Student U Start-Up Advisory Committee – Early Partnership Highlight

To see the potential of our future, we first need to understand our context and honor our history. As we continue to celebrate our 10 Year Anniversary, this month we will be highlighting some of our early partnerships.

In 2005, a group of fourteen community leaders convened at the home of Tony and Teddie Brown. School Board members, representatives from University of North Carolina, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University, and Durham Academy administrators sat at a table and dreamt of a new way to empower Durham Public School students to own their education. Mary Williams, Amanda Dorsey, and Dan Kimberg, three college students, shared their commitment to working with the community to build a sustainable and impactful organization. Guided by what they learned from Tony Brown’s Social Entrepreneurship class and their work in education both locally and abroad, the three students facilitated a conversation about dreams, brilliance, and the spread of joy. Under the leadership of this fourteen-person Start-Up Advisory Committee, a program began to form. With core values as its foundation and a crazy dream as its objective, Student U was created by Durham and for Durham.

Members of the Start-Up Advisory Committee:

  • Beth Anderson
  • Lynn Blanchard
  • Tony Brown
  • Heidi Carter
  • Anthony L. Clay
  • Chena Flood
  • Leslie Holdsworth
  • Bela Kussin
  • David Malone
  • Eric Mlyn
  • Omega Curtis Parker
  • Jan Riggsbee
  • Steve Schewel
  • Michael Ulku-Steiner

This passionate group of individuals committed countless hours to the development of Student U. Without receiving compensation or any official recognition, the committee did whatever was needed to ensure the successful creation of Student U. Major accomplishments include:

  • Listening to the community and deciding that rather than be a part of an already established national network, Student U would instead become its own organization.
  • Solidifying Durham Academy as Student U’s fiscal agent and host.
  • Creating the original curriculum, system for recruitment and acceptance of students, and teacher training model.
  • Agreeing to raise a full year of funding prior to advertising the organization to potential students or teachers. 

Five members of the original Start-Up Advisory Committee went on to serve on the Student U Board of Directors, including Bela Kussin. Bela successfully led Student U through the transition of becoming its own 501(c)(3) and then served as the chair of the Board of Directors for three years. Most members of the original committee are still connected to the organization in meaningful ways today. All are continuing to spread the energy and limitless imagination that first defined Student U in their respective communities.



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