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Sunday May 16th

Duke graduate named new executive director for Robertson Scholars program

<p>The Duke University Chapel on Duke’s West Campus, as photographed in 2017, serves as a symbol of the university.</p>
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The Duke University Chapel on Duke’s West Campus, as photographed in 2017, serves as a symbol of the university.

Andrew Lakis, a Duke graduate who serves as the executive director of Teach for America for Eastern North Carolina, was named the executive director of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program.

The national search for the new executive director took about six months, Eric Mlyn, a lecturer at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, said. Mlyn, the founding director of the Robertson program, served as chairperson for the search. 

He said the search committee included the director of admissions at both Duke and UNC, members of the Robertson family, other representatives of the University and some alumni of the program.

“Sometimes when you do a national search, it turns out that the best person for the position is right around the corner,” Mlyn said.

He said Lakis has demonstrated talent as a leader through his previous roles and experiences.  

“He's also deeply committed to work for the common good in his work for Teach for America,” Mlyn said. “The Robertson program wants young people who are committed to the common good. And then finally, as a Duke graduate and former merit scholarship recipient — the Trinity Scholarship — he understands the potential impact of a scholarship.”

Founded in 2000, the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is an undergraduate merit scholarship program, sponsored by the Robertson family, to promote the development of young leaders and encourage collaboration between Duke and UNC. 

It provides eight semesters of full tuition, room and board, and most mandatory fees for scholars at Duke and UNC. 

Students are eligible to apply for the program while in high school. Those who are currently in their first year of study at Duke or UNC — who are not transfer students — are also invited to apply.

Kay-Frances Brody, the director of recruitment and selection for the program, said the addition of first-years to the application cycle began nine years ago. 

“Because we are interested in finding the best young leaders who have what we consider the capability to make transformational contributions to society, we think there are a lot of students who may not have reached their potential by the time they are a high school senior,” Brody said.

Lakis will assume his new role on March 1, taking over from the interim executive director, Bill Goodell.

“As a North Carolinian and a Duke alumnus, to be able to work with both campus and communities, and the Robertson Scholars and alumni, to grow their leadership and grow their impact in the world just is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” Lakis said.

Lakis joined Teach For America as a teacher in a public school in Washington, D.C., after he graduated from Duke in 2004. He has worked for Teach For America for Eastern North Carolina for over a decade now, including over five years of experience as the executive director.

He said he sees a lot of parallels between Teach For America and the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program because both programs are trying to find, support and develop leadership that has a transformational impact with students and communities.

As he transitions into his role, Lakis said his first goal is to establish relationships with scholars, alumni, staff and leaders across the campus. 

“I want to know what would have made this program so special, what is working, and also think about how we build off that and strengthen our program and the impact of our leaders for the future,” he said.

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