Start Smart

Dean Ashby's advice on maximizing your Duke experience

As more that 1,700 new undergraduates embarked on a new adventure at Duke University this August, leaders from across campus offered advice and encouragement to help students find their way.

Valerie S. Ashby, dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, has shaped the undergraduate experience, culture and curriculum since her arrival in 2015. Here is a sampling of the advice she offered while speaking to a group of Trinity parents and family members during Orientation Week:

  • Engage with faculty and staff. We can open doors and show you paths at Duke you can’t even imagine. Don’t assume we are too busy; you are our job. Try to get to know at least one faculty member really well each semester.
  • Venture outside of your anticipated path. Some of you have known you wanted to be a pediatric pulmonologist since you were 3-years-old. That’s great! But take a course from another field that you’re curious about. You name it, we have it – in humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. This is Duke. Get a broad, liberal arts education.
  • Accept that you can’t do it all. You would have to attend Duke approximately four times to take advantage of everything we offer. Some opportunities will be left on the table, and that’s OK. Whatever you choose to pursue will be valuable and worthwhile.
  • Leave room in your schedules for relationships. Getting to know people and stepping outside your comfort zone is an important part of your growth and development. If you don’t take the time to get to know someone different than yourself, you’ve missed the Duke experience.
  • Remember that you belong here. You were chosen by Duke and we choose students who are kind and curious. You are going to make a difference at Duke intellectually and in service to the world.

Read more advice to new Duke students from campus leaders in this coverage of Orientation Week addresses.