Durham-Based Staff
2127 Campus Drive Annex
Suite 233

Chris Simmons headshot

Chris Simmons
Vice President for Government Relations
(919) 668-6270

Chris Simmons is the  Vice President for Government Relations at Duke. In this capacity, he oversees all facets of government relations at Duke and serves as a member of the President’s Cabinet.  He arrived at Duke in 2006 after serving in lead advocacy roles for the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the American Council on Education (ACE) in Washington, DC. Simmons is Duke’s principal point of contact and spokesperson on legislative and regulatory issues involving the federal government, Congress, and the Administration, in areas such as student financial aid, academic research, international education, tax policy, intellectual property, and immigration. He also oversees Duke in DC, Duke’s academic center and home for research and official events in Washington, DC.

Prior to working in higher education advocacy, Chris was the policy analyst for the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education. Authorized by Congress, the bi-partisan appointed commission produced the report, Straight Talk About College Costs and Prices. Before entering the world of higher education politics, he was the Assistant Director of Admissions at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

Chris currently serves as the Chair of the Public Issues Committee for the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE). He is the past Chairman of the Board for the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science and co-chaired the Ad-Hoc Tax Group. Chris is a former member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) Board of Directors and AAU Council of Federal Relations Steering Committee. He is the inaugural director of the Nakayama Public Service Scholars Program at Duke and serves as an undergraduate academic advisor for the University. For many years he has worked with students in the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as a mentor and coach. He is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Executive Leadership Expedition, and teaches cycle classes several times a week at the YMCA. In 2020, Chris was recognized for career excellence and distinguished contributions to national leadership in higher education with the AAU Legacy Award.

Simmons is a graduate of Willamette University where he majored in rhetoric and art. He received his graduate degree from Harvard University. He lives in Chapel Hill with his wife Lisa. They are the proud parents of Isabel, Scarlett, Noah, and all-American mutt, Oliver.

Melissa Vetterkind
Associate Vice President, Office of Government Relations
(919) 668-0761

Melissa Vetterkind is the associate vice president for government relations. In this role, she has primary responsibility for the development, coordination and implementation of Duke’s priorities on federal scientific research issues with the legislative and executive branches of the federal government in addition to federal policy issues related to the humanities and intellectual property. She also serves as the primary point of contact for Duke’s partnership with the military.

She is past chair of the Association of American Universities (AAU) Council on Federal Relations’ Steering Committee and past co-chair of the Coalition for National Security Research. She is the current lead for the National Science Foundation for the AAU Council on Federal Relations’ (CFR) Innovation Task Force and previously chaired the CFR Task Forces on Defense, Homeland Security Funding, Humanities and Intellectual Property. She is also a member of the Duke Leadership Academy Class of 2018.

Prior to her time at Duke, she worked in the office of former Congressman David Obey (D-WI). A native cheesehead, Melissa currently lives in Durham and is a proud member of the Triangle Curling Club.

Arlene Melchiorre
Administrative Coordinator, Office of Government Relations
(919) 668-6286
Arlene Melchiorre is project coordinator in the Office of Government Relations. In this role, Arlene has primary responsibilities for managing the day-to-day office operation including reporting Duke’s lobbying efforts to the federal government on a quarterly basis. She also supports the Duke in DC office with the planning and coordination of events held in DC. Prior to joining the Office of Government Relations she was a staff assistant in Duke’s Office of Durham & Regional Affairs. Arlene completed her BA in Information Management and Technology at Syracuse University and her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Duke’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program. Arlene lives in Fuquay Varina with her husband Gary. She is the proud mother of Barbra, an Army veteran who continues to work with veterans at the VA in Fayetteville, NC and Garrett, a partner in the law firm of Cotton, Bledsoe, Tighe and Dawson in Midland, Texas. Her greatest joy is being a grandmother to Johan and Grace Anne.

Washington, DC-Based Staff
1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Suite 500

Jeff Harris
Director, Duke in DC
Associate Director, Government Relations
(202) 621-2800

Jeff (T ’07) returned to Duke in June of 2015 where he oversees all programming and communications at the Duke in DC office. Within the Office of Government Relations, Jeff works on issues involving student aid and immigration. He currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Higher Education Task Force for the AAU Council on Federal Relations. Jeff was a graduate of the inaugural cohort Duke Management Academy Program in 2019.

Prior to Duke, Jeff spent six years at the Aspen Institute working in public affairs. Before the Aspen Institute, Jeff worked for President Obama’s first Inaugural Committee, the Center for American Progress, and various state and national political campaigns. He also earned a Master’s in Public Management degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2014.

Jeff lives in Virginia with his wife Amanda, former Duke fencer and the athlete of the family, as well as their two children Maxwell and Claire.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Scarisbrick
Communications Manager, Duke in DC
(202) 621-2800

Betsy joined Duke in DC and the Duke Office of Government Relations in September of 2023 where she serves as a communication liaison between Washington and Duke’s campus. Betsy works with faculty and administrators to educate and engage policymakers on Duke’s research and interests in Washington.

Betsy graduated in 2020 from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, majoring in Broadcast and Electronic Journalism and minoring in Dramatic Art. Prior to joining Duke, Betsy was a reporter and anchor for News Talk 94.1. The news outlet covers 12 counties in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee. Betsy connected with the community and its leaders about critical issues ranging from local politics to education, including its local university, Tennessee Tech.

At Carolina, Betsy served as a reporter for Carolina Week, the student-led television newscast, and as a reporter, anchor and producer for Carolina Connection, the student-led radio newscast. Betsy also served as the Director of Publicity for Company Carolina, one of the student theatre groups on campus. She was also an active participant on stage, performing in two to three shows a semester.

Eric Shipley
Program Manager, Duke in DC
(202) 621-2800

Eric Shipley joined the Duke in DC office in December of 2021 where he works as the Program Manager. Eric serves as a liaison between Washington, DC, and main campus, working to help faculty and administrators with all their programming needs to help raise and amplify the presence of Duke University in Washington, DC.

With over two decades of experience in operations, portfolio, and property management for a host of national and international entities, including The Brattle Group, Marriott International, and Bank of America, Eric is a person who thrives in delivering an impactful office environment and employee experience for the university.