Building Connections & Community at DEMAN 2018

Students Reflect on the 9th Annual DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend—the Largest Yet!

Over 1,000 students and alumni registered for this year’s DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend, which transformed the Rubenstein Arts Center and the Nasher Museum of Art into a hub for Duke’s growing creative community.

This year’s firsts included a record-breaking 240 alumni participants and the inaugural Duke’s Got Talent showcase in the Ruby on Saturday afternoon. We asked the members of our undergraduate Creative Arts Student Team (CAST) what they had to say after attending DEMAN Weekend 2018.

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A Senior Looks for Career Advice

Students met with creative professionals and Career Center counselors to discuss their portfolios and resumes for DEMAN Weekend 2018. Photo taken by Ivy Shi.

“DEMAN Weekend 2018 was absolutely wonderful. As a senior searching for post-graduation employment, this year’s programming felt more relevant than ever. The highlight of my DEMAN Weekend was sitting down with David Garfinkle (Trinity ’83, CEO of Hello Entertainment) to review my resume and discuss possible career options. His insight on how to most effectively present my experience to current theater professionals was eye opening. After our conversation, I felt far more prepared to refine my applications and broaden my job search. I was also inspired by Saturday’s session on “Navigating your First Job in Creative Industries.” Hearing from recent graduates about the ups and downs of job searching in the arts was really refreshing, especially on a campus where so many of my fellow seniors have already found employment. Overall, I’m grateful to have spent my weekend receiving actionable advice and making connections that will be impactful resources at Duke and beyond!”

—Rebekah Wellons, Trinity ’19

Enjoying the Artistic Process

A student sits down with an alumna for a portfolio review in the Rubenstein Center for the Arts.
Casey Pettiford talks with an alumna at DEMAN Weekend. Photo by Robert Zimmerman.

“DEMAN Weekend 2018 was an amazing experience! I connected with both Duke undergraduates and alumni in various careers I am interested in, including theater, photography, media, and film/television production. My favorite part of the weekend was the keynote speech reception, where I met with entertainment industry leaders such as Jennifer Baltimore, Detavio Samuels, and Brooke Bowman. I loved hearing their thoughts on how patience, listening, and passion are crucial in having a successful creative career, as well as their opinions on how future arts leaders can improve art and media to promote diverse storytelling. I also enjoyed co-hosting the “Curating Your Performing Arts Career” info session as a student presenter, where I met various actors, vocalists, dancers, and directors who encouraged students to remain curious, be true to ourselves and our artwork, and enjoy the process of developing our artistic voices as we continue to hone our creative interests at Duke!”

—Casey Pettiford, Trinity ’20

The Rubenstein Arts Center hosted DEMAN events on Friday and Saturday. Photo by Ivy Shi.

One-on-One with a Keynote Speaker

Photo by Robert Zimmerman.

“This DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend was a great experience for me. DEMAN 101 helped me get prepared to make the best of the weekend. It was great to meet so many successful alumni who have taken different paths within creative industries. The keynote speakers were amazing. As a black woman, it was especially inspiring to see panelists of color this year.

I connected with Brooke Bowman, who is SVP for Drama Programming and Development at Fox Broadcasting company. We discussed the work she does helping to produce shows from start to finish. By talking with alumni one-on-one and listening to them speak on their respective panels, I gained great advice on how to get a foot in the door and navigate the industry. I learned that it is important to always have a great attitude and to be the first one in and the last one out every day. I’m excited for what the future holds for me.”

—Bianca Umeakuana, Trinity’ 21

Building Better Rockets

DEMAN attendees participated in a dance workshop led by Monica Hogan Thysell. Photo by Robert Zimmerman.
DEMAN attendees participated in a dance workshop led by Monica Hogan Thysell. Photo by Robert Zimmerman.

“During this DEMAN weekend, I learned the art of tenacity. One of the biggest themes shared across the board—from the highly successful keynote speakers to recently graduated Duke alumni—is that you have to be tenacious as you go for your goal.

You are going to fail. Often. Most people do. However, people you admire used their failures as opportunities to grow and as motivation to do better. Failure isn’t an easy reality to own, but no one believes in someone who doesn’t believe in themselves. I walked away from DEMAN honing my own tenacity to apply for internships and to write my next big story. I learned to not always shoot for the moon expecting to land with the stars, because sometimes you might end up crashing right back on earth. The point is to build better rockets and keep going.”

—Omolola Sanusi, Trinity ’21

What’s all the Buzz(feed) About? Alumni in the Creative Tech Industries

Students and alumni met in the Makerspace in the Duke Ruby for the Creative Side of Tech Industry Session. The Makerspace features several 3-D printers and two laser cutters. Photo by Ivy Shi.

“I saw panelists Estlin Haiss (Union), Brandon Choi (Buzzfeed), Farman Syed (Apple), and Hilary Huskey (NCCU) speak about their experience in the creative technology industries. Originally, Estlin wanted to become an architect. After taking computer science and economics courses at Duke (which he really did not enjoy), Haiss decided to exclusively take art courses. He never looked back. His capstone research project involved taking drone pictures of Duke and Durham; he now works at a local tech company in Durham. Brandon was a computer science major and creative writing minor at Duke and lives by the motto, “fake it til’ you make it.” Ever since taking Multimedia Production with Amy Unell, he has been thankful for the opportunity to be involved with Buzzfeed as an undergrad, intern, now as an employee. Farman received his MBA at Duke and works for Apple as a product manager. His day-to-day job involves corralling people from every single department to come up with a cohesive product. He was an engineer as an undergraduate, but took it upon himself to go to business school to challenge the way he thinks about tech products. Syed looks for individuals that understand technology in a new and unique way. Hilary was a political science and visual arts double major. She took courses at a community college related to game design; soon after she received an MFA. She now works as a professor at NCCU and teaches about the history of video games. All in all, the field for jobs in the creative tech industries is incredibly exciting and interdisciplinary.”

—Steven Herrera, Trinity ’21

CAST members Steven Herrera and Sharon Kinsella led alumni tours of the Ruby. Photo by Ivy Shi.

Common Threads

The DEMAN Keynote had a full house in the Nasher. Photo by Robert Zimmerman.

“I felt super lucky to be set up with Becky Davis (Trinity ’14), for my portfolio review. She works as a producer at National Geographic. I was compelled by her career trajectory: she entered college not knowing what her path looked like, but decided to follow her passion for visual studies and started creating art, ultimately leading her to a dream job with NatGeo.

In an industry session I attended, one of the panelists told us to ‘make a list of media that you consume and list ways you can contribute to that.’ I think this is excellent advice. Looking at what I already love to read about—human interest pieces, social justice, the ethics of technology—I understand that my future doesn’t have to be so far off. Additionally, promoting an ‘attitude over skills’ ethic for young creatives like myself is important for those who don’t have as much experience in technical skills. This is a lesson I’ll keep carrying with me. As long as I show up with an excitement to learn, my day will be full.

Lastly, Serges Himbaza, who works at a production company in Dallas, said “the ability to tell a story is essential to connect with someone.” This really validated my passion for storytelling, and how important it is to weave a common thread through our own narrative to make sense of our lives.”

—Sheridan Wilbur, Trinity ’19