Bringing the Duke Community Together through Social Media Visibility

 December 6, 2023

Would you like to connect with other trainees with similar interests? Would you like to initiate or participate in a fun, interesting and educational activity happening on campus right now? You’re not alone. Feedback from over 70 stakeholders familiar with trainee life at Duke revealed that graduate students and postdocs felt they lacked community and were seeking ways to engage. While many trainees felt that social events were limited for them on campus, numerous opportunities were actually available through Duke Groups.  

As members of the Emerging Leaders Institute team, we aimed to create an empowering, stimulating and fun safe space to celebrate campus groups’ work and ideas, promote projects and organizations, and share valuable information and resources. Through this Instagram account, we aim to connect the trainees with each other and with fun, educational and meaningful resources and events.

Marketing Plan to Improve Trainee Engagement on Duke Groups

Although all trainees have access to Duke Groups, most clubs and organizations only post the basic required information there. We believe that showcasing events on the Duke Groups Instagram account, with links to the respective club or organization's Duke Groups website, is the most effective way to engage trainees. With an increasing number of students and organizations active on their individual Instagram pages, leveraging this platform will not only make the information more accessible but also encourage clubs and organizations to post more engaging content on Duke Groups.

This strategy will encourage clubs and organizations to post more content on Duke Groups, thereby providing students with greater opportunities to explore and discover events that interest them.

Screenshot from Social Media VIdeo

To test our approach, our team partnered with various Duke clubs and organizations. We actively participated in their events, capturing photos and videos. Using this content, we created engaging 10-20-second Instagram reels aimed at improving online interaction with the posts. We expected this method to significantly boost the visibility of events and organizations among trainees.

Another key insight from our stakeholder interviews indicated that grad students and postdocs are often unfamiliar with how to use Duke Groups. To remedy this issue, we created a how-to video as part of our overall marketing plan for campus organizations.

Duke Groups Redesign Suggestions

We used UX design methodology to recommend changes to Duke Groups that would increase trainee engagement.  For example, currently, posts on Duke Groups do not specify if trainees are eligible to participate in events; requiring event posters to state who’s eligible to participate would remove confusion for graduate students and postdocs.

In addition, Duke Groups currently utilizes a tag system to help trainees narrow their search for events (e.g., #Dance, #Art, #Cultural, #Seminar, #Professional, #Tutorial). However, the open-ended nature of tag creation has led to the haphazard use of tags. To enhance organization and user experience, we propose implementing a standardized list of diverse tags that clubs and organizations can choose from when categorizing their content on Duke Groups. To ensure inclusivity and flexibility, organizations can still request the addition of new tags through a simple form submission. This approach strikes a balance between providing a structured tagging system and allowing customization.

Lastly, we recommend that a customized website should be made for Duke Groups. The current website is on a platform that is used by many other universities, so any suggestions for changes to the website need to also be made for other institutions. This platform leads to slow changes to the website and an inorganic user experience for Duke trainees. Building a new, in-house website to showcase events would give the team creative freedom to implement design and functional choices to improve the user experience.

Impact on Trainees

Graduate and postdoctoral training encompasses numerous challenges. While there are already many great events that could help trainees enhance their wellbeing by building community, the limited visibility of these events to these audiences is limiting their potential impact.  Investing in trainee life will result in a close community, which could increase productivity and attract the best talent to Duke to be part of an increasingly inclusive and vibrant trainee community.


J. Spencer Hauck, Ph.D.
J. Spencer Hauck, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral associate, Pathology

J. Spencer Hauck, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral associate in the Duke Pathology Department. Spencer received his Ph.D. in molecular biology by studying muscle disease at The Ohio State University. He currently investigates metabolism in prostate cancer with the goal of identifying novel enzymes to target that are increased in cancer. His work aims to change the treatment of prostate cancer. Spencer has contributed to thirteen research publications, and he has been awarded four fellowships including an Early Investigator Award through the Department of Defense. Spencer plans to pursue a career in industry or project management after his time at Duke.

Anahad Kaur
Anahad Kaur, M.A.

Recent M.A. graduate, Liberal Studies

Anahad Kaur is a brand marketing strategist who recently graduated from the interdisciplinary Graduate Liberal Studies program. She studied marketing and psychology, and her research focused on understanding Trans Para Social relationships and their impact on consumer behavior. She has previously worked as an Entrepreneur Development Associate for StartUp JGU as part of the student advisory team. She was also enrolled in the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate program and hopes to use both the certificate program and ELI to sharpen her skills so that she can pursue her goal of starting her own venture.

Pooja Singh headshot
Pooja Singh, M.S.

Recent M.S. graduate, Global Health

Pooja Singh is a global health researcher and creative chief officer who recently completed her Master of Science in Global Health. A visual artist at heart, Pooja is driven by a deep passion for data-driven storytelling. Her research centers on sexual and reproductive health among adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries and the health effects of environmental changes in rural mountainous regions. She has also explored the technology adoption challenges faced by female community health volunteers in Nepal, collaborating with local organizations through Bass Connection. Currently, she is continuing her work in digital health and implementation science at Duke and Yale.