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.


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

Jeff HarrisJeff 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.


Elizabeth “Lizzie” Devitt
Program Specialist, Duke in DC
(202) 524-4997

Lizzie joined the Duke Office of Government Relations in July of 2019.  She previously was a Senior Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton supporting the firm’s Finance, Energy and Economic markets. Prior to Booz Allen, she gained experience in healthcare policy consulting at the McManus Group. Lizzie also participated in the inaugural class of the Rubenstein-Bing Student Athlete Civic Engagement Program (ACE) where she worked on healthcare initiatives during an immersive trip to Cape Town, South Africa.

Lizzie is a Duke 2018 graduate who majored in Public Policy, was a four-year varsity member of the women’s swimming and diving team and she holds the school record in the 400 IM.