During his time at PC, it wasn’t uncommon to see Jerius Duncan ’20 across many areas of campus: his smiling face greeting you on a poster in Springs, or Duncan himself, perched in front of the building on an afternoon, playing music for the school’s radio station.
His philosophy for being involved as much as possible in college is one he offers to many students.
“You have to get involved. If it was a club that was open to everybody, I probably went to at least one meeting,” he says with a laugh.
It’s not that he was bored, he insists. He took advantage of as many opportunities to get to know others in and around campus.
“You never know who you’re going to meet or going to see,” Duncan said. “I tell everybody, if you don’t get involved, you’re missing the point.”
Of the clubs he took part in, it was involvement as a student ambassador that introduced him to Welcome to College, a New Orleans-based company that works with higher education, offering student ambassador tools and campus visit consulting.
Welcome to College filmed Duncan in 2017 for a short video about his experience as a Blue Hose.
“I was a fresh student ambassador, and they asked me to do the video for the school, talking about some of the different faculty members, staff and students, and then they wanted to do a spotlight on me,” he said. “That was my first time being interviewed for anything at PC, and it happened to be the interview that got me my job. It’s crazy how things work out.”
Since that initial meeting, Duncan considered pursuing similar work.
Completing college amid a pandemic was a unique and challenging experience for the class of 2020, Duncan included.
He decided to look on his LinkedIn account, where he discovered Justin Bayer, Welcome to College CEO, had left him several messages. He talked to Duncan about creating a position for him, remembering their interaction a few years ago.
Duncan was selected as the Welcome to College’s first regional director of sales. In the brief time since his hiring, he’s been promoted to a role centered around community building, arts and sales. He said he’ll also work with the team on diversity and inclusion efforts.
“Pretty much, my entire college experience was getting me ready for this moment, but I had no clue,” Duncan said. “I didn’t know what I was doing after college. It wasn’t even on my radar. I got a job to do basically the thing I was doing for four years at PC and even more. I get to really focus on community engagement. It couldn’t be more perfect.”
The Greenville native majored in political science and minored in theater, concentrating in music. He came to the College on an athletic scholarship to play football and thought about several careers, from being a judge or lawyer to working in the FBI.
After an injury ended his football career early, he dove into the arts. He’d always been interested in music, and, when he needed one more credit hour his sophomore year, he decided to take voice lessons.
Duncan later joined Cantare!, the men’s chamber ensemble. He also was in four music theater productions. In his junior year, he picked up guitar and recorded his first album.
“When I got to PC, they said you could be bold, create your own experience, and I did,” he said. “That alone, once I hit the real world, I felt I could create my own experience any place I was at, including my job.”
Duncan’s still singing and playing and says he crafts lyrics for educational and purposeful reasons.
He’s currently been curating music that speaks to the current moment, marked by a health crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement. He recently released a song, “I Can’t Breathe,” a song he says includes lyrics that look forward to a better day.
Duncan said the violence and racial injustice against Black people saddens him. It’s something he says he’s unfortunately watched far too often in his life.
“The only thing I can be is optimistic and opportunistic, when I can, to voice what I’m feeling inside,” he said.
Duncan believes music can be an agent for change and a way for all people to communicate. And in New Orleans, a city with roots in jazz, he continues to learn. Before starting work, he jammed with musician Deacon John.
In his new job, he’s started conducting virtual demos and brainstorming with Bayer.
“I’m excited to learn everything,” he said.