DSAB Spotlights

Take a deeper dive into the lives of our Duke Student Alumni Board members and the advice they have for the student body through these spotlight interviews! New spotlights will be added monthly.


Kent Hjelm

Kent Hjelm Profile photoName: Kent Hjelm
School/Class Year: Graduating May 2022
Hometown: Devon, PA
DSAB Committee: Newsletter Team

Why did you become involved with DSAB?
The reason I came to Duke was partly due to the wonderful alumni that I had met prior to applying – the passion for Duke that these Blue Devils exhibited showed me a very important aspect that makes Duke special. So, getting to campus my freshman year, I was determined to get involved in an organization where I could stay connected to the alumni network. Having heard of DSAB from a friend, this seemed to be the perfect organization for me to join.

What is your favorite Duke memory?
My favorite Duke memory was actually my last day on campus my sophomore year, before being sent home for the rest of the semester due to COVID. This day was the Duke – UNC game for which I had tented. It was a perfect day full of my friends, Duke basketball and overall school spirit and camaraderie. Although it was obviously hard having to be away from campus for the rest of the year, I was happy to have such a great send-off.

What other things are you involved with on campus?
I am involved in FAC (First-Year Advisory Counselor) Board and Club Lacrosse. Each of these involvements have given me great experiences and friends.

Advice for other students?
As a graduating senior, I have been doing a lot of reflecting recently on my Duke career. Through looking back, one thing that has consistently led to me having some of my best experiences was just through saying ‘yes’ to things. Whether that is trying something new, taking a weekend trip, or just hanging out with friends on a random day, making an active attempt at saying yes to opportunities has been very important for me. Along with this, I also think it is very important to take time to be thankful. Duke is such a special place with even more special people and recognizing that when dealing with stressful times helps me to ease my mind.

What's something that [DSAB or Duke--or both!] can do to improve?
One thing that can be improved at Duke is the connection between administration and Duke students. I feel as though COVID has made this situation worse, but I genuinely believe students will be more able to connect with administration when they have a greater presence around campus. Just seeing different administrators walking around campus can make students feel closer to those who are running their university.

What are you excited for this spring?
I am very excited to take as much time as I can to be with my friends ahead of graduation. Many of my friends whom I see every day will be living hundreds of miles away from me next year, so soaking up as much time with them as I can is really important to me.

Anusha Vojjola

Anusha Vojjola Profile photoName: Anusha Vojjola
School/Class Year: Masters of Engineering Management, Pratt School of Engineering, Graduating May 2022
Hometown: Hyderabad, India
DSAB Committee: Karsh Conversations

Why did you become involved with DSAB?
When DSAB was establishing its committees, I was particularly excited to join the Karsh Conversations team as a co-chair. I wanted to be involved in creating programming as part of an organization that works with alumni, especially given how strong the Duke Alumni network is. It was a great chance to get close to more alumni and build valuable relationships. Joining DSAB also just made sense because I wanted to act as a bridge between students and alumni – many students aren’t aware of the Duke programs that bring alumni to the campus, and I wanted to raise awareness among my peers in the MEM program at Pratt.

What is your favorite Duke memory?
One of my favorite memories is giving campus tours to alumni; I have learned so much about Duke’s history during the alumni tours that I keep telling my friends about it. I am fascinated by the growth that Duke has endured over the years. I love the fact that Abele Quad was named in honor of Black architect Julian Abele and the major role he had in building the gothic-style buildings of Duke’s West Campus (which has since become a Duke trademark and serves to give Duke a Hogwarts feel).

What other things are you involved with on campus?
I am involved in many activities, which is one of the best things about Duke. It has so many opportunities; one must just grab those. As students, we don’t have to look elsewhere to get that kind of experience. In the past, I was a Student Ambassador and Summer Leadership and Management (SLAM) at Pratt, as well as a member of the International House Orientation Peer (IHOP). Currently, I am a Resident Advisor at Bell Tower on East Campus and a Digital Transformation Spring Analyst at DUMAC. I am also a board member of Sexual Assault Impact and Listening and Duke Student Alumni Board. Along with all this, I am doing my negotiations course and interviewing for companies.

Advice for other students? Either undergrad or other prof/grad students?
I am not at a place to advise, but if I were to suggest something to other students, then I would say – Duke has such a robust network, so don’t focus too much on the immediate outcomes of relationships. This university is loaded with intelligent and great minds, so take advantage of the chance to share ideas and speak with diverse people. Everyone has a different value addition in your life, don't let go of this opportunity

What's something that [DSAB or Duke--or both!] can do to improve?
Numerous clubs and groups at Duke offer varied experiences to students; I wish that there was a better way to keep track of everything in one place so that everyone could access it. But, I get that maintaining all of that includes planning and logistics. Ultimately, Duke is an excellent opportunity for everyone to surround themselves with smart and great minds, so I just want everyone to be able to take full advantage of that.

What are you excited for this spring?
Since this is my last semester, I want to be on-campus as much as possible and have great memories of the chapel, the Brodhead Center, etc. I want to climb the chapel and see Durham from the top of it; I hope I will be able to do it. I am also excited about graduation and a bit worried about finding a job. I am hopeful things will fall in place.

Adrienne Jones

Adrienne Jones Profile photoName: Adrienne Jones
School/Class Year: Sanford School and Sociology Department, 4th Year PhD Candidate
Hometown: Goldston, North Carolina
DSAB Committee: Alumni Spotlight Newsletter

Favorite memory at Duke (pre-Covid, and/or now)?
I did my undergrad at UNC and was always a huge college basketball fan. One year, a friend surprised me with tickets to a Duke-UNC game for my birthday. Cameron Indoor is such a different experience from being in the Dean Dome- the student section was crazy! I’m really glad I have had the chance to watch great basketball in both places.

Why did you get involved with DSAB? What has been your favorite experience on the board so far?
Two main reasons. First, I was involved with the General Alumni Association while in undergrad where I planned events through the social committee. DSAB was a great opportunity to continue working with alumni. It helps me feel more connected to the Duke community and get an idea of the opportunities available to undergrads and grad students. Second, DSAB gives me the opportunity to involve students in alumni affairs. Sometimes young and recent alumni don’t stay involved with their institutions post-graduation. My work is about helping to bridge the gap between the school and that demographic of alumni.

My favorite experience on DSAB so far was a newsletter interview I conducted last semester. I had the chance to interview a good friend and colleague in the Public Policy PhD program. It gave me a newfound sense of respect for her research and her impact on the community in which she works. I don’t take lightly the opportunity to elevate the profiles of Black women, in particular, and was grateful to be able to introduce her to the Duke community.

What else are you involved in on campus?
I am a graduate resident in a dorm on East Campus! I oversee programming and purchasing operations for a small RA team and the residents of Giles. I literally spend most of my time surrounded by students a decade younger than me!

Do you have any advice for undergraduates (personal, professional, academic, etc.)?
The main thing that comes to mind is that grad school is a big choice and commitment, so don’t rush the decision and feel pressured to go to grad school until the time is right. Your thoughts and passions at 22 might not be the same even when you are 25, so if you are uncertain, take time to explore your interests. Work in industries you are interested in or look for fellowship programs. These experiences can help you decide if grad school is right for you. Sometimes it’s not a fit at all, sometimes it’s just not a fit when someone is 22 years old. Graduate school is a wonderful option but can be time consuming and expensive, so you don’t want to find out that it isn’t right for you after it’s too late.

Fun fact?
I collect sneakers! I have over 50 pairs of sneakers that I have collected over time. I tend to look for shoes that are comfortable and have a nice aesthetic. Currently, I am into different color varieties of the Air Jordan 1’s, which are my favorite collectible sneakers. I am currently running out of space at home which might be a sign that I have too many pairs...

Eli Kline

Eli Kline

Covid and the Arts
DSAB member Eli Kline reflects on the arts at Duke during Covid-19

The arts at Duke during Covid have been a beautiful mess. As a student who came to Duke for the arts, involved in Project Arts, Hoof ’n’ Horn, and a Capella, I prepared for the worst entering the school year, knowing that all of my activities and extracurriculars were either to be eliminated or moved to a virtual space. And in some ways, it was the worst. A virtual Project Arts, Duke’s arts-based pre-orientation program for incoming first-year students, introduced me to both the new life on Zoom and to Zoom fatigue. The program went well given the circumstances but, for the staffers and the “crewlings” alike, required a sort of on-the-job recontextualizing of what the coming year would look like. Virtual arts, we found out, is a whole new ball game.

Entering the school year, I understood that the virtual problem was going to remain throughout both semesters and maybe even longer. How were the arts going to survive? If they were going to survive, they had to move virtual in new and creative ways. For a Capella, we ran rehearsal through Zoom and manufactured “concerts” by compiling videos of all of the singers singing individually, in their own spaces. Sure, Zoom rehearsal sucks — there’s no way around it. But it is better than no rehearsal. Sure, it was sad to not perform together — but the videos we made this year will live on in iconic remembrance.

In Hoof ’n’ Horn, I served as Assistant Director for A Chorus Line. At first, many on the production team assumed that we were not going to go through with the show virtually, but everyone involved believed in the collective vision. Throughout the fall semester, we produced a 90-minute-long compilation and showcase of songs, scenes, and dances performed by Duke students. It wasn’t like a normal Hoof ’n’ Horn show, but this was not a normal year. We made the best of our situation and I am so proud of what we were able to accomplish. This semester, Hoof ’n’ Horn completed a similar project with Dreamgirls.

Though it was not easy at first, we grew to understand it and to learn how to enjoy it. Throughout the two semesters, little by little, we found ways to express ourselves in a safe manner. After hours upon hours on Zoom every day, I found such a need for artistic expression — even if that is on Zoom, too. But now, things are only looking up. My a Capella group rehearses on campus once a week. Project Arts staff can train together in person. When thinking about our shows and performances next semester, we’re just beginning to think of what we missed out on and what we might be able to get back. But, if we are forced back to Zoom — we know how to handle it.

Jessica Kemiko Maeda Jerí

Jessica Kemiko Maeda JeríName: Jessica Kemiko Maeda Jerí (quite a long name, but in Latin America, we use our paternal and maternal last names)
School/Class Year: Sanford School of Public Policy, 2021
Hometown: Lima, Peru

Favorite memory at Duke (pre-Covid, and/or now)?
I love this question because it allows me to remember how many great memories I have at Duke, even with COVID-19. Probably when I went to the Kingdom Choir’s concert at Duke Chapel. The Choir was impressive, and the setting was perfect. Also, any basketball game-related memory is a great one.

Why did you join DSAB?
I will be graduating in a few months, but I can affirm that Duke has been, from the start, a life-changing experience. I was very impressed with the campus, my brilliant classmates, and the faculty's human and professional quality. I decided to join DSAB because it was a space where I could meet more Duke students, get the opportunity to learn from them and get more involved in the university's dynamic.

What groups are you involved in at Duke?
In my first semester, I was a project manager at Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators. My team and I created a school kit on restorative justice to be implemented in North Carolina schools. Since last year, I have also collaborated with SALUD (Scholar Academy for Latinxs United for Diversity). The project's vision is to empower Durham Latinx youth for a progressive change, promoting STEM professions among them. I am also Sanford School of Public Policy’s representative at the University Judicial Board.

Any advice for undergrad students (professionally, personally, etc.)?
Maybe two: First, take your time to enjoy and appreciate your experience at Duke as much as you can. Sometimes, we forget to realize that studying at Duke is a fantastic opportunity because we are too embedded in the workload or thinking about the future. I know COVID-19 has made enjoyment more difficult, but we are still blessed to have this education and institutional support. Second, do not wholly rely on your plans. Be open to change as much as you can. I am back to graduate school many years after finishing my LLM. At this point in my career, I did not expect to be studying again. But this time, I am learning something different, and I love it.

What drew you to Duke? How did your past experiences factor in?
I am a Human Rights lawyer, and I have worked for my country's government for quite some time. I became incredibly passionate about promoting non-discriminatory policies in Peru, and I felt at some point that my legal skills could be complemented with some policy background. I chose Sanford because it is one of the best policy schools, and its Masters of International Development Policy is oriented to mid-career professionals who want to create social change. It was a perfect fit.

Fun fact?
I can speak Spanish, English and French.

Bates Crawford

Bates CrawfordName: Bates Crawford
Class Year: 2022
Major: English
Hometown: New York City

When did you join DSAB?
My first year of DSAB was my sophomore year.

What groups are you involved in at Duke?
I am Co-president of Gente Aprendiendo para Nuevas Oportunidades (GANO) and author of The Chronicle column “A Devil’s Bookshelf.”

Favorite memory at Duke?
One favorite memory (too many to have a definitive favorite!) is the bench burning last spring after the Duke/UNC game. I know, a basketball memory. You guessed it. Definitely a classic answer, but the special feeling we all shared on campus that night, energized by our teamwork, was the perfect example of our undeniable school spirit.

What is your DSAB team up to?
My DSAB team is brainstorming/planning a few different initiatives related to Young Alumni Engagement. A few of these ideas in the works are a version of Ask a Blue Devil that filters to recent graduates for responses, and a post-event, one-on-one conversation program that would allow for a current student and an alum to get together to discuss a lecture they both attended, which would be a natural conversation starter!

Thoughts on online classes/interviews/clubs? Any advice for navigating that?
I feel like I am still learning alongside everyone when it comes to this online college experience, but something I prioritize is being intentionally agile and communicative. As we work through Zoom, there may be technical difficulties, but the best we can do is be ready to pivot and help each other out. The tutoring organization I am a part of, GANO, went completely virtual this past summer and it has been a rewarding experience in a hectic time for tutors and tutees alike. So, I hope we don’t see the virtual world for just its faults! It is a ‘get what you give’ process.

What would be helpful for you to learn from a DSAB newsletter?
In our DSAB meetings, I am always fascinated when people share their mentorship experiences that followed an unexpected or brief connection with someone. As college students, mentors are crucial and can provide us with indispensable insight and motivation beyond our four years on campus, so it would be helpful to hear more of these stories.

Any alumni programs that you have seen and learned from?
A very special community at Duke is the Duke Entertainment, Media & Arts Network (DEMAN). I would love to continue to learn more about the fantastic alumni in these fields and their various passions/career paths, especially other women in the industry! Attending DEMAN events has been a real highlight throughout my Duke experience.