StudioDuke 2021–22: In Their Own Words

meet the students and mentors

How has participating in StudioDuke helped you grow as a creative?


Lilly Clark ’22, audio documentary

“StudioDuke has given me a new appreciation for all I can learn from the breadth of creative fields out there. My peers in the program and several of the speakers we heard from were working on projects in areas like gaming and VR that I previously knew so little about. It was inspiring to learn what people do in a wide range of mediums.”

Sannan Saleh ’22, web series

“Kevin introduced me to the executive/business side of the entertainment industry. Considering this was the area I had the least exposure to previously, it’s definitely helped me grow as a creative and understand the challenges and opportunities that await me after graduation.”

Ivy Nicole-Jonet, MFA EDA ’22, immersive documentary experience (VR/animation/archival)

“StudioDuke provided me the space to critically think about my project. By working with my mentor, I was able to bring to life my project from my visions.”

Meena Gudapati ’22, VR/AR experience

“The ability to hear from our peers in how they work through challenges and make creative progress on their projects helped serve as inspiration to myself in moving forward. Though we all have had independent projects, being a part of StudioDuke has helped me feel like I am part of a team effort.”

Greta Cywińska ’23, documentary photography

“I really appreciated having the ability to hear from Duke alums about their experiences in the industry. It was very encouraging to see how alums were able to take what they learned at Duke and apply it to their impressive careers.”

Kira Upin ’23, documentary short

“StudioDuke helped me reach out to other creative students at Duke and create a community.”

This year’s StudioDuke student cohort asks creative writing industry panelists — including author and current mentor Christina Baker Kline P’18 ’22 — deep-diving questions about the creative process of writing and publishing, as well as advice for breaking into the industry.

What is the most helpful advice you received?


Christina Baker Kline P’18 ’22, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Every creative person, at every level of success, has self-doubt. Once you accept that it’s a natural (and even positive!) part of the process, you can learn how to use it to your advantage.”

Robb Chavis ’98, Co-Executive Producer, ABC’s black-ish

“Think about all the different parts of yourself and your story as you are thinking about ideas and what you want create. You don’t have to write “your story” from beginning to end. Your perspectives and experiences are all valuable starting points in storytelling.”

Julia Livshin ’96, Literary Agent

“Don’t be discouraged by rejection, or silence. It’s not personal. Develop a thick skin, do your research before sending out material, and soldier on!”

Aisha Turner ’09, Executive Producer, MSNBC’s “Into America” Podcast

“Outline! Then change the outline again and again! Having an initial framework gives you a roadmap to prevent getting too lost as things evolve.”


Emily MacDiarmid, MFA EDA ’22, experimental documentary

“Ryan supported me experimenting with different techniques and seeing how best I could tell a story. As I’m very early in my career, I really appreciated how Ryan was open to sharing his growth and how he’s become successful. It was interesting hearing how we went from his film Pelada to pitching at Sundance and now working on the Pamela Anderson documentary.”

Sarah LoCurto ’23, poetry manuscript

“Sequoia encouraged me to keep a notebook so that I can write down observations, ideas, images — anything from barely formed impressions to fuller fragments of poetry. This not only creates a starting point for later, but it makes me more aware of things around me, more able to draw inspiration from unassuming places.”

Sarah LoCurto ’23 and mentor Sequoia Maner ’08.

What is a favorite memory from your StudioDuke experience?


Lauren Haynes, Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Senior Curator of Contemporary Art

“Getting to meet Ivy and hearing about her project and her ambition was truly the highlight for me.”

Ryan White ’04, Director/Executive Producer, Tripod Media

“I loved getting to watch different iterations of Emily’s super-compelling film. Hearing her intentions with each different iteration was really creatively inspiring.”


Alyssa Wilson ’22, novel

“Meeting with Laura at a diner on the Upper East Side, discussing my book, and receiving an Advanced Readers Copy of a novel she’d edited for someone else. It’s the most meaningful book I own.”

Nia Williams ’23, TV pilot

“Every single meeting I had with Robb was transformative in some way, so this is difficult for me to answer… I’d say my favorite memory was when we met in person for the first time over tacos. Robb gave me advice on how to enrich the main character in my pilot, which was super enlightening for me. I also found out that we are both fans of the show Survivor, so we got to geek out on that!”

Brie Russell, Duke Graduate Liberal Studies ’23, children’s book

“Julia asked really good questions about the purpose of my story. In her questions she asked me to reconsider the ending of my piece — which I really appreciate. I was so close to the work that I didn’t see what it was lacking.”

Ellen Goodrich, Duke Law ’23, podcast series

“I really liked getting to meet different students from StudioDuke! As part of the law school it was nice to be able to meet others who are studying other things and get to talk to them about their experience.”

Tenley Seidel ’22, novel

“The first time Christina opened my eyes to a completely different direction for my book. It was terrifying and shocking, and then suddenly it felt like all my puzzle pieces were coming into place. It was like someone had shone a light on the rest of my story.”

Kaylin Woodward ’22, full-length play

“My favorite memory from my StudioDuke experience was meeting Danya in-person in New York to talk about my play. We grabbed lunch and sat outside in Union Square on a bench for a few hours. Danya listened to my motivations and struggles, responding with advice on how to go forward in the writing process.”

This episode features Keely MacDonald ’12, Netflix staff writer (“October Faction”, “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”), in conversation with this year’s StudioDuke cohort.

What is a valuable takeaway from your experience that you’d like to share with prospective StudioDuke applicants?


Sequoia Maner ’08, Assistant Professor, Poet, Spelman College

“It is possible to name yourself an artist early in life.”


Ava Changnon ’22, podcast series

“Take advantage of every opportunity you have through StudioDuke. Engage with your cohort, mentor and other people you meet along the well and do so with a passion to learn more.”

Mason Berger ’23, novel

“My most valuable takeaway from StudioDuke is that the business side of art is just as important as the creative side, but it might be even harder than the creative side to fully understand. If you’re interested in doing creative work professionally, StudioDuke is a fantastic way to learn more about how to do that!”

Taylor Plett ’22, feature documentary

“Have a clear-cut idea about what aspect of your project you want to work on during this time so you come in with a plan, and try to grow a relationship that lasts with your mentor. They will be happy to support you after StudioDuke is over!”

Devinne Moses ’22, interactive fiction

“StudioDuke created connections to industry professionals and talented peers I otherwise might not have met. I feel more confident than ever about my career goals and projects because of the new network gained through StudioDuke.”

Brandon Xie ’22, TV pilot (sci-fi thriller)

“StudioDuke is not only valuable as a program and community to develop your own work, but it also provides an insightful look behind the scenes of the industry you are passionate about. I highly recommend applying for the program.”

listen here