Student Profile: The Life of the Party | Teachers College Columbia University

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Student Profile: The Life of the Party

Shanell Duck makes sure that student happenings happen
Last year, on the day TC's Chinese Student Association was planning to hold its annual concert in Milbank Chapel, a major snowstorm hit New York City. The College shut down, and with Milbank booked for the foreseeable future, it seemed unlikely the event would be rescheduled. 

Enter Pittsburgh native Shanell Duck, the Student Organization Graduate Assistant. 

"I deal with people who often have different outlooks on situations, as well as different needs," says Duck, who brings a calm demeanor and a background in organizational psychology (she's a second-year student in TC's Master's program) to the task of allocating rooms, money, media equipment and food for more than 40 TC student organizations. 

"Shanell helps to create an environment that is conducive to co-curricular learning," says Andy Auguste, Assistant Director of Student Activities and Programs. "The resources she helps provide for student organizations equip them with the necessary tools to enhance the student experience at Teachers College." 

Perhaps the greatest challenge Duck faces is squaring the often ambitious goals of student groups with the College's real-world budgets. She points with pride to the Association of Latin American Students' (ALAS) spring conference, conducted this past year "on a shoestring"; the Coalition of Latino/a Scholars' (CLS) annual sit-down dinner, held in Grace Dodge Hall's Private Dining Room last September; and--her crowning achievement--the annual Black Student Network's gala, attended this past year by more than 150 people.

Duck's affinity for working with students dates back to her days as a "Pathfinder" at the University of Pittsburgh, where she completed a dual undergraduate major in business and psychology. She led campus tours and participated in recruiting and event planning-'"experiences that have stood her in good stead in her current role at TC. "It taught me what student activities are all about," she says.

Duck later studied in Capetown, South Africa, "an eye-opening experience" that she credits with kindling her desire to pursue a career promoting diversity in business. She was drawn to TC by the work of Derald Wing Sue, who has done pioneering research on microaggressions in institutional settings; Terrence Maltbia, an authority on leveraging diversity as a strategic asset for corporations; and Lee Knelfelkamp, who has written about the multi-cultural self in organizations. 

Duck hopes to remain in New York after she finishes at TC. Meanwhile, she continues to find ways to make campus activities run smoothly. For the Chinese Student Association last winter, that meant a rescheduled concert after all.

"It was in a community church three blocks from campus, not in Milbank," Duck says, "but, hey--the show must go on." 

Published Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2010