Staff Directory

Staff Directory

Durham-Based Staff
324 Blackwell Street
Suite 920

Chris Simmons
Associate Vice President, Office of Government Relations
(919) 668-6270

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

He is the past Chairman of the Board for the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science and served as co-chair for the Ad-Hoc Tax Group. He 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.

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


Melissa Vetterkind

Melissa Vetterkind
Director, Office of Government Relations
(919) 668-0761

Melissa came to Duke in 2003 after serving for almost six years as a Legislative Assistant and Systems Administrator to Congressman David Obey (D-WI).  She began her career serving as an intern in Congressman Obey’s office while she was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Melissa returned to the congressman’s office full time after graduation and has been involved in legislative matters ever since.


Arlene Melchiorre
Project Coordinator, Office of Government Relations
(919) 668-6286

Arlene joined the Office of Government Relations in May 2017 after spending 8 years as a staff assistant in Duke’s Office of Durham & Regional Affairs. Prior to Duke, Arlene worked as an Administrative Assistant at Syracuse University where she received a BA in Information Management and Technology.

In May 2018, she earned a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Duke’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program.


Doug Heron

Doug Heron, J.D.
Associate Vice President, Office of State Relations

Mr. Heron has almost 20 years of combined experience in governmental affairs. Prior to joining Duke in 2014, he worked as a partner and an associate in a government relations practice at a large multistate law firm in Raleigh, NC. He also served as the director of government affairs and legislative counsel for the North Carolina Bar Association and prior to that spent several years lobbying in Washington, DC. Mr. Heron previously served as the President of the North Carolina Lobbyists Association and is the incoming Chair of the Durham Chamber Public Policy Committee.

A graduate of James Madison University, Pennsylvania State University’s Dickinson School of Law and the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, Mr. Heron is a licensed attorney who also holds the rank of Captain in the US Army Reserves Judge Advocate General Corps.


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

Jeff Harris

Jeff Harris
Director, Duke in DC
Associate Director, Government Relations
(202) 524-4992

Jeff joined the Government Relations Staff in June 2015. Prior to joining Duke, Jeff spent six years at the Aspen Institute, where most recently he was the senior manager for Public Affairs and Policy Program Communications. 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 is a 2007 Duke Public Policy graduate and earned a Master’s in Public Management degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2014.



Colin Colter
Program Specialist, Duke in DC
(202) 578-6506

Colin joined the Office of Government Relations in November of 2016. Previously, Colin completed a United Nations Fellowship at the Alliance of Civilizations Institute in Istanbul, Turkey focusing on intercultural dialogue and Turkish language skills. Prior to his stint in Turkey, Colin has worked in government contracting, conducted fieldwork on Grameen Bank’s micro-finance structure in Bangladesh, and taught advanced biology in rural Vietnam.  

Colin is a Duke 2015 graduate who majored in International Comparative Studies and was a four-year varsity saber fencer and captain his senior season.