The new campaign video featuring Mason Plumlee.

Hi! I’m a senior from Seattle, Washington, majoring in math with minors in English and philosophy. Inside the classroom, I’ve spent my time exploring Duke’s liberal-arts curriculum by fulfilling minor requirements and completing graduate coursework in five departments, doing neuroscience research at Duke Hospital, working as a lab TA for organic chemistry, becoming fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and writing two theses in math and English.

Outside of the classroom, I’ve served on Duke’s Board of Trustees for two years, been a member of the DSG executive board for two years, and have started or served on over 15 strategic university committees. I’ve also been a member of the FAC Board, a line monitor, and have played club soccer and intramural basketball.

Here are some fun facts about me:


  • Speaks four languages fluently
  • Can whistle through his teeth
  • Shadows a neuro-oncologist at Duke Hospital
  • Started a nonprofit organization devoted to lowering barriers to higher education for Chinese students
  • Has done research in two departments and at Duke Hospital
  • Eats Chipotle at least once a week
  • Grades practice SAT essays as a part-time job

That’s all! I look forward to meeting you in person soon.

I like to think of the role of the Young Trustee in two ways: in a formal sense and in a practical sense. Formally, the Young Trustee is a member of the Board of Trustees, Duke’s governing body which is “responsible for the educational mission and fiscal policies of the University.” In this context, the Young Trustee bears this commitment of ensuring that the decisions of those leading the institution—including his or her own—reflect the core values of Duke University.

Practically, the Young Trustee is a recent college student who, not too long ago, lived in a dorm room the size of a luxurious walk-in closet. This person sits in a board room, hears the most intimate pulse of the university, and provides keen insights while seated around a table with some of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in their respective spheres. It goes without saying that the Young Trustee isn’t expected to know more about business than the president of a company, more about finance than the head of an investment bank, or more about how to run a university than the president of a college. Instead, the Young Trustee listens carefully and offers insights when the conversation meets his or her area of expertise: the live, current Duke, the Duke whose future is at stake, the Duke that is being decided.

Of course, these formal and practical perspectives are really two ways of understanding the same role. To me, their intersection provides the most comprehensive view of the position: the Young Trustee is one who, like any other board member, upholds the governing pillars of Duke University to serve the University and its constituencies. He or she does this by providing the unique insights of someone young with fresh perspective—someone who doesn’t need to delve too far into the past to re-live and re-feel the Duke of today.

Throughout my time at Duke, I’ve strived to make each corner I’ve seen and lived a better place. I hope this page gives you an idea of how I’ve done this.


I have served on the following committees:

  • Academic Affairs Committee on THe Board of Trustees, chaired by Alan Schwartz (2010 - present)
  • Course Evaluations Committee, chaired by Dean Steve Nowicki (2011 - present)
  • Undergraduate Experience Strategic Planning Committee (UESPC), chaired by Dean Steve Nowicki (2009 - 2010)
  • Academic Integrity Council, chaired by Dr. Noah Pickus (2010 - present)
  • Quantitative Studies Review Committee, chaired by Professor Jack Bookman (2010 - 2011)
  • Student Experience Working Group, chaired by Dean Steve Nowicki (2011 - present)
  • PAC (highest administrative committee for West Union project), chaired by President Brodhead (2011 - present)
  • PCWG (West Union Program Confirmation Working Group) (2011)
  • A&S Council, chaired by Professor Ruth Day (2011 - present)
  • House Model Working Group, chaired by Joe Gonzalez (2011)

I have started the following committees:

  • Three committees centered around student-faculty interaction: Intellectual Climate (2010 - present), The Curriculum (2010 - 2011), and The Arts at Duke (2010 - 2011)
  • Committee for Student-Faculty Interaction, started with Dean Nowicki (2012)
  • Modeling the House Model Committee, started with Gautam Joseph and Dean Steve Nowicki (2012)
  • Committee for Teaching Innovation, started with Keith Whitfield (2012)


When I want to think deeply and critically about a certain issue, I feel compelled to write about it. Here are some documents that I’ve written while pondering how to make Duke a better place.


Here are some articles from The Chronicle that feature me.

On this page, I briefly introduce three issues that I believe will be of extreme importance to the Board throughout the next several years. Along the way, I also hope to show you a bit about how I think through the issuesand, relatedly, how I would think and operate as a member of the Board. 

(Notethis page contains a very condensed version of my take on the main issues the Board will be facing. Click here if you’d like to read a more thorough document.)


In accordance with the current strategic plan’s support of global expansion, Duke has opted to engage in a partnership with Wuhan University to create Duke Kunshan University (DKU). The project is expensive and already well underway, but significant risks still remain, including worries about academic freedom, dilution of the Duke brand, and, although unlikely, loss of the partnership. These are all concerns that the Board must continue keeping in mind as piecewise progress is made on the project.

 Throughout this phase of progress, it is easy to start thinking about the university’s financial motives—that we’re hoping to expand the Duke brand, to bring in more money, et cetera. But the truth about this venture is that Duke has no other motive than an educational one: as President Brodhead puts it, we are hoping to “build a platform of education where we can learn from a part of the world that is important in every field we are involved with.” In this light, the University will be able to continue pursuing its educational goals—especially with respect to global health, environmental issues, and business—while teaching and learning in a place far away from Durham.

On that note, a particularly crucial issue remains: how do we balance the global and local Duke? This question can be further broken down into two subquestions: (1) how do we prioritize the two campuses, fiscally in particular, and (2) how does what we are doing abroad feed back into what we are doing here in Durham? I believe that these two questions will be of extreme importance in the coming years. If this global project is successful, then it will be great for Duke only if we have not left behind the Durham campus and have remained committed to the local Duke.



Duke is currently amidst or planning a wealth of very expensive projects including DKU, the West Union renovations, Baldwin, Perkins, physics, and New Campus. Some of these projects were planned at a time when Duke was more secure and confident financially. Presently, however, the University’s investment portfolio is still down more than \$1B; Rick Wagoner, the chair of the Board, noted that “the University will be stretched thin during construction.” 

Of course, these are only construction projects. There are a plethora of other priorities that Duke has, including serving the Durham community, managing its interdisciplinary and international priorities, and providing health care through Duke Hospital. Given the number of projects and the many priorities, it will be crucial that the Board operates carefully.

Given all this, prioritization—judging which projects are more important than others—becomes the task of the Board. Whereas members of the Board will be almost chiefly concerned with pursuing those projects that best align with the University’s strategic goals, the job of the Young Trustee is to push for the Board to prioritize those projects that will mostly significantly improve undergraduate life. This binary perspective is how I would see my role on the Board.


Higher education is trending to the more interdisciplinary: in other words, the gaps between what one traditionally calls “disciplines” are becoming more and more important. There is more collaboration between people from different disciplines, and research is becoming more problem-based—-in the sense that we begin with a problem of interest, then approach that problem through different lenses or disciplines rather than the other way around—-than ever before. This trend alone requires universities to adapt many systems that are already functional and in place; a simple example would be Appointments, Promotions and Tenure (APT) committees, which traditionally favor disciplinarians over interdiscplinarians for promotions. Although Duke has already started to have these sorts of structures make the transition, there surely remain other areas that can and should improve.

Duke is currently a leader with regards to interdisciplinary and has already followed the trend by, for example, strongly supporting the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, the Social Science Research Institute, and, at the undergraduate level, certificate programs and Duke Immerse. However, seeking to adapt in a way that is too hasty and extreme can incur risk. Thus, the Board will need to ensure that Duke follows a carefully articulated plan that continues to make the transition at the right pace.

I would say that three main qualities distinguish me as the best candidate for Young Trustee.

1.  EXPERIENCE. With two years of experience on the Board of Trustees, two years serving on the highest level of DSG as VP for Academic Affairs, experience serving on over fifteen strategic university committees, and a summer spent working for Steve Nowicki, I have the most experience on the Board and the most experience advocating for students of all candidates. 

2.  BREADTH. Within the classroom, I have explored Duke’s liberal arts curriculum while taking graduate courses in five departments, becoming fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and writing theses in math and English. Outside of the classroom, I am a line monitor and Cameron Crazie, a member of the FAC Board, a research assistant, lab TA, and volunteer at Duke Hospital.

3.  A DESIRE TO SERVE. I would say that my warmest Duke memories are also the simplest. A late night of soccer on the Central turf; a tough first half followed by a comeback win in Cameron against UNC; welcoming first years and carrying their things up the cramped Giles stairs. Through reflecting on these memories and learning about those of the people I’ve met along the way, I have developed a desire to render each corner of Duke a better place.

In sum, I would say that I’ve built my love for Duke from the ground up—through thinking of ways to help first years adjust to life at Duke, through sleeping in K-Ville, through living and breathing as an everyday Duke student. But I’ve also had the opportunity to see my everyday experiences from a strategic standpoint, to understand how students, faculty, administrators, and Board members think through the complex network of community that is Duke. Along the way, I believe that I’ve formed values that are now compelling me to give back. I love Duke, I understand Duke, I have experience serving on the Board, and I want to use these qualities to make Duke a better place.

I would really appreciate it if you would join the campaign by joining our Facebook group: Change your profile picture, spread the word, and get ready to vote on February 10th!

Here is a link to my full application for the position, which was submitted to and evaluated by the Young Trustee Nominating Committee.


Danesh clearly distinguishes himself from his two competitors. His effectiveness and enthusiasm as a student leader, passion for the undergraduate experience and deep understanding of the role of the Young Trustee make him a uniquely qualified candidate.


“…we believe that Mr. Danesh’s unique experiences and myriad forms of engagement with undergraduate life at Duke make him an ideal and well-rounded candidate for the position of Young Trustee.”


“We were especially impressed by his knowledge of the particular challenges that Pratt students undergo. This distinguished him among the candidates as one who has our personal confidence as engineers.”


In his extensive history as a student leader, which includes serving on several formative committees and working closely with students and administrators alike, Kaveh embodies the CRR’s core beliefs by using each individual’s unique Duke experience to mold his vision for a better Duke.” 


“Out of the three candidates, however, Kaveh Danesh stood out for his balanced approach to the challenges facing the University. His position on 15 key campus committees and two years of Board of Trustee experience has clearly guided a mature vision of key issues, ranging from implementation of the upcoming West Union renovation to the delicate balance between international expansions and maintaining domestic excellence. 



Kaveh’s creativity and enthusiasm is what drew our members to him, and we were further impressed by his wide range of experiences on campus.”


(Chronicle article coming soon!)

Here’s an example of a project I’ve been working to bring students. It’s called a “virtual course synopsis”—a short, microcosmic video of a professor telling students how, as a result of taking his/her course, students will see the everyday world in a fundamentally different way. Professor Noor, who teaches Biology 102, was nice enough to post his on ACES this semester.