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Jake Grusd: Student Sings for Opera and Economics

First-year student is first to receive faculty's Academic Council Scholarship

Jake Grusd loves opera and economics.  He's looking to make that combination work in his studies at Duke.  Photo by Les Todd/Duke University Photography
Jake Grusd loves opera and economics. He's looking to make that combination work in his studies at Duke. Photo by Les Todd/Duke University Photography

Jake Grusd isn't unique.  There really may be many other students who love studying and singing opera as much as they thrill to economics. 

But the first-year Duke student stands out in his passion for both fields and in the ways he takes learning beyond what he picks up in the classroom. Arriving at Duke, Grusd said he realized "how much I taught myself about opera. All of the things I would do myself for fun turned out to be research."

"One of the first things I realized here at Duke was this was a place where people want to learn from their peers," said Grusd, a native of Great Neck, NY.  "I have a good friend here who is interested in performance.  She'll be practicing and I'll just sit and listen and process information from her. It teaches me to understand just how someone practicing can develop their sense of craft.

"And then from me, she's getting to know something about how the great performers prepared for their performances.  This kind of collaboration is a great experience for a student."

That scholarly initiative was a leading reason Grusd received the first Academic Council Scholarship, a new award presented by the faculty to an incoming freshman based on consideration of merit and financial need.

The Academic Council Scholarship will provide $5,000 for four years. The only other faculty-awarded scholarships are the Faculty Scholars, which are given annually to two to three juniors who show a strong record of research and scholarship.

Grusd's award was announced last month at an Academic Council meeting. Former council chair Susan Lozier said the Academic Council scholarship is the first faculty-awarded scholarship for first-year students.

"Jake Grusd is a fabulous first recipient of this Academic Council Scholarship," Lozier said. "Duke faculty should be proud that this endowment supports such a deserving student."

An A.B. Duke finalist, Grusd said becoming the first Academic Council Scholar was a bonus prize on top of learning about his Duke admission.  He didn't apply for the award, but was selected by a faculty committee. 

"[Hearing about the award] was a great start to the summer," he said.  "It gave me a lot of confidence to be selected by the people I'll be working most closely with at Duke."

He dove into his first semester with enthusiasm, with courses in intermediate French, the first-year writing seminar and two courses that feed his intellectual passion: "Music and Modernism" and intermediate microeconomics taught by Tom Nechyba.

A fan of the Metropolitan Opera, Grusd said he hopes in the future to combine his two academic interests.

"I came to Duke hoping to be trained in arts and to use that with a business sense to become someone who makes a difference in the opera world.  Wherever my business side will want to go and whatever relationship it has with music, I think economics will give me something that I can use.  If I was someone who had something to do with New York City Opera, maybe they wouldn't have gone bankrupt!"