Author: Academic Guides

Duke Anti-Resume Project

Sarah Xu and Kami Pullakhandam are two rising seniors at Duke. They met freshman year in Alspaugh and have been friends ever since. They created the Duke Anti-Resume Project in Spring 2021.

3 years ago, back when we first met!

By the end of our first semester at Duke, we knew that there were flaws in Duke’s culture of effortless perfection. But we never thought we could do anything about it. If anything, we were both part of the system and perpetuating it: sacrificing our well-being for grades, feeling like our worth was dependent on whether or not we got an internship, letting go of valuable social time in exchange for grueling hours spent studying.

Inspired by the Anti-Resume Project at the University of Pennsylvania, we realized that there were ways to help people think differently about how they define success and value themselves. Through the Duke Anti-Resume Project, we aim to celebrate the successes that don’t end up on resumes and help people know they’re not alone when things don’t work out as planned. This past semester, we asked Duke students, faculty, and alumni to submit “Anti-Resumes” where they answered prompts about who they are outside of their resumes. Prompts included “Memories I made when I wasn’t studying or working”, “Everyday L’s”, and “Things I learned that will still matter in 10 years.”

A little snippet of Sarah’s Anti-Resume! Be sure to see the full version here.


We created a website to showcase the Anti-Resumes and spread the word about the project through our project Instagram and speaking to student groups. We published the Anti-Resumes on April 22nd and have had over 1,000 unique visitors to our website. It was especially rewarding to see messages thanking us for doing the project and to hear about students who reached out to those who submitted Anti-Resumes to thank them for sharing their  experiences.

The Anti-Resume Project is not only an initiative to change the conversation about struggles at Duke, but is also our personal commitment to valuing ourselves beyond our resumes. By creating this project, we are able to dedicate time in our days to the lesson of “you are more than just what you do.” The project helped us realize that sometimes going out with friends is more important than studying an extra few hours, that experiences are just as valuable as achievements.

A section of the gallery of Anti-Resumes on our website.

In the future, we hope to expand the initiative through countless other projects and publishing more Anti-Resumes from the Duke community. We want to thank the Academic Guides program and Professor George Grody for their support of the Anti-Resume Project, as well as all the people who submitted Anti-Resumes and contributed to our message. 

If you would like to submit an Anti-Resume, you can do so here.  If you’re interested in joining us, email us:

Looking Back, Looking forward  

A Conversation with Academic Guides Thomas Phillips and Katherine Jo

Thomas: Fall 2020 was certainly an interesting time to launch the Academic Guides program. Due to the pandemic, we had to be nimble because we couldn’t work in the residence halls as we had planned. As our goal was to meet students where they are, we thought that it really made sense to connect with students and hear from them instead of making assumptions about their needs. We conducted focus groups, sent out a survey, and just listened to them about their experiences at Duke in general and during COVID. Basically, this semester started as a listening tour.  

So, Katherine, what struck you about these conversations? 

Katherine: I was pleasantly surprised and appreciative of how open students were to talking about their experiences and the challenges they were facing, given that they’d never met us. I loved their candor and thoughtfulness about what was great about being a Duke student and what was tough about this place. 

Thomas: Absolutely. One of the first questions we asked was what they loved most about Duke; I expected many students to praise clichés like basketball or gothic architecture, but they all kept coming back to the people: the relationships with fellow students, staff, faculty… sadly, but not surprisingly, it was also the thing they were missing the most at Duke due to COVID. 

Katherine: Along those lines, one comment made by a student about Zoom has remained with me. He named something thats easily overlooked when thinking about what’s lost on Zoom. He said there’s no more of the chitchat with classmates that happens before and after class and that those informal interactions are essential for meeting and connecting with others. For me, this was helpful for planning our programs and events. It was important to create the space and opportunity for these informal interactions rather than creating a more formal and highly structured program. 

Thomas: That student was correct. I heard time and again about Zoom fatigue being real, which shattered some of my misconceptions that we’d easily realize our ideas virtually this semester.  We decided to redirect our efforts in order to offer opportunities for students to connect in real life, off their screens, but that maintained health and safety. We ended up doing a lot of events outdoors, for instance, wellness walks at Duke Gardens and This Semester’s Trash. There were study breaks and Meet & Greets. Students really responded; turnout was great (and so was the weather—we were really lucky!). It became clear that meeting students where they are physically is important to our role. 

Katherine: Talking to students directly turned out to be really fruitful because we wouldn’t have gained as concrete an understanding of what they experience and value in their daily lives. And understanding the various stressors at Duke and what students need is crucial to our work as Academic Guides.  

Thomas: When we asked them what they find most stressful about being a Duke student, the most frequent answers were the workload, pressure to do everything, and the competitive environment. All of these seemed to congeal in the frequent refrain of “effortless perfection.”   

Katherine: To me, the fact that effortless perfection was named as one of the main stressors by almost all the students we talked to confirmed and clarified the purpose of the Academic Guides in providing holistic academic support. We want students to be successful, academically and otherwise, but we are here to support them in developing and pursuing goals that are based on a healthy—and realistic—view of success and their own sense of meaning and purpose rather than on a fictitious and impossible ideal. 

Thomas: At the same time, one highlight for me was hearing some students talk about “effortless perfection” as something in the past, that some juniors and seniors recognize it as a myth and have been able to move forward on their own path. I think this underscores the need for individualization in advising as students aren’t all in the same place. 

Katherine: Right. Individualized and personalized. One comment I heard multiple times, including from staff, is that there’s an abundance of advising and support for students, but that this very abundance can be overwhelming. Students aren’t sure where to start or go. But with our location in the residence halls, they don’t have to go far to find us, and while we don’t do everything the other advisors do, students can start with us to figure out what steps to take next.   

Thomas: And on our survey, when we asked what would make them more likely to seek support services, the response that was selected the most was “if someone who offers those services personally reached out to me to meet or talk with them.” Not only is it nice to have someone personally reach out to you, but it simplifies the process. Again, being in the residence halls will make it easier to build those personal relationships with students. 

Katherine: So, Thomas, as you look ahead to the spring semester, what are you excited about?  

Thomas: Renewed promise! I don’t mean that as the cliché of winter’s end and the arrival of spring, but I really do believe that we can maintain the safe environment Duke managed during the fall semester so that this coming semester doesn’t end abruptly.  

Katherine: Yes, I agree. But even if we can’t return to campus soon, I’m excited about supporting students in new ways that create meaningful opportunities to connect with others and grow. We learned the impact of simple yet powerful “non-programs” that speak to our humanity on a basic level—breathing fresh air and being in nature, laughing together, playful interactions. 

Thomas: We were forced to be creative and resourceful, so maybe it’s not as hard as we thought. 2021, here we come! 

Find Your Way

Welcome to “Find Your Way,” the newly created blog curated by the Academic Guides. This space will feature bi-weekly posts about the many ways to find your way to, through, and after Duke. The posts will cover a variety of topics including learning strategies, the myth (or cultural norm) of “effortless perfection,” the intersections of academics and wellbeing, finding meaning and purpose, and so much more. We (the Academic Guides) will be sharing our own thoughts, experiences, and interesting findings and enlisting the various members of the Duke community – undergrads, grad students, faculty, staff, and alumni – to do the same.

We also hope to feature the programs and opportunities we will be creating as Academic Guides within our assigned residential quads on West Campus. If you’re interested in learning more about what we do, visit the About Us section of this site.

Interesting in writing for the blog? We’d love for you to submit a piece. Check out our Blog Submission Guidelines for information about what type of posts we accept, formatting guidelines, and our publishing process. If you have any questions along the way, you can email us at

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Chase Black, Keohane Quad
Sarah Eisensmith, Crowell/Wannamaker Quads
Debbie Hughes, Few Quad
Katherine Jo, Kilgo Quad
Thomas Phillips, Hollows Quad
Joshua Sipe, Edens Quad
Erica Wallace, Craven Quad

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