2021-2022 End-of-Year Recap

The 2021-2022 GPSG Executive Board worked very diligently this year to advocate for graduate students, connect with other universities, build relationships between students, and put together fantastic events. A very heartfelt thank you is in order. We are honored to have some returning members to the 2022-2023 Executive Board, while many members of our 2021-2022 Executive Board are graduating. We will miss you and wish you the best on all your future endeavors, graduates!

To learn more about the tremendous work and accomplishments of our lovely Executive Board – continue reading.

President, Aliesha O’Raw
Formally transitioned to the new GPSG structure established by last year’s reform process. Advocated for student needs across all schools and programs with numerous university bodies, including the University Scheduling Committee, University Priorities Committee, Graduate and Professional Education and Research Committee, and President’s Council on Black Affairs. Brought a record 13 resolutions passed by the GA to appropriate University administrators and action groups to address important issues such as dental insurance, mental health, time off for student workers, environmental issues, and support for marginalized students groups such as LGBTQ+, indigenous, and international students.
Vice President for Advocacy, Han Setiawan
Relationship building has been a key priority this year. We have built coalitions with local universities (UNC, NCSU, and other NC universities graduate student governments) to conduct federal, state, and local advocacy; meetings with Reps. Price and Ross (US House), Reps. Alston and Farkas (NC House), as well as Durham Mayor O’Neal. We have joined Durham CAN as a member institution to collaborate with other community organizations to fight for affordable housing and reduce violent crimes. We have also empowered 20+ DEI student groups through the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) Microaward program. Building mutually beneficial relationships with the community writ large is necessary to achieve our long term advocacy goals – and I am honored to have had this opportunity to serve as GPSG’s first VP for Advocacy.
Vice President for Student Affairs, Sharon Nwaebube
Community building, efficiency, and brand awareness were the key priorities for the student affairs team. I led and empowered my four directors to create thoughtful and practical programming that connected students from various schools together, while building the GPSG brand. This strategy helped us to have a historic year for GPSG events. We hosted over 20 events this year (not including the weekly Buddy Lunch program). Some of these events were summer movie screenings, football and basketball tailgates, graduate student mixers, professional development workshops, graduation photo shoots, axe throwing, bourbon tastings, and many more. In addition to events, my team and I increased brand awareness for GPSG through partnerships. In September 2021, we hosted our first Presidents’ Dinner with the presidents and representatives of the nine graduate schools. This partnership helped us to build a communication channel that we did not have before. It also allowed us to collaborate on school specific food/snack giveaways and provide funding for programs not in Durham–the Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC–to host multiple events. Moreover, we created efficiencies that expedited the student organization funding process. Typically, there is a short window for student organizations to apply for GPSG funding. This year, we opened the funding application before the start of each semester. After the priority deadlines, we continued to review applications on a rolling basis. We also made final decisions on a funding request within 72 hours. Finally, it has been a rewarding experience to be your first Vice President for Student Affairs. My goal for my role was to connect students to the greater Duke graduate community. I hope you felt my passion and commitment to this goal through your engagement with me, my directors, and our events programming. 
Vice President for Communications, Shannon Jessen
As we all navigated the continued challenge of the shifting world around us, it was paramount that internal and external communication remained consistent and reliable. We ensured that internal GPSG platforms were created as well as sustaining external platforms, such as the weekly newsletter, to keep the graduate student body informed. This past year, we also oversaw and launched the pristine GPSG website [hyperlink website here: https://gpsg.duke.edu/], brand design, and logos. A special thanks to our incoming GPSG President, Brandon Lê, for designing the fantastic new logos.
Director of Finance, Denisse Porras
In 2021-2022, we supported graduate-wide school events for the different graduate schools as well as the graduate student population as a whole. We supported student groups through Fall and Spring funding, in addition to year-round funding.
Director of Student Organizations, Lily (Yunqi) Yang
In 2021-2022, we approved 20+ GPSG affiliated new groups’ registrations, financially supported 25+ student groups for their events throughout the year, and built tighter connections with graduate schools by hosting Presidents’ Dinner to gather feedback from each school. The Student Affair team worked together to provide support and benefits to the whole graduate student body by hosting various types of events.
Director of Logistics and Operations, Brandon M. Lê
We ensured the seamless operations of GPSG through a continued virtual format, as well as shifted GPSG social programming to hybrid formatting. Internal GPSG platforms were established and standardized, including the website, brand design, mailing lists, Assembly meetings, and internal communications. We also provided support for programming, running the weekly Buddy Lunch program, virtual professional development events, and in-person social events.
Director of External Advocacy, Adaobi Onunkwo
Director of Events Programming, Jamila Slade
2021-2022 was a challenging year as Duke transitioned from the pandemic back to a new normal. Despite this, GPSG had a strong year filled with events to help students rebuild community and connect with their peers. We started the summer with three blockbuster films including Black Widow, Space Jam and Snake Eyes. We then commemorate the 156th celebration of Juneteenth with a brunch at the JB Duke. We hosted a LGBTQ+ Mixer, supporting the pride community across Duke. In October, we held a Ladies Luncheon to fundraise and bring awareness to women impacted by Breast Cancer. Working alongside Duke Athletics, GPSG hosted two tailgates, one for Homecoming and the biggest game in town, Duke vs. UNC. At each event we provided food and gave out 250 Duke t-shirts. We also had other giveaways like Valentine’s Day Cookies and “Duke Mom” mugs for graduate and professional moms. In April, we had a graduate appreciation night at the Durham Hotel rooftop and for the first time ever, GPSG hosted two mixer events for the Marine Lab for them to feel more included. Finally, I concluded my term as Director of Events Programming by leading a giveaway of diploma frames for 100 students. It has been a rewarding year serving over 8,000 graduate and professional students within the Duke community.
Director of Durham and Global Community Relations, Michael Sindoni
This year,  there were two major things we accomplished. The first is that we held a discussion night with then mayoral candidate Elaine O’Neal co-hosted with a student organization at NCCU. During this conversation, we asked Elaine O’Neal about what her goals as mayor would be, how she hopes to accomplish them, and how she could work with graduate students to address our concerns. Out of this meeting, we decided to form a mayoral/graduate student committee which is currently being created. The second thing we accomplished was getting a Durham CAN chapter for the GPSG executive board. As such, we were able to form a core team composed of members from different schools at Duke and are active within the organization. Other things that were less significant but still accomplished were attending Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transportation meetings, Durham Better Bus meetings, and participating in the MLK day of service.
Director of Academic Affairs, Kara Nunnally
In 2021-2022, we secured inclusion of Duke Marine Lab PhD candidates based in Beaufort, NC to have equal access to the dental insurance program as Durham-based students; continued to support graduate and professional students in the Lawyers Assistance Program; built relationships with the administration to support graduate and professional student endeavors; created more pathways for students to engage with alumni for career and professional development opportunities; and, collected data on student academic experiences. The Academic Affairs position joined and helped start conversations around academic policies on mental health and wellness, equity in the admissions process, and student leave.
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Jasmine Hughes


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