BackgroundInterview Date:June 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Public school in Westchester, NY with about 350 students in my class
Majors: Philosophy and Public Policy
Extracurricular Activities: Writer for a website that does opinionated commentary, I do volunteer tutoring, and I am part of a social organization called a Selective Living Group (SLG). SLG’s are an alternative to Greek life, so I’m in one of those.
How do you join a selective living group (SLG)?
It’s similar to Greek life in that there’s rush, and that’s how we pick members and how you join. It’s co-ed and it’s not national, so that’s what differentiates it from Greek life.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
Yeah, I would say probably all of them have. My selective living group the most just because that’s who I interact with the most and who I go to parties with and stuff like that. Tutoring connected me more to the Durham community. And then writing has had an impact on the people I’ve met.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your majors?
It is mostly reading and writing papers. There are not that many problem sets.
Is there anything you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or especially poorly?
With my Philosophy major, what I liked the most is that there is a lot of freedom in the classes you take and how much effort you want to put into the classes. But that’s similar to what I dislike about my Public Policy major, which is very rigid. There are a lot of classes that you absolutely have to take and there’s not that much flexibility.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
In Philosophy it’s collaborative, it’s not very competitive at all. There are so few majors that people who are majoring in it are very friendly and helpful and want to talk about the subject. I think the Public Policy environment isn’t super competitive, but it’s very pre-professional. People are very focused on careers and networking and stuff like that.
What have been your favorite classes in your majors?
Philosophy: History of Modern Philosophy, we just focused on [René] Descartes and onward. So we talked about issues like free will and morality and all that fun stuff.
Public Policy: Political Analysis of Public Policy, which was about how to get bills passed and the practical part of public policy.
What have been your least favorite classes in your majors?
Philosophy: History of Ancient Philosophy, I thought it was pretty boring. We just did a lot of Plato and Socrates and it wasn’t that interesting.
Public Policy: Economics of the Public Sector
Why did you choose to double major in Philosophy and Public Policy? Are you happy with your choice?
I picked Philosophy because I took an intro class that I really liked and had a good professor and stuck with it. And then I picked Public Policy because it’s pretty wide in scope, so it combines my interests in political science, economics, and a little bit of philosophy. I thought it was the broadest major for my interests. Sometimes I regret the Public Policy major a little bit, but I’m happy with my choice for the most part.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: All first years live on East campus which is a separate campus. I lived in Wilson, which is the only suite-style freshman dorm. I lived in a single room.
Sophomore & Junior: I lived with my SLG in a dorm called Kilgo in West campus, which is the main campus with academic buildings and a lot of dorms and food places and stuff like that. I lived with one roommate.
Senior: I will live in Kilgo with my SLG in a single.
What was your favorite living situation?
I love living with my SLG, it’s great being around a lot of people that I’m friends with.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
On campus I feel safe almost all the time. My dorm is really well located so I never have to walk that far. Off-campus sometimes it can be a little sketchy, but I have a car so I can drive places by myself. Sometimes people make comments and stuff like that, so it can feel a little unsafe, but in general, it’s safe.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
M Kokko, it’s a ramen place.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
There’s a nice coffee shop called Cocoa Cinnamon.
Pros and Cons of being in Durham, NC?
Pros: (1) It’s a pretty up and coming city. It feels very new. (2) It’s pretty safe.
Cons: It feels limited at some times. If you’re coming from a place like New York City, it can feel small. That’s the main con.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I mostly go out with my SLG. In terms of clubs, Shooters is the big one that everybody ends up at. Most people will hang out with their Greek organization, or for me it’s my SLG, and then go to Shooters. Shooters is 18+, so everybody can go.
How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
It’s nice that there’s one space where everyone ends up. You always see your friends from other places, and I like that anyone can get in. But, I think sometimes the drinking culture can be toxic. So, if I were to change something, it would be related to that.
What have been your favorite times at Duke?
I tend to like the spring semester better. People are more relaxed and there’s more going on. Honestly, my favorite nights have been hanging out and talking with my friends.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think it depends. It’s definitely fragmented between Greek life, SLG, and independents. In Greek life specifically, there’s not that much mixing. It’s pretty homogenous. It’s mostly white, wealthy, heterosexuals. In SLG’s it’s a little bit better, but people still trend towards wealthy heterosexuals. Independent living is less fragmented than SLG’s and Greek life. [Duke’s student body is about 44% White, 21% Asian-American and 10% Black. Socioeconomically, 19% of students come from the top 1%.]
What made you choose an SLG organization over a Greek life organization?
I just felt that I fit in better. I did go through the beginning rounds of sorority rush, and I didn’t necessarily think it fit my personality. Greek rush is a lot more structured and formal, while SLG rush is very casual and I met people and made connections with them, so I definitely preferred that.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Duke?
It’s pretty fragmented in terms of your living/social situation. So, Greek life tends to mix with Greek life and SLG’s tend to mix with other SLG’s.
How would you describe the student body?
Students are most prominently from wealthy backgrounds. I think there are fragmentations based on socioeconomic status. But I would also very spirited and active at the school and willing to call out any problematic tendencies. [Socioeconomically, 44% of students come from the top 5%.]
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Duke before entering as a freshman?
The disconnect between the students and the administration. Recently there have been a few incidents that occurred that created some tension, and I wish I knew a little more about that before I came.
What is something that a student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There’s a really nice café in the library [called Saladelia]
Reasons to attend Duke:
1) It challenges you academically and in terms of who you are as a person.
2) Great school spirit.
3) Great alumni network.
4) The campus is very tight and safe. There are people around all the time.
5) If you’re looking for a place to explore there are surrounding cities.
Reasons to not attend Duke:
1) It can feel like a bubble. If you don’t actively challenge yourself, you can get trapped in that bubble and forget that there are real problems in the real world around you.
2) Sometimes the social scene can feel a bit toxic.