Boarding the train to her futureWalk through campus, and by the end of the day you’ll likely have met Duanecia Evans. Elegant, driven, and highly organized, the 22-year-old is a ubiquitous force on campus. Among her accomplishments: Evans has served as president of more than a handful of organizations, including the SGA, launched programs to improve student life, volunteered in the city of Bridgeport, and worked in the University’s admissions, special events, and alumni relations offices.
But Evans, who will earn her bachelor’s of science in mass communications with a minor in psychology on May 5, admits there was a time when she didn’t feel like a leader. “I loved coming to UB, but it was a scary thing,” she says. “I’m a first-generation college student. Nobody in my home had ever been.”
So Evans, who grew up in Harlem with her single mother, little sister, and grandmother, had to figure out how to get into college on her own.
Nevertheless, the women in Evans’s life encouraged her dreams. The day Evans was scheduled to come to UB for her admissions interview, her grandmother accompanied her on the Metro-North train from 125th Street to Bridgeport. Her mother came along for registration after Evans was accepted to the University.
“My family was very supportive despite the fact they didn’t understand,” says Evans, who was placed in the First-Year Studies Program when she arrived. The program provides academic assistance to freshmen who may need guidance transitioning to college. But after posting a near-perfect 3.82 gpa in her first semester, Evans was told she was ready to leave the program.
She quickly found other things to do: she volunteered to tutor middle-school students through a program run in Bridgeport by the Children’s Defense Fund and became a residence adviser. Her affable people skills served her well, too, when she greeted visitors and gave campus tours as an admissions office guide. Evans’s other work at various university departments put her in contact with alumni, donors, the board of Trustees, and other friends of UB.
She was also devoted to reviving Greek life on campus. “These are 104-year-old organizations, some are older, and many parents have been a part of them. They’ve waited for that moment when their child is ready to go to college and join them, too. Whether or not a university has Greek life can be a deciding factor if that child attends a school,” says Evans.
It was a persuasive argument, and in 2010, Evans was one of three charter members to bring Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority to campus. The sorority has already made an impact: it recently founded a campus chapter of the jobs and internship program called Inroads, and this summer five UB students will work in paying internships at Fortune 500 companies.
When Evans was elected vice president and president of the SGA in 2009 and 2010 respectively, few were surprised.
Yet Evans is quick to share her success with others. “UB was a very different environment for me when I got here: people were striving to be successful. It was scary,” she says. “But I learned not to be afraid to take a leap of faith. The people you depend on for mentors will be there to guide you whether you’re right or wrong. They’ll be there to help you clean up mistakes, and when you’re right, they’ll be your best cheerleaders.”