The Quad: News From Around Campus

After twelve years as president of Duke, Richard H. Brodhead announced that he will leave his post at the end of June 2017. “Dick Brodhead is one of Duke’s transformative presidents,” said David Rubenstein ’70, chair of the university’s board of trustees.

In a message to faculty and staff members, students, and alumni on April 28, Brodhead wrote, “When I first came to Duke, I encountered a school that was clearly in the top rank of universities but that had a distinctive spirit within this group. Duke has an unusually strong sense of community, and what binds people together is a vision that Duke is still being created.”

Indeed, many signature programs and new research centers have been launched during Brodhead’s tenure, among them: DukeEngage, Bass Connections, the Duke Global Health Institute, the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, and an Innovation and Entrepreneurship initiative. He also oversaw the creation of the Duke-NUS Medical School in partnership with the National University of Singapore, and he was involved in the creation of Duke Kunshan University, which opened in August 2014.

Applications for undergraduate admission nearly doubled since his arrival from Yale in 2004. The university also celebrated two new Nobel laureates and nine Rhodes Scholars under his watch. The Brodhead-led Duke Forward campaign, the largest comprehensive fundraising effort in the university’s history, is on track to meet its $3.75 billion goal before his departure date.

The Brodhead administration has left an indelible mark on campus, too: $1 billion in construction and renovation projects, including Duke Chapel, Page and Baldwin auditoriums, the Rubenstein Library, Duke Medicine Pavilion and Cancer Center, and athletic facilities, among other buildings. The new West Union will open this summer, and a new arts center already has broken ground.

Brodhead, who is also the William Preston Few Professor of English at Duke, will take a year’s sabbatical before returning to teaching and writing, “the passions that lured me into the academic life in the first place,” he noted in his message.

A committee of trustees, faculty members, students, administrators, and alumni is leading the search for the university’s tenth president. The chair is Jack Bovender ’67, M.H.A. ’69, vice chair of the board of trustees and the retired chair and CEO of the Hospital Corporation of America. The vice chair is divinity school professor and interim dean Ellen Davis.

Administrators, faculty members, and student speak out against HB2

North Carolina’s hastily passed and much-discussed House Bill 2 (HB2) bans individuals from using public bathrooms that don’t correspond to their biological sex. It also makes a number of significant changes to state and local anti-discrimination and employment laws. Shortly after the bill’s passage, in March, Duke issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to “equality, diversity, and inclusion” and deploring “any effort to deny any person the protection of the law because of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Duke President Richard H. Brodhead, Provost Sally Kornbluth, and Chancellor for Health Affairs Eugene Washington, in a subsequent statement, said the law “runs counter to the ideals of Duke University—and, we believe, to those of our great state.” They noted that it “prevents municipalities from establishing laws that protect members of the LBGTQ+ community and others from discrimination and eliminates some economic advancement opportunities for underrepresented communities.”

Deans and other leaders of the various schools issued their own statements of concern. A message from the Nicholas School observed that “[w]e cannot hope to tackle our major environmental challenges effectively in a society that does not prioritize respect and equal treatment for all.” The medical school and the nursing school accented the value of inclusion, equity, and mutual respect in providing health care. The Pratt School of Engineering was uncompromising in its statement: “Along with many other universities, organizations, and individuals in North Carolina and beyond, we find this legislation completely opposed to our values and vision.”

In the weeks following passage of the bill, the law and divinity schools held separate programs to analyze its ramifications, with some Duke experts being quoted in the media. Anathea Portier-Young, a divinity school professor, noted that, according to the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU, there has not been a single confirmed incident in North Carolina of a transgender person harassing a non-transgendered person in a public bathroom. Law professor Katharine Bartlett, an expert on family law, employment- discrimination law, and gender and the law, said if the state strives to apply laws targeting only those who have changed their gender or are in the process of changing their gender, “it’s hard to say that is anything but discrimination based on their sex.” And Mac McCorkle, a Sanford School professor and a former political strategist in the state, characterized the bill as “crackpot” legislation.

University officials are still gauging the specific impact on Duke. At least one admitted undergraduate student declined admission because of HB2, as did a student on the law school’s waiting list and a Ph.D. candidate who had already accepted Duke’s offer of admission. A few conferences to be held on campus were relocated because of the resistance of national organizations to HB2; other campus-based conferences had some participants drop out because of travel bans to North Carolina that cover employees of other states.

Duke adjuncts vote to unionize

In March, the National Labor Relations Board announced that non-tenure-track faculty at Duke had voted 174 to 29 to unionize. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will represent the 300 or so contingent faculty within Trinity College, the Center for Documentary Studies, and the graduate school. Duke officials will work with SEIU to craft a collective- bargaining agreement.

An organization of non-tenure-track faculty called Duke Teaching First launched the nascent labor movement last year to “improve our working conditions,” says Matteo Gilebbi, lecturing fellow in Italian language and culture and a group organizer. “Many of my colleagues are on very short contracts with no job security or full benefits, and no clear career path. These are dedicated teachers having an impact on the university; they are mentors for students.”

Unions have long represented faculty in New York and California, but cuts to higher-education funding and persistent concerns over low pay and health insurance have sparked union movements on campuses from Boston to Chicago, and now Durham. In the past three years, faculty at nearly forty schools in eleven states have voted to join SEIU.

At Duke, 94 percent of the teaching staff is employed full time, compared to the national average of 51 percent. Adjuncts are paid $7,000 per class, well over twice the U.S. average.

A mind-machine meld

Neuroscientists at Duke have created a brain-machine interface (BMI) that allows rhesus macaque monkeys to move and control a wheelchair using only their thoughts. Special electrodes as thin as hairs implanted into the brains of the two monkeys tracked electrical brain activity that a computer then translated into digital motor commands that controlled the wheelchair.

The research, published online in Scientific Reports, demonstrates how BMI technology might someday be used by severely disabled people. Miguel Nicolelis, codirector of the Center for Neuroengineering and the study’s author, said in the university press release, “We show clearly that if you have intracranial implants, you get better control of a wheelchair than with noninvasive devices.” Nicolelis and his team found that with practice the monkeys actually got better at steering the chair toward their desired target, a bowl of grapes.

Moreover, the primates’ brain signals indicated that they were measuring the distance to the grapes. “This was a surprise,” said Nicolelis. “It demonstrates the brain’s enormous flexibility to assimilate a device, in this case a wheelchair, and that device’s spatial relationships to the surrounding world.”

Commencement speeches focus on character

Near the end of Duke’s 164th commencement ceremony, which returned in May to Wallace Wade Stadium (still in the process of renovation) after a year’s absence, more than 5,300 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students stood with their arms locked, waiting for—like so many Blue Devils before them—further instructions from Mike Krzyzewski. But first, a joke.

“And when I say three— I’ll say, ‘one, two, three,’ by the way,” explained Krzyzewski, the commencement speaker, to a laughing crowd. “Some of you aren’t college graduates yet.”

Coach K spoke about lessons he has learned from his personal life and his thirty-six years of coaching basketball at Duke. He emphasized attitude, belief, preparation, and execution as the keys for handling adversity: “There’s nothing more important than attitude, and it’s your choice.” He noted that he had been asked “about 100 times to speak at graduations around the country, and I saved myself for you,” adding, “I’ve dreamed of this day, just like you’ve dreamed of this day.” As a finale, he had the graduating students squeeze their locked arms and shout, “Together!”—a manifestation of his advice to find and build a team with good people and to “display your heart.”

In a similar vein, student speaker Shannon Beckham ’16 delivered an address encouraging her peers to retain empathy after graduating, and to “not just want to be great, but to be good.”

“My hope is that we don’t forget the importance of our experiences here, because they have built our characters just as much as our résumés,” said Beckham.

Duke awarded five honorary degrees during the ceremony. The recipients were William Foege, an epidemiologist and global-health pioneer; Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Charlie Rose ’64, J.D. ’68, the journalist and TV talk show host; Natasha Trethewey, a former U.S. poet laureate; and Srinivasa Varadhan, a mathematician.

As degrees were being conferred en masse to members of the various schools, President Richard H. Brodhead, presiding over the ceremony, singled out a much-honored member of the Duke faculty: Blake Wilson, a pioneer of the cochlear implant, who had a newly earned Ph.D. from Duke. The implant has provided hearing to hundreds of thousands of people who were previously deaf or severely hearing-impaired.

A season of protests

This past academic year brought widespread protest movements across higher education, from New York University to the University of California at Davis—and many schools in-between—largely around the themes of race and inclusiveness. Duke was no exception: In March, a group called Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity issued a shifting set of demands; they ranged from a $15 per hour minimum hourly wage for employees to the removal of three administrators, all of them with some degree of oversight over Duke’s Parking and Transportations Services Department. Protestors alleged a hostile and discriminatory environment within the department, though the university’s own investigation had found no such systemic issues.

The protest produced a weeklong sit-in outside the Allen Building office of President Richard H. Brodhead. Sympathizers put up tents just outside the building in an area they named “A-Ville” (shorthand for “Abele-Ville” or “Amnesty Ville,” depending on the source). Early on, the protestors secured agreement from administrators that they would be immune from disciplinary procedures, specifically around their “trespassing” actions.

In the course of the protest, executive vice president Tallman Trask III issued a public apology to a contract employee around a parking-related flare-up two years earlier. But he strongly denied her allegation that the incident carried racial overtones. Subsequently, Brodhead promised to appoint an independent expert to review complaint procedures for Duke staff, review the guidelines for outside contractors and their employees, and clarify the recruitment and review processes for senior administrators. He also noted that the university had begun a process meant to boost its minimum wage above the current level, $12 per hour.

Even after leaving the Allen Building, protestors insisted they would continue to put pressure on the university with the new academic year. They also made it clear that they embraced similar movements on other campuses. Protestor and rising senior Mina Ezikpe told the website Inside Higher Education: “The way that universities espouse a certain rhetoric of progressiveness and then those same universities repress social change and repress students on campus is very much connected. It’s also about holding our institutions accountable for the ideals they espouse all the time to us.”

A leader for changing—and challenging—times

Ordained Methodist minister, scholar, and teacher Elaine A. Heath has been named the new dean of the Duke Divinity School.

Heath is the McCreless Professor of evangelism at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, where she has been on the faculty since 2005. She is the author of numerous books and monographs, and the cofounder and leader of the Missional Wisdom Foundation, which provides opportunities for clergy and laity to learn how to live in intentional communities.

“The world is rapidly changing, and the church needs leaders who can guide congregations and other organizations through cultural shifts toward a vibrant future,” said Heath in the press announcement of her appointment. As a leading scholar in “emergence”—the process by which religious faith takes root in new ways, outside familiar institutions or within marginalized communities—Heath focuses on expanding the church’s engagement.

“Leaders across the Christian spectrum have turned to [Heath] for guidance in reshaping the mission and ministry of churches in their local settings,” said divinity school professor Randy Maddox, chair of the national search committee. Heath will oversee the divinity school’s 700 students enrolled in five master’s-level programs, two doctoral programs, and a jointly administered Ph.D. program, as well as the school’s global network of outreach and service initiatives. She succeeds Ellen Davis, who has served as interim dean since Richard Hayes retired as dean in August 2015.

Fulbright tally: 12 for 12

Each year more than 1,900 U.S. students, artists, and young professionals in myriad fields are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach, and conduct research in more than 140 countries. For the twelfth consecutive year, Duke has been one of the top producers of U.S. Fulbright Scholars. The scholarships were awarded to twelve Duke undergraduates and graduate students: Dominique Beaudry, Jonathan Lomax Boyd, Alexandra Elaine Cox, Robert Francis Dudley, Carlton Allan Lawrence, Megan Elizabeth McCarroll, Reed Adam McGinley- Stempel, Alexander James McKinley, Sruti Pisharody, Anand Krishna Raghuraman, Kirsten Elizabeth Santos Rutschman, and Inder Singh Takhar.

In Brief: Student Scholars

Logan Beyer ’17 is one of fifty-four students selected as a 2016 Truman Scholar. She will receive $30,000 for graduate study. Joseph Wu ’15 is one of fifty-five international recipients of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which covers a student’s tuition and living expenses while completing a graduate degree at the University of Cambridge. Harvey Shi ’18 is among the 252 students awarded Goldwater Scholarships, which cover tuition and expenses up to $7,500 per year. Suhani Jalota ’16, founder of Myna Mahila Foundation, was named one of Glamour magazine’s 2016 College Women of the Year and awarded $20,000 for her women’s health work in Mumbai.

Farewell to three in Duke's family

Known for his grace and charm as much as his scholarship, longtime history professor Robert F. Durden made the American South, and the Duke family specifically, the cornerstone of his life’s work.

A Navy ensign in the Pacific during World War II, Durden received a Ph.D. from Princeton, and then drove to Durham in 1952, while on his honeymoon, to begin his teaching career in Duke’s history department. For the next forty-nine years, he wrote numerous books, including The Launching of Duke University, 1924-1949 (Duke University Press), and taught courses in nineteenth-century U.S. history and Southern history.

His best-known book, The Dukes of Durham (Duke University Press), chronicles the life and times of Washington Duke and his sons Benjamin and James. He died on March 4 at age ninety.

Tom Butters, the former Duke vice president and director of athletics, will forever be linked to his most famous hire, Coach K, in 1980.

Butters stuck with his young coach through two seventeen-loss seasons, and the rest, as they say, is NCAA history. During his thirty years at Duke, Butters recruited top talent and oversaw a historic expansion of the department, including the addition of women’s programs in soccer, track and field, and lacrosse. He also launched the Iron Dukes organization and created the Duke Athletics Hall of Fame, located in a building named in his honor, the Schwartz-Butters Center.

The former major-league pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates arrived at Duke in 1967 as director of special events. He coached the Devils baseball team and became athletics director in 1977; he remained in that position for two decades. Butters died on March 31 at age seventy-seven.

There was once a swampy, ancient jungle southwest of Cairo where a desert now spreads in all directions. For more than forty years, James B. Duke Professor Elwyn Simons and his research partner led expeditions to the sand-swept area and uncovered fossil remains of thousands of extinct animals, including the skulls of a 30 million-year-old ancestor of humans, monkeys, and apes.

Simons’ influence is unmatched in the field of modern primate paleontology. He led more than ninety field expeditions—from Wyoming to Madagascar—and wrote or coauthored more than 300 books and research articles. He gathered epic adventures as rich as his fossil finds. Those students and colleagues who traveled with him recall his quick wit, indefatigable spirit—he rarely slept, they say—and his signature hat, a Greek fisherman’s cap.

In 1977, Simons joined the Duke faculty after seventeen years as a professor at Yale. The Duke Primate Center (now the Duke Lemur Center) was then only nine years old and on the brink of closing. Simons revived the project by getting permission from the government of Madagascar to bring wild lemurs to Duke to breed them, some with those already in captivity. The idea was to protect species against extinction and diversify the gene pool. He died on March 6 at age eighty-five.

Is my cat making me crazy?

After studies found that mice infected with a common feline parasite lost their fear of cats—thereby becoming easy prey—scientists wondered whether humans infected with the same pet parasite also might suffer mental consequences. Duke researchers say the facts are clear: While the T. gondii parasite can cause serious birth defects in pregnant women, and flu-like symptoms in those with weakened immune systems, there is no evidence that infection correlates with any psychiatric disorder or personality aberration—other than being a cat owner, of course.

Reason to hope, or cause for alarm?

Researchers at Duke have brought the hotly debated gene-editing technique, CRISPR, one step closer to treating a devastating human disease. In a study published in the journal Science, a team led by Charles Gersbach, associate professor of biomedical engineering, used the method on mice with a genetic mutation that causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common inherited genetic disease in humans.

In essence, the therapy removed the damaged part of the gene and spliced it back together, and the mice began to grow stronger. “We had this general idea seven years ago when I started my lab at Duke,” says Gersbach. “It was a long process of working through the kinks and getting the right delivery vehicle to make it work.”

Scientists first reported that CRISPR—shorthand for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats—can be programmed to target human DNA sequences, including mutations associated with disease, in 2013. Gersbach has used the technique to correct individual cells cultured from people with Duchenne. And other labs have tinkered with defects in single-celled mouse embryos. The enormous leap that Gersbach made this time, though, was getting that therapy to work in an adult mammal.

“The last thing I want to do is overstate the results. We’re still far away from a cure,” he says. “But to know that this is even possible—to actually correct genes, not just add an extra copy—in living animals is a game changer.”

There’s no effective treatment for Duchenne, a muscle-wasting disorder that usually leaves its male victims in a wheelchair before puberty. The gene defect that causes the disease inhibits the production of a muscle protein called dystrophin. After the therapy, Gersbach’s CRISPR-treated mice were able to produced the protein. In fact, the team was surprised to discover that with relatively low rates of gene editing they could improve muscle function.

That means, even if Gersbach’s CRISPR therapy falls short of a cure, he says it could prove to be an effective treatment for “a patient population that has no other option right now.” With such promising applications, it’s no wonder that in 2015 CRISPR was heralded as “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science.

While the potential to ease human suffering is great, so are the opportunities for abuse. There’s growing concern that the technique could be used to change inherited characteristics in human embryos.

Unlike gene manipulation used to alleviate specific disease symptoms—as in Gersbach’s research— CRISPR performed on sperm cells or embryos would change the genome in a way that can be passed down to the next generation. That’s why scientists from England, China, and the U.S. agreed to a voluntary moratorium on its use in human embryos, unless special permission is granted.

All the attention has added to the general public’s uncertainty about which uses are ethical. Gersbach says it’s important to note that “using CRISPR to correct genetic mutations in the affected tissues of sick patients is widely accepted.” And his research does not involve human embryos. “We’re modifying muscle cells,” he says, “in the hope that eventually we can improve the quality of life of these patients.”

To sleep, perchance to dream...of better dorms

Central Campus, which many have joked is neither central nor a campus, will phase out its housing facilities in the next five to seven years. “It’s time to retire those buildings,” says Dean for Residential Life Joe Gonzalez of the 1970s-era modular apartments and other buildings that currently house some 1,000 students. “We faced a choice: to put resources into rehabilitating those buildings or to look toward the option of creating new housing designed for the sense of connection we strive for.”

This spring 155 students living in twenty-two of the smaller buildings on Central Campus were told they would be moved to a different location on Central at the end of the term. There are no plans for demolition this summer, Gonzalez says, and discussions about how Central Campus will be used in the future are ongoing.

Meanwhile, East and West campuses will see much needed housing upgrades and new construction. Groundbreaking will start this summer on a new East Campus residence hall, the first step in the multi-year construction plan. The new 250-bed hall will be built next to Bell Tower residence hall and is expected to house students in January 2018. University officials say the price tag for the extensive housing overhaul could exceed $250 million. Most new housing units on West Campus will feature single bedrooms in four-person, two-bathroom clusters.

Proposed projects include: EAST CAMPUS: repurpose East, Jarvis, and Epworth after the new residence hall is completed. WEST CAMPUS: new 350-bed residence hall near Keohane Quad/Edens Quad; renovations for Craven and Crowell Quads. CENTRAL CAMPUS: replace the area’s 1,000 beds, including the 1970s garden-style apartments, with new facilities elsewhere on campus.

Dish: Top chef

Since arriving on campus this past winter as the new executive chef of Duke dining, Canadian chef Jody McLeod has been holed up in the Devil’s Den on Central Campus testing and perfecting some 800 recipes. The fifth-generation chef, who has cooked for Prince William of Cambridge, Saudi royalty, and countless well-heeled vacationers the world over, says he plans to turn East Campus meals into teachable (and tasty) moments.

“I’m trying to build a dining experience that transcends the cafeteria,” says the classically trained chef. His menus will include updated favorites and comfort foods from around the world. By introducing more international flavors and fresh, local ingredients, McLeod plans to run his kitchens, which also include university catering and the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, “like a cruise ship, in a way.”

Not an idle boast from the former executive chef of the Holland America Line, who has sharpened his knives in ninety- eight countries and 378 cities.

Cooks stationed in the dining areas will prepare made-toorder dishes such as wood-fired pizzas. The Marketplace will be a tour of ports: Indian, Greek, Indonesian islands, to name a few. Italian offerings will be trattoria staples—osso bucco, mahi-mahi caponata, braised artichokes— instead of red-sauce fare. The morning menu may feature congee, a savory rice porridge that diners can dress up with condiments such as smoked cheddar, frizzled garlic, house-made kimchi, or a new McLeod favorite, Turkish pickles (cucumbers steeped in sumac).

Southern cuisine also will get the chef’s global spin. A warning to traditionalists: There are dried limes and preserved lemon in the cheese sauce. “It helps replicate the taste of the funny processed stuff,” only healthier, McLeod says. It’s all part of his mission to shake up expectations, reduce sugar and additives, and broaden palettes—including his own.

He’s developed a love affair with North Carolina sorghum, “even though it goes against all I stand for,” he says, and Carolina Gold rice. “I’ve been spending a decent amount of time stalking the merchants at the farmer’s markets, too.”

This bodes well for the chef ’s remaining cultural hurdle: As executive chef of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, McLeod is no stranger to enthusiastic sports fans, but, he says, “I know nothing about basketball, typical Canadian. I only know hockey.”


Prime Minister of Estonia Taavi Roivas, the youngest government leader in the European Union, spoke at the Sanford School of Public Policy about the importance of advanced technology for good governance. “Our strategy is to make interacting with the government as easy and hassle-free as possible,” said Roivas, whose small Baltic country boasts nearly 100 percent wireless Internet coverage. Estonia’s “e-government” program allows citizens to file official paperwork, sign documents, and vote online. Many of the digital services are open to businesses and citizens of other countries, too.

At another campus event, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S., Lukman Faily, discussed the difficulties of building a democracy in the region, among other topics. “Unfortunately, none of our American friends told us how hard it is to be democratic,” he told the crowd of students and faculty. “We have had to learn the hard way.” Another notable diplomat, William J. Burns, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and Jordan, spoke about American leadership in a changing international landscape. “Whether you agree with him or not, I think Putin…is absolutely convinced that he is the last thing standing between order and chaos in Russia,” said Burns, who is currently president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Karl Eikenberry, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, added a third diplomatic perspective, saying a small American military presence is still needed in Afghanistan. In a public conversation with political science professor Peter Feaver, Eikenberry said a reduced U.S. force is necessary to continue counterterrorism efforts and to build army and police forces on the ground.

Duke parent Cokie Roberts, the award-winning journalist for NPR and ABC News and author most recently of Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848- 1868, talked about her book at an event in the Gothic Reading Room. She conducted some of her research at the Rubenstein Library, which houses the papers of two of the six women she profiled.

How common is it for physicians to experience burnout?

U.S. doctors are twice as likely to report symptoms of burnout as the average U.S. worker. And the problem seems to be on the rise: A recent Mayo Clinic study found that the percentage of U.S. doctors experiencing at least one symptom of burnout increased from 46 percent to 54 percent in three years. In an editorial, Duke professor of psychology and behavioral economics Dan Ariely Ph.D. ’98 and his coauthor point to doctors’ loss of autonomy and mental exhaustion as key factors. Doctors also must cope with the profession’s “asymmetrical rewards,” as success often goes unacknowledged while mistakes are highly penalized. Takeaway: To help a doctor, thank a doctor.

Forever uke

A new generation has fallen for the plucky uke. The revival was in full swing by the time the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain played Page Auditorium’s final show before it closed for renovations. Now, the instrument, whose Hawaiian name aptly translates to “jumping flea,” is making regular appearances on and around campus with Duke Uke.

“It’s portable, it’s fun, it’s got a cheerful upbeat tone,” says sophomore Cassidy Seggern, who joined musical forces this fall with senior Georgia Park to perform pop-up concerts around campus and at special events. “Even sad songs sound great, and you can bring a uke anywhere.”

Duke Uke, part of the “Artstigator” public art movement that facilitates creative and quirky endeavors at Duke, has played parties at the Allen Building and for Trinity College’s board of visitors. Its first big gig was at the Washington Duke Inn over Parents Weekend. Following president Richard H. Brodhead’s remarks, the duo launched into Taylor Swift’s hit “Shake It Off.”

“We take a song that is really highly produced and strip it down to uke,” says Seggern, whose acoustic electric ukulele is named Yoshimi in homage to The Flaming Lips. “We just want more students to jam out and relax.”

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