Q&A with Summer Dunsmore, MFA EDA ’18, Lecturer at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?

While at Duke as a graduate student, I had several opportunities to work as a mentor and a lecturer for undergraduate students. My work with Bass Connections, the Franklin Humanities Institute/SSRI, the Partnership for Appalachian Girls’ Education (PAGE), and the SLIPPAGE! Lab at Duke all prepared me to collaborate with and lead a team of diverse students working on their own multimedia projects. As a current lecturer at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles, it’s my goal to help students succeed in building their careers in journalism and multimedia production.

How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?

First off, start by making connections and setting up interviews/coffee dates with individuals you’d like to learn from and work with. Feel comfortable sharing details about your life and career, and get your “elevator speech” ready so you can communicate easily and authentically about who you are and what sort of roles you’re seeking. Lastly, prioritize finding your specific niche in the industry so you can quickly figure out where you can be an indispensable part of the team.

How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?

After graduating from Duke in May 2018, I first landed at a position at Marketplace-APM in early 2019. I was hired to their video production team, which was responsible for producing content for Marketplace’s YouTube channel. It was a small team—myself and one other producer. This allowed me to learn as much as I could about producing video content for a digital outlet with a significant digital following. While working there, I found an additional position teaching at USC Annenberg and was able to design and implement my own course focused on audio/video production. Along with completing a few artist residencies between 2020–21, I now teach full-time at two different college campuses, and I enjoy the opportunity to interact with all kinds of different students.

What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?

My favorite thing about being a producer/educator/filmmaker is the flexibility and opportunity. No one has had a career like mine! This gives me the chance to continue paving my own path, to take creative risks, and to keep experimenting. While it was initially challenging to navigate the industry as a first-generation college student and a novice to the media industry, I’ve often found my niche as a producer and I know what type of work is most compelling for me.

What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?

It is important to learn about past and current trends in the media industry, and how to navigate them—this could help reveal how your work, or your project, could speak to a larger audience. Additionally, you’ll spend a lot of time interacting with all types of media and content, learning what’s new and innovative, or what’s generating the most traction and momentum. Make sure that you’re working in a part of the media industry (film, audio, nonfiction, branded content, social, etc) that is actually compelling for you and that will be worth the extra hours you’ll spend researching, listening, watching, and networking. Buy all the coffees, go to all the film screenings/mixers, and send all the follow-up emails!

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