Duke First Update - Passionately Ambitious for 2023/24



Thank you for your continued support of the first-gen/low-income (FGLI) community at Duke!  

We would love to have your input on one of our working committees. Please see details in item #3 below. Simply respond to the original email or contact Duke First Co-Chairs Gerardo Parraga '18, J.D. '21 and Hunter McGhee '18.

There is so much to share that we have broken this update into sections so that you can quickly find the info that is of interest to you.  Here’s an overview of what we will cover:

  1. Our Mission
  2. The State of Duke’s FGLI Community
  3. Our Board and Committees (Join One!)
  4. A Recap of the 2022-23 Academic Year
  5. Passionately Ambitious: Looking Ahead to 2023-24
  6. How You Can Help – A Guide for Busy Dukies


1.  Our Mission

Duke First is a community of First-Generation / Low-Income (FGLI) Duke alumni and allies. We seek to support and advocate on behalf of FGLI students, empower and connect with each other, and celebrate the personal and professional accomplishments of the FGLI community.

Our Stakeholders

  1. Alumni (primary)
  2. Students (primary)
  3. Students’ families
  4. Duke Alumni Network
  5. Duke administration
  6. Broader first-generation/low-income alumni community


2. The State of Duke’s FGLI Community

Since Duke First was launched in September 2020, the community has expanded to now include at least seven entities that are focused on providing services, support, and a sense of belonging for FGLI students as follows:


  1. Duke LIFE Student Group (undergrads)
  2. Duke 1GP (Law School)
  3. Duke F1RSTS (Graduate School)
  4. Fuqua Firsts (Business School)
  5. Duke FGLI Med (Medical School)
  6. Duke LIFE Office
  7. Duke First (Alumni)


3. Our Board and Committees (Join One!)

Because of intersectionality, our membership is very diverse, which is one of our key strengths. Our working committees (Alumni Connections & Engagement, Mentoring & Career Support, and Student Initiatives) are open to all members, not just our board. This allows us to increase the number of voices at the table as we consider ways to better serve Duke’s diverse FGLI student population. To learn more or to join a committee, please reply to this email. For more details, see a description for each below.

As we mature as an organization, it is important to formalize many of our processes and create infrastructure to support our work over the long run. Here are the many ways that we do that:


Duke First Board

Since its inception, our organization has been led by our Chairs and Co-Chairs, but it is now time to improve that structure by creating a formal board. Here are the board members for this year:

  1. Jen Yam ’14; Committee Co-Chair, ACE
  2. Gabriele Wurmitzer Ph.D.’12
  3. Gabe Tsuboyama B.S.E.’00; Committee Co-Chair, SI
  4. Sloan Talbot ’19; Committee Co-Chair, ACE
  5. Gerardo Parraga ’18, J.D.’21; Group Co-Chair
  6. Katie Taylor McKeown ’19
  7. Hunter McGhee ’18; Group Co-Chair
  8. Denney Kwok M.B.A.’18; Committee Co-Chair, MCS
  9. Qusai Hussain ’19
  10. Joseph Francis ’99; Committee Co-Chair, SI
  11. Tom Dominick ’87
  12. Ibby Butt ’20
  13. Jack Boyd ’85; Secy & Committee Co-Chair, MCS
  14. Juliana Alfonso-DeSouza, a junior in Trinity College
  15. Minel Arinel, a graduate student in neurobiology
  16. A faculty representative, to be filled
  17. Beverly Rudolph, Administrative Coordinator for 1GLI Enrollment, Duke LIFE representative

You can see that the seat for a Faculty Rep is open, but that is in the process of being filled. The Executive Committee (ExCo) is comprised of the Group Co-Chairs, Committee Co-Chairs, and the Secretary. We are using the bylaws from an existing affinity group as a template to tailor to our specific needs.


Committees & Responsibilities

Alumni Connections & Engagement (ACE)

  1. Recruit new members into the group
  2. Encourage FGLI high school students to apply to Duke
  3. Create LIFE Line to support recent / young alumni
  4. Spring Break Open: Shadow an Alum at Work
  5. Alum to Alum Engagement
  6. Student/Alumni Lunches


Mentoring & Career Support (MCS)

  1. Work with Duke to develop a new mentoring program
  2. Provide career advice, resume review and connections
  3. Match students to mentors as requested
  4. Work closely with Career Center
  5. Create LIFE Line to provide advice and connections for recent/young alumni


Student Initiatives (SI)

  1. Work with students to provide beneficial connections and programming
  2. Join Duke LIFE students in welcoming first years to campus
  3. Duke F1RSTS Alumni Speaker Series
  4. Duke F1RSTS First-Gen Student Virtual Symposium
  5. Partner with Duke LIFE Student Group for The Resilience Dinner


Governance Committee (GovCo)

  1. Manage the operations of the organization
  2. Bylaws, committees, board members, officers
  3. All members of the ExCo are on the Governance Committee
  4. Nominating Committee will be selected from the GovCo


4. A Recap of the 2022-23 Academic Year

Last year was pivotal and put our organization on strong footing. We connected with a record number of students, participated in a pilot program for mentoring and debuted our signature event.


Student Connections

We worked closely with the leadership of Duke F1RSTS for their Alumni Speaker Series, a monthly event that features an alum who shares their personal and professional journey in conversation with students. While most of our speakers hold graduate or professional degrees from Duke, we also invite undergraduate alumni who have advanced degrees from other schools. Casual and relaxed, these hour-long events are informal and informative.

During Homecoming 2022, most on-campus activities were canceled due to Hurricane Ian, but being FGLI, we decided to forge ahead. While we didn’t get the 158 people who had registered for the event, a handful of enthusiastic students and alumni showed up for a “Mix and Mingle”, another demonstration of the perseverance of our community.


Of course, the biggest source of connections came through PeopleGrove and The Resilience Dinner (details below).   


PeopleGrove - Pilot Mentoring Program

We participated in a pilot program for PeopleGrove - an online mentoring platform that uses an algorithm to match mentors with mentees. We were thrilled with the number of students who registered, but then disappointed when a high percentage did not engage once matched, a problem that was consistent across all the groups in the pilot. We did receive positive feedback from the students who engaged and are grateful to all of you who served as mentors. Duke will not move forward with PeopleGrove and will work with Duke Student Government on a student-led mentoring program in the coming year.


The Resilience Dinner: Celebrating FGLI Courage, Community & Connections

In February, we held our inaugural Resilience Dinner, which included students, alumni, staff, and faculty. We assigned alumni, staff, and faculty to tables, which were listed on a guide by table and professional experience. After 30 minutes, we asked students to choose a second table, which was then followed by a strolling supper to allow for even more connections. The evening was a great success, one that quickly became a signature event. 


5. Passionately Ambitious - Looking Ahead to 2023-24

Our goals for the upcoming 2023-24 academic year are bold, ambitious, and exciting. While our key focus will continue to be students, we will begin providing support to recent/young alumni and will strengthen our network through more alum-to-alum connections.


Here are a few of the events and new initiatives that are planned:

  1. Join Duke LIFE students in welcoming first years to campus 09/23
  2. Homecoming event “The Importance of Sharing One’s Story” 09/29
  3. Participate in Duke F1RSTS First-Gen Student Virtual Symposium 02/24 
  4. Partner with Duke LIFE Student Group for The Resilience Dinner (Spring)
  5. New Mentoring Program through Duke Student Government 
  6. Recruit FGLI high school students to apply to Duke
  7. Students to shadow local alumni employees during Spring Break 
  8. Student/alumni lunches for local alums and visitors to campus 
  9. Create LIFE Line to provide advice and connections for recent/young alumni! 


6. How You Can Help: A Guide for Busy Dukies

There are many ways that you can help, regardless of how much or how little time you can commit. Here are a few options listed in ascending order of engagement:

  1. Join Duke First (if you received this email, you are already a member)
  2. Respond to students who contact you
  3. Help us spread the word by forwarding this email to FGLI Dukies and allies
  4. Spread the word using this link: https://alumni.duke.edu/groups/duke-first
  5. Join the Steering Committee for more frequent communications
  6. Have lunch with students to discuss your career path and/or personal journey
  7. Join LIFE Line to provide advice and connections to recent/young alumni
  8. Participate on a panel
  9. Mentor a student
  10. Provide an internship for an FGLI student
  11. Host a student to shadow you at work
  12. Hire an FGLI student
  13. Join one of our working committees (see details below)

If you are wondering how to indicate your interest in doing these things, please respond to this email with a specific request or to set up a call to learn more.

We’re happy to discuss any of these with you.

Thanks for all that you do for Duke First!


Gerardo Parraga ’18, J.D.’21

Duke First Co-Chair


Hunter McGhee ’18

Duke First Co-Chair