Notes from my trip to Durham, NC

This past weekend I attended the National Association for Graduate-Professional Students annual conference hosted by Duke University. NAGPS is an advocacy group for all graduate and professional students in the US, and member universities send representatives from their graduate student organizations to the conference to learn best practices for campus leadership, ranging from lobbying university administrations for more pay, better housing, and better insurance to comparing notes on funding and leadership styles. It’s a cool conference because you get to meet people from a variety of departments at different universities—and we’re all student leaders, so there’s less pressure than at disciplinary conferences.

We’ll be posting our presentation on the Rice GSA website soon, and I’ll update with a link once we get it online.

One thing I’ve learned from going to conferences is that you can never hope to attend everything, so don’t worry about trying. I usually try to attend 75% of conference events, and take off enough time to get to know the host city. Most of the time conferences are held in locations that I would never visit otherwise, so I try to make the most of the long weekend as possible.

Since I had never been to Duke, I made sure to spend Friday afternoon wandering about. Duke is a beautiful campus. There are many wooded, hilly parts and it’s easy to get lost. And the temperature was comfortable, slightly chilly to mild. Like a good English grad student, my feet led me to the library and Rare Books Room, an archival wonder with an austere staircase and tapestries from at least the 16th century lining the walls.

But the best prize was the Gothic Bookstore. Located in the Bryan student center, the Gothic Bookstore is one of, if not the, best university bookstores I have found. My geek heart skipped a beat when I stepped inside—they hit all of the right notes:

  • There was a section for Duke University Press. Duke UP is the leading press on social issues, and their publications on Women, Gender, and Sexuality are at the forefront of academic research and commentary. The best part? They’re affordable—between $20 and $30 a title—so any grad student or professor can purchase them without busting their book budget for the year.
  • There was a section for publications by the Duke University community. Duke’s English department has several rockstars, and their most recent publications were collected in one place. Talk about supporting your faculty!
  • They offered an everyday discount of 20% off hardcovers and 10% off paperbacks. AND they had a killer sale selection.
I’m not sure if the Gothic bookstore is subsidized by the university, but it is clear that Duke supports its press and its faculty. What a great message to send—it signals that they respect the research and academic work of their community, and are willing to make it affordable to visitors. 
And they had a volume of the Cornell Wordsworth on sale for $20. Who could ask for anything more?

3 thoughts on “Notes from my trip to Durham, NC

  1. Neurotic Workaholic says:

    I wish I could have gone to that conference, because I'd definitely like to know more about how to talk to school administrators about stuff like housing and more pay. Grad students definitely need more affordable on-campus housing and we have definitely earned the right to more money, considering how hard we all have to work.

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