The Duke Student

Is there an image that comes to mind when someone says “Duke Student”?

Maybe it’s a Cameron Crazie, jumping up and down with blue and white body paint on (and not much else) holding a punny sign about the force being with Luke Kennard.

Maybe it’s one of the many amazing and outspoken students we have on campus, the ones who earn the accolades and awards, whose name comes into conversation whenever a person talks about how amazing Duke students are. Maybe it’s you, and your own Duke journey.

Duke students are a wide and diverse group of people, coming from all over the world, seeking varying paths in their academic endeavours and post-graduation plans, yet all united under the overarching shadow of the Duke Chapel, and our specific shade of blue and white we wear almost obnoxiously around campus and beyond.

Sometimes it seems that we can identify “the Duke student” so easily. Yet I know that Cameron can’t hold every undergraduate, let alone even half of us. I also know that not every Duke student can be a merit scholar, or a Rhodes or Fulbright recipient.

I often hear that the admissions office cultivates an incoming class that fits the image of where Duke wants to see itself, the type of student Duke wants to have on campus. Yet, who is it? Personally I’m not a big sports fan, and I am not curing cancer or publishing a paper on the impact of microfinance loans in a rural community anytime soon. Is it bad to be against the “grain” of a University? Does Duke intend to have a mix of students, a class that focuses on the arts more than basketball, or science more than pub pol?

Do we determine who is a “Duke Student”, or is it everyone around us? Is it admissions? Is it the campus? Everyone here at Duke had to be chosen, and with a 9% regular admission rate for the class of 2020, it wasn’t left to chance. How, then, is a Duke student made? Is there a mold we fill? Or a set of guidelines we check? Can we be transplanted to another university and do just as well there? Or are we tailored to be Devils… to wear our shade of blue?

Sometimes it can feel like Duke students are one of a kind, a special blend of person that all holds the same value. Sometimes I wonder how I’m considered a Duke student if I don’t go to a basketball game, don’t partake in Shooters Saturdays or don’t wear our favorite color.

Duke’s campus can feel inclusive and isolating all at the same time. Duke’s campus can be homogenizing and diverse all at the same time. I think it’s okay to feel united, to “be” a Duke student. I also think it’s okay to not feel like that all the time, to be you, before being a “duke student”