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Young Trustee Finalists Edition

Check out these Campus Cutie Profiles of our three Young Trustee finalists, and make sure you vote on February 6th.

Neil Kondamuri

1. Why do you want to be Young Trustee? 

Great question! I want to be Young Trustee for three reasons. First, I have loved serving Duke during my time here and am ready to give back at the Board level. One of my favorite undergraduate experiences was doing the research to help create the TransLoc bus app. It is great knowing that my work helps students, faculty and staff every single day! I’m ready to do the same thing at the Board level. Second, I have the most Board experience, having already served on the Board for over a year. I understand how the Board operates and how to be effective at that level. Finally, I have the greatest ability to understand undergraduate issues and concerns. Having served as a VP for DSG, on the Chronicle, at the rock wall in Wilson gym, and in a pre-orientation program, I understand how you spend your time outside of class. I’ve also taken classes in both Trinity and Pratt, conducted research in the sciences, am currently writing my thesis in public policy, studied abroad in London, and designed an independent DukeEngage in India, which helps me understand how students think about their academic and co-curricular activities. 

2. What’s one thing you HAVE to do before you leave Duke? 

Climb the Chapel

3. What inspires you? 

My grandpa. He came to America way before Indians generally migrated here. He started working construction in Oklahoma, worked towards his undergraduate and MBA degrees, and ended up owning the construction company. He was also the most caring and loving person to everyone he interacted with.  

4. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Read people’s minds. Is that even a question? 

5. What is your top played song on iTunes?

Drops of Jupiter by Train. 

6. What has been your favorite part of your Duke career? 

I have two answers: One was my DukeEngage. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I was able to see the culture of my grandparents, while giving back the culture I grew up in (by teaching English to young kids). There were certain points when I couldn’t help but realize how amazing these kids were, how fleeting this moment was, and how much I needed to cherish it. 

My second favorite experience was leading the bonfire last year after the big win against UNC in Cameron. I was in charge of adding benches and letting the fire rage. It was beautiful. Students were looking at me and I was able to get them all riled up! 

Jacob Tobia

1. Why do you want to be Young Trustee?

During my time at Duke, I’ve been able to see first-hand the impact this school has on the world and the ability Duke has to lead in ways that matter. From the expansion of gender-neutral housing and speaking out against NC Amendment One, to changing the national conversation surrounding undocumented students and working to transform the way that university endowment’s consider investment responsibility, I’ve been able to be a part of incredible changes at Duke that have had an impact on the world. Through helping to bring about these policy changes, I have gained an intimate knowledge of how the university functions, how progress is made, and how to get things done at Duke. I’ve also built strong relationships with administrators and board members that will enable me to serve effectively on the board of trustees. Through serving on the Business and Finance Committee on the Board of Trustees this year, I’ve also seen how critical it is to have a strong student voice on the board, and I believe that I am uniquely qualified to provide that voice. 

2. What’s one thing you HAVE to do before you leave Duke?

I absolutely have to go to the top of the Duke Chapel and watch the carillon—the person who plays the chapel bells—ring the bells at 5 o’clock. It’s been on my bucket list for this year, and I’m still working on it.

3. What inspires you?

As a historian of social movements, I’m inspired by history. Reading about movements like the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power in the 1980s, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, or the Fusion Movement in the 1880s, I am reminded that we are constantly in a struggle for social justice and I find motivation for my current work.

4. What is your must have fashion item?

A good blazer, a good pair of heels, and my grandmother’s vintage jewelry—that’s all that I need.

5. What is your favorite YouTube video?

At the moment, I’m a big fan of “ChatRoulette Wrecking Ball”—It’s incredibly clever.

6. Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.

Despite being pretty effeminate, I’m good with power tools—I poured the concrete foundation of a house, built a roof, and re-sided a dilapidated trailer as part of the Appalachia Service Project in high school.

Katherine Zhang

1. Why do you want to be Young Trustee? 

Duke is at an exciting moment in its history: it’s deciding what kind of school it wants to be in 10, 20, 50 years—in terms of curriculum, physical campus, and student culture. On the one hand, Duke is a young ambitious school, willing to experiment. On the other hand, Duke is prone to envy other “top dog” universities, eager to quickly jump on higher education trends like interdisciplinarity and online education, ignoring what it’s already good at. Duke doesn’t need to be another Stanford or Harvard—the world already has a Stanford and a Harvard. (Why are we holding our Trustee meetings at Stanford again?) It just needs to be the best school it can be. As Young Trustee, I want Duke to stay ambitious but also true to itself.

2. What inspires you? 

Honesty and sincerity. Duke can be a cruel place sometimes, and it takes courage to be your true, unfiltered self. 

3. What plans do you have for the future? 

I’m interested in academia and journalism in the long run, although I have fantasies of writing a novel on an abandoned beach somewhere. For next year, I’ve applied for fellowships in Asia that would allow me to teach, write, or both! If all goes well, I’ll be reading Board of Trustee materials in a rural Chinese village.

4. What is your favorite place to eat at Duke? 

Law School Refectory! Discovered it and their Spicy Peanut Chicken my sophomore year and never turned back.

5. What is your biggest vice? 

I really like trashy TV. I’ve watched almost every season of The Bachelor since the tender age of 9. 

6. Tell us something about yourself that not many people know. 

I read the wedding announcement in the Sunday New York Times every single week. Weird, I know.

Hey everyone! I'm super excited to be a writer for Her Campus Duke. Here's some info on me: I'm from Florida, I'm addicted to MTVs Teen Wolf, and I love Betty White. I hope that through my articles you can get to know me a little better and hopeful I can help you during this weird transitional phase of life called college. 
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