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DEMAN expands programming and engages wider Duke audience

For the past six years, DEMAN Weekend has been key in connecting current Duke students with alumni in the entertainment, media and arts industries. Standing for “Duke Entertainment Media and Arts Network,” DEMAN Weekend will occur on Nov. 1 and 2. It is the final installation of the Duke Arts Festival, poised to be more expansive and significant than ever before.

“There are amazing alumni coming back that represent the entertainment, media and arts industry,” said Grace Kohut, Duke Alumni Association member and Alumni Artists organizer. “[The alumni] are all really excited. They want to help students, talk to them and get to know them.”

The willingness of alumni to guide students embodies the intent of DEMAN. The weekend will kick off with keynote speaker Adam Chodikoff '93, who is the senior producer for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Later that day, the Panel of Distinguished DEMAN Alumni will discuss “translating your Duke experience into a successful career in a creative field.” On Saturday, Duke alumni currently working in the entertainment, media and arts fields will host small group sessions in the Link and in Perkins. These small group sessions will connect alumni with students in an intimate setting. For example, Penka Kouneva, who wrote the score for the "Transformers" series, will discuss music composition in Hollywood. These small group sessions will cover everything from dance to art to the business and management end of the industry.

“The alumni are always really eager to meet with students and share stories about their transition from student life to professional life,” said Dr. Scott Lindroth, Vice Provost of the Arts and key organizer of the event. “DEMAN is a great way to offer examples of alumni who navigated that same path after graduation.”

A lot of work goes into choosing a broad range of alumni who can speak to many students, no matter their career paths.

“There are so many ways that art can be a part of professional life for our students. Making everyone aware of that is part of the intention of DEMAN,” Lindroth explained.

Kohut was in charge of choosing these alumni and bringing them to Duke. “In the past, I think entertainment media kind of dominated,” she said. In response, this year's staff worked to include a wide variety of alumni. “I’ve been talking and working with them for a while, and they are all very excited and very, very impressive,” said Kohut, who explained that planning for this massive event began as early as last July.

In addition to the primary programming for DEMAN Weekend, a new workshop titled “DEMAN 101” was held for the first time ever on Monday, Oct. 21. This workshop allowed students to interact with a few alumni in the entertainment industries. In a low-pressure situation, students learned how to effectively network and utilize the experience of DEMAN Weekend.

“Students can now include their resumes in a resume book that will be given to alumni when they are looking for interns,” said Amy Unell, filmmaker, Duke alumna and DEMAN organizer. Unell is in a unique position in that she also participated last year as an alumni speaker while she was a producer at NBC. “The whole weekend creates opportunities to connect and collaborate and, hopefully, get inspired. I look at it as a way to help each other,” she said.

“We want all students who have an interest in these areas to be a part of it,” said Unell. “Students meeting students and connecting is great, especially freshman year.”

Unell, along with the rest of the staff behind the event, is working hard to shake off DEMAN's stigma as a networking event solely for juniors and seniors.

“This is not just for seniors who are thinking of what they want to do!” agreed Lindroth. “This is for everyone! It gives you an opportunity to forge your undergraduate experience going forward.”

The main issue with this stigma is that seeing DEMAN as merely a “career fair” cuts down on attendance.

“Nobody goes to the career fair unless you’re actually looking for a career right now,” said Holly Hilliard ('12), a former managing editor for Recess who now helps organize and plan the Duke Arts Festival, as well as DEMAN. “At Duke, you don’t really get to talk to people who pursued a career in the arts. Here, everybody is rooting for you. That’s what you kind of learn. They all want to help you.”

With a greater variety of speakers, small group workshops and the hope for increased attendance, DEMAN Weekend is expanding its scope this year. As the weekend distances itself from the false image of a purely career-oriented event, more students will be able to engage with the distinguished alumni that are returning to interact with current students and other visiting alumni.

Ultimately, it is Hilliard who best captures the spirit of DEMAN: “Just hearing that other people can do it is encouraging.”

DEMAN Weekend will kick off at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1 and end at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2. For registration, scheduling and more information, visit http://sites.duke.edu/demanweekend/student-schedule/.

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