Building the Future

Bonita Dukes, Stetson’s new new associate vice president for Facilities Management
Photos: Ciara Ocasio/Stetson University

Bonita Dukes has professional credentials that read “Associate AIA,” as in American Institute of Architects associate membership, and “LEED AP BD+C,” involving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. 

During the past 20 years, her experience includes the management and coordination of architects, engineers and other consultants; oversight of design and construction processes; sales and marketing of developer-owned condominiums; site reviews for potential development; financial analysis; and building code and zoning review for state compliance. 

Dukes is an expert at taking projects from inception to completion — with an eye for detail and aesthetics neatly complementing an education that began with a Bachelor of Architecture from Hampton University.

At the same time, certainly by the sounds of it, Dukes knows a little something about building relationships, too. Brick by brick, beginning with a foundation of respect.

“Talk less because you learn so much more when you’re listening,” she says with an easy smile. “I think failures happen when people are so quick to get their point across — and their point may be very valid and that might be the point you go with. But if you’re not listening to other folks, you can alienate people or you can miss a lot of good information. And a lot of time those bits and pieces are how you get to a successful ending.”

In late April, Dukes arrived on campus as the new associate vice president for Facilities Management. She replaces the popular Al Allen, who retired after nine years at Stetson. 

Dukes has two decades of experience and expertise in architecture, planning and design, construction practices, facilities operations and maintenance, and real estate development.

Dukes will be responsible for everything from preventative maintenance projects throughout the DeLand campus this summer to having a hand in imagining the look of Stetson’s historic campus in the future. Coming to Stetson from Clark Atlanta University, where she was associate vice president for Facilities Management, Planning and Auxiliary Operations, that future is particularly appealing.

“I want to be part of the growth — the upward trajectory on building the Stetson brand in a fabulous way through facilities and enhancing the appearance of the campus,” she describes.

While Clark Atlanta University’s historic, 126-acre setting provided the chance for Dukes to look at planning and design from an urban perspective, Stetson offers another view. “I see this as a way to bring a more connective campus environment with the surrounding community in a way that’s very different from what I’ve been doing in metropolitan Atlanta. And it’s exciting. There are so many different possibilities,” she says.

Ultimately, she added, her previous role was similar to her new one: “How do you manage a campus setting? This encompasses campus living and campus community interaction.”

At Clark Atlanta, under her leadership and by virtue of sustainability initiatives, the facilities department realized more than $700,000 in savings, and the university now is recognized nationally as a leader in sustainability among Historically Black Colleges.

Dukes: “I want to be part of the growth — the upward trajectory on building the Stetson brand … .”

Additionally, Dukes brings a nonprofit organization with her, KidBuilders Inc., which she established in 2008 to teach children about architecture and construction in an “effort to increase their respect and appreciation for the built environment within their communities.” 

“KidBuilders was created to help kids understand the importance of civic responsibility and sustainability, improve leadership abilities, teambuilding and management skills through design projects,” she explained.

Dukes hopes to continue that effort in DeLand. (On campus, she may ask to enlist your volunteer help, and local schools should expect to hear from her.)

For now, she concludes, there is other, more immediate work to do, such as campus roofing projects, the splash fountain area near the Carlton Union Building, some assistance at Stetson University College of Law and, among others, getting the Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center fully up to speed. Plus, just around the corner is a new science building, and she has “a lot of ideas on how I can assist with that.”

Dukes enjoys tennis and, given her previous geography, she is especially fond of hiking, although she concedes, “I won’t get a chance to do much hiking here; it’s pretty flat.”

Regardless, Dukes, who already can be seen walking the campus, notes, again with a smile: “There’s plenty to keep me busy.”

–Michael Candelaria