul.  I’m an alumnus of the esteemed Wilson Dorm, majoring in Economics and pursuing the Markets and Management certificate too.  Outside of the classroom, I’m on the club running team https://www.facebook.com/dukeclubrunning?ref=br_tf  and am a member of an IFC fraternity.  I graduated from a large high school where I ran Cross-Country and am proud to say that I have completed both a marathon and a half-Ironman triathlon.  So message me if you like to run, or if you don’t like to run but just want to talk.

I may have only attended school at Duke for one year thus far, but my fascination with this place goes way back to when I was just a little kid sitting in front of the TV, watching Duke dominate on the hardwood.  I grew up a Duke fan and was ecstatic to learn that I would be able to live out my dream as a student in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.  However, even though I knew Duke was the place for me, I would be lying if I said I was not a little nervous as August crept closer and closer.  I had never been to summer camp before, or even away from my family for more than a few weeks at a time, and wondered how I would adjust to living on my own in an unfamiliar town.  I wondered if I would feel overwhelmed with new classes, new people, new expectations, but I soon realized that it was all going to be alright.  If there were one piece of advice I could give you, it would be to relax.  The transition to college is similar to a roller-coaster ride, scary when you’re waiting in line but incredible once you’re strapped in. 

When you arrive at Duke a whole new world will open up to you.  That’s where True Blue comes in.  True Blue is a program sponsored by the Wellness Center designed to educate incoming students on all aspects of wellness at Duke.  We aren’t going to tell you not to drink or go to Shooters, but we will try our best to provide you the tools you need to make healthy decisions, anywhere from the Marketplace to an off-campus party.  I can’t wait to meet you all in a few weeks, but until then enjoy your summer.

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The Help

Most people do not like talking about their problems, whether they are academic, financial or emotional – especially at a place like Duke. The stigma attached to mental health issues do not mix well with the Duke community. Things become a lot more daunting when there are unrelenting expectations to be the perfect student with an immaculate academic record; this quickly tears away at one’s self-esteem and life.

When I first arrived on campus, two years ago, I was ambitious and ready to tackle whatever was thrown at me. However, following my first semester, I realized that things were not fine. I used to conquer school, but now it was conquering me. I had no one to talk to about what was going on inside my head. I thought, ‘people have their own issues to deal with’. I did not want to be a burden. Speaking about how poorly I was doing in my classes would be humiliating. In addition, being 3,000 miles away from my home did not help my situation.

No one ever thinks that they will suffer from depression until it actually happens. Before leaving for college, I always thought that I was healthy and happy with my life. I never thought that my life would spiral out of control. I isolated myself from everyone because I did not want to be perceived as crazy. I found myself unable to escape the clutches of my bed. If it was not for a close friend of mine recommending CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) to me, I am sure that I probably would have been kicked out of school.

CAPS is a beautiful thing- it really is. Before ever walking in to my first appointment, I thought that I was going to be bombarded with questions by a psychologist that thought I was crazy. That was not the case. I was asked to talk about everything that was bothering me: school, family, money, etc. I was given the opportunity to vent to someone who I knew would not judge me - they just listened and gave advice. As I continued to visit regularly, I began to feel a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I was able to breathe throughout the day with ease. Most importantly, I started to do well in school again.

If I could offer any advice to an incoming student, it would be to make an appointment at CAPS if they are ever going through some tough times. I know that the easiest thing to do is to bottle up your emotions, but that will only make things worse. Remember to always take care of yourself first.

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Giving to Gain

Hello Class of 2018! My name is Gabrielle Sawyer and I am a rising junior studying Public Policy and Markets and Management. I have just returned home to Washington, D.C. after spending a very eventful semester in SoCal with Duke in Los Angeles. In addition to taking courses with USC and Duke professors, I interned at Overbrook Entertainment on the Sony Pictures Studio lot. The decision to trade in Durham for Hollywood was an uncanny one given my calculated nature. Before leaving, I was a straight-laced pre-med student wary of exploring my lingering interests for film and media. Given the traditional nature of Duke, I never thought it possible to make a living in the entertainment industry. My perspective began to change as I connected with Duke alumni that work as successful producers, agents, and journalists. 

Giving up pre-med has been one of the most uncomfortable and stressful decisions I have made so far at Duke. Giving up the security of a stable career track has really pushed the boundaries of myself and of my family. I sometimes worry that by not becoming a doctor, I am throwing away this extraordinary opportunity to study at such a prestigious university.

Finding that spark and that passion may not come as easy for some. I am evidence of this. It is okay to be fearful of the future. Just don’t let that fear keep you from building a life full of vigor and energy.  The worst possible thing you can do during your four years at Duke is to choose a career path that does not make you happy nor challenges your abilities as an intelligent and creative human being.
This is YOUR time. Live these four years up AND make wise decisions. Have fun!

On that note, I can’t wait to meet you all! Enjoy the rest of your summer.

-Gabby

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