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DEMAN weekend offers gateway to media world

<p>DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend offers two full days of workshops and dialogue with accomplished Duke alumni.&nbsp;</p>

DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend offers two full days of workshops and dialogue with accomplished Duke alumni. 

After graduating from Duke in 1992, JJ Ramberg moved to New York City in search of a job—a familiar yet precarious position for any young graduate. Soon, opportunity presented itself when the receptionist for "NBC Nightly News" took a six-week leave. The show’s manager offered Ramberg the temporary position, and she accepted.

“Once I was there for less than a minute, I was hooked,” Ramberg said. “I realized this was the career I wanted to take. This was the path I wanted to follow.”

In a stroke of luck for Ramberg, the former receptionist never returned. A series of promotions ensued, and over twenty years later Ramberg is the host of MSNBC’s “Your Business” and one of the premier financial journalists on TV.

Around the same time Ramberg took that temping job, a freshman Dave Karger walked into Duke’s Career Center. Eager to pursue a career in entertainment but unsure where to start, he asked a staff member for information about internships in New York City.

“His response was, ‘Wow, we’ve never had a freshman come in here before,’” Karger, Trinity ‘95, said. 

Even so, Karger managed to secure an internship at a PR firm that summer, launching a career that has included writing over 50 cover stories for Entertainment Weekly and hosting videos for Fandango, IMDb and "Access Hollywood."

Both Ramberg and Karger credit their successes to those first, small steps into the entertainment world. This weekend, students interested in arts and media careers have the chance to do the same.

Beginning Friday, some of the most accomplished Duke alumni will converge upon the seventh annual DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend for two full days of workshops and dialogue. Guest speakers hail from a list of media giants that includes The New York Times, ESPN and iTunes, among others. So far, over 500 students have registered, making this year’s DEMAN Weekend the largest so far, and registration is still open.

The centerpiece of the weekend is the keynote address 7 p.m. Friday, a conversation moderated by Karger and featuring Ramberg and Amy Gravitt, Trinity '95 and executive vice president of HBO Programming. The three will talk about their paths to success, reflect on their time at Duke and address some of the greatest issues in their respective fields.

But the rest of the weekend is filled with both smaller group discussions and larger social events, allowing attendees to choose whichever items on the agenda suit their interests.

“No matter if you're a first year or a graduate student, introverted or extroverted, small group or large group person, DEMAN has you covered,” Amy Unell, arts entrepreneurship liaison, wrote in an email. “It's like the menu at your favorite restaurant. You can get the five-course meal or order à la carte. You can personalize your DEMAN Weekend experience.”

For students and young alumni aiming to stake out a place in an industry where connections are so important, DEMAN Weekend presents the perfect opportunity to form relationships with those most involved in the entertainment world.

“The more that students can learn about what is out there while they’re in school, the better,” Ramberg said. “So through weekends like DEMAN, students have the opportunity to speak to people, to really understand what a job is—not just what they think it is—and then potentially develop relationships with people who can help them get that first job.”

The Duke Entertainment, Media and the Arts Network, which lends the weekend its name, was launched in 2009 and boasts hundreds of alumni in the highest ranks of the media world. At a school often more associated with pioneering research in medicine or engineering, Duke’s presence in arts and media is easily overlooked.

Karger acknowledged, though, that arts have flourished on campus in recent years. He sympathized with students who may hold an interest in arts or media but feel unsure about the possibility of a stable career in the field.

“My biggest wish is that a Duke student or young alum will attend DEMAN Weekend and have their eyes opened to career possibilities that either they never thought about or didn’t think were realistic,” Karger said. “So many times you hear people say, ‘Oh, you just have to be a lawyer or a banker or a doctor—those are the real viable career paths.’ … Now, there are so many different kinds of media—digital, broadcast, social media—that there’s so many more options and opportunities for people coming out of college.”

He also stressed the importance of taking the first steps toward a career while in college. Even outside of DEMAN Weekend, Duke has boundless outlets for arts and media, and employers often expect prior experience when applying for a job, whether behind the camera or on paper.

“There will be no time in your life when it will be easier to get experience in the entertainment world than while you are a student,” Karger said, citing the opportunities provided by organizations like Duke Student Broadcasting and The Chronicle. “It’s so much easier when Duke students have that in their arsenal upon graduation.”

The media world is a competitive one, marked by a fast-paced work environment and contingent on forming lasting relationships with people in the industry. Demand for work is high while the number of positions is often low. In such a landscape, young graduates may not know where to start.

But as the stories of Karger and Ramberg show, humble beginnings can spark a career of success. Ramberg wants students to realize that, when she and others like her started out, they were no different than current Duke students.

“Get your first job, whatever it is—nothing should be beneath you—and impress the people once you’re there,” Ramberg said. “Learn a lot, ask a lot of questions, do a good job and you will rise up.”

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