When I applied to Duke as a student who wanted to enter the arts, I thought I would spend the next four years of my life amongst a sea of pre-professionals without an inkling of resources or contacts. What I soon discovered was the secret world of the Duke arts community. It is a community of students, faculty and alumni who are passionate for the arts and support one another in their creative endeavors. This past Friday and Saturday that community came together for DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend, a two-day series of events that I clear my schedule for months in advance.
I have attended DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend every year I’ve been here at Duke, and it’s interesting for me to look back on how each experience has played a different part in my life. As a freshman, I attended DEMAN Weekend wide-eyed and nervous to talk to the alumni. My version of networking was to stare at people I admired from afar until they (hopefully) approached me. Yes, young Cara was oh-so charming and smooth. Fortunately, my networking social skills have evolved since then. Yet despite my nervousness, my experience talking to alumni in the arts and media industry was incredible and inspiring. There is power in seeing people who are doing what you want to do in life. I realized that a career in the arts is possible, and here were amazing Duke alumni so willing to help me make my dream come true!
This year I’m a junior, and DEMAN Weekend helped me in an entirely new way. I’m heading to Los Angeles next semester for the Duke in LA program, so the alumni I met at DEMAN Weekend provided me the advice and information I need to make the absolute most out of my semester away from campus. I got to meet incredible people like Amy Harris ("Sex and the City" and "The Carrie Diaries"), Jason Tracey ("Elementary" and "Burn Notice"), and even bumped into Farman Syed (Sr. Product Manager of iTunes and Apple Music) when he helped me get a name tag sticker out of my—an unconventional, yet lovely interaction. And what was so great about meeting these fellow Dukies is just that—they were fellow Dukies. We shared the same passions; we once walked the same halls; we were part of the same clubs. There was a bond that connected us all beyond our career interests, which resulted in a more relaxed, fun environment.
I’ve also noticed that in the years I have been at Duke, not only have I grown and evolved, but so has DEMAN Weekend. This year new events and spaces were introduced, like the DEMAN Alumni Happy Hour hosted by graduate/professional students, and the DEMAN Lounge, where students and alumni could munch on free snacks while chatting about how insane West Union is now. There were more alumni panels, with topics including fashion, journalism, tech, film, marketing, law and more. And there were so many more people! Alumni, faculty, students—we became a sea of creatives who were finding or reuniting with their community, learning from one another, and inspiring one another.
So to anyone with even the slightest interest in the arts: tap into the DEMAN community. It’s an invaluable resource with fantastic people. And to young Cara: stop staring at alumni and go talk to them for Pete’s sake.
Cara O'Malley is a Trinity junior.