Parents & Families

Duke President Richard H. Brodhead on Student Leadership

A Letter from Duke President Richard H. Brodhead
March 2013 Parents Newsletter

Duke is fortunate to have large numbers of students who demonstrate everyday leadership, generously sharing what they’ve learned at Duke to help their fellow students derive the full measure of this university. 

I’d guess that one of your first memories of Duke features that everyday leadership in action. When you first brought your son or daughter to East Campus, a team of enthusiastic young people in brightly colored t-shirts descended on your family vehicle and unloaded the boxes and bags with the speed and efficiency of a Formula One pit crew.  You quickly learned that these are the First-Year Advisory Counselors, or FACs, who form such a critical part of the transition to the Duke community for our new students.  Each year, I’m heartened by the sight of the nearly 300 students who give their time and energy to make that transition a smooth one—lending their guidance and friendship throughout Orientation and the first year. 

After those early days, Duke students continue to lead the way for their peers in academic and extracurricular arenas.  Perhaps your daughter or son has benefited from the juniors and seniors who volunteer to serve as peer advisors in our Academic Advising Center.  Along with faculty and professional advisors, peer advisors help to guide pre-major students by providing a student perspective on selecting courses, choosing a major, and engaging in faculty-mentored research.  Reachable by email and text message, peer advisors can also supply that crucial voice of reason and reassurance —even late at night, long after our staff  have gone to bed. 

The same kind peer support is there should your student need help planning a charity auction or an ultimate Frisbee tournament.  A group of students called Launch Agents, based in the Office of Student Affairs, have been trained to help fledgling student organizations get off the ground.  Launch Agents coach fellow students in how to establish a budget, apply for funding, advertise an event, or recruit new members.  These helping hands lift up new generations of student leaders at Duke. 

As the range of opportunities at Duke continues to grow, students can sometimes feel overwhelmed and confused about how to proceed.  Of course, faculty and administrators provide guidance to help students choose pathways that broaden their horizons, deepen their engagement, and connect with their personal values.  I’m glad that Duke student leaders provide another layer of support, helping fellow students get the most out of Duke.  At the same time, these student leaders, by helping others navigate their college experience, are expanding the meaning of their own Duke education. 

President Richard Brodhead
Duke University