Everyone has their thing at Duke. Some talented, ambitious people occupy themselves by juggling passion upon passion with classes and clubs. I will forever count myself lucky that I found my thing during my first week at Duke: Recess.
There seem to be two groups of people in Recess: those who knew from the start that they loved arts and culture and wanted to write about it, and those who thought they would write for news but decided to give Recess a try anyway. I fall into the second category. I hadn’t ever written for a newspaper before and didn’t know the first thing about it, so naturally, I hadn’t even heard of Recess before coming to Duke. What I did know was that I wanted to try writing for the Chronicle at Duke. I even earned an esteemed “Most Likely to Write for The Chronicle” award during my pre-O. I showed up to the first Recess meeting because I had already met the then-Recess editor and I was desperate for a friendly face during those first few chaotic weeks of freshman year.
I walked into that first meeting and sat on one of the scratchy couches, listening to the story pitches and the older staff members joke around as I tried to draw as little attention to myself as possible. I gathered up the courage to pick up a story and listened eagerly as I received the basics of journalism. As I walked out of the room, full of anticipation about my first story, I was looking forward to the next week’s meeting. Even then, in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to lead Recess someday.
My first assignment seemed like the most challenging thing I’d ever have to do (in reality, it involved leaving my dorm on East Campus, walking five minutes to the Arts Annex, interviewing a professor and walking back). I didn’t feel qualified to be interviewing anyone or writing anything meant for publication. But once I picked up a copy of Recess and saw my name and my story in print, I couldn’t wait to write another article.
Looking back over my three years at Duke, almost all of my proudest achievements originated in Recess — whether it was interviewing one of my favorite artists, learning more about a local gallery or instituting the policy of snacks at meetings. Whenever someone asks what my favorite thing I’ve done at Duke was, I immediately say being Recess managing editor sophomore year. A year from now, that answer may change to being Recess editor.
There have been pitfalls, of course. Typos, long hours in the office and adventures with InDesign all proved to be greater challenges than I had previously imagined. Taking a semester to gallivant across Europe may have shaken up a previously imagined line of succession. Poor phone service is still an enemy to interviews everywhere. But as I learned how to deal with these problems, I felt more and more like a journalist and less like a college student pretending to know what she was doing.
Recess has taught me many practical skills: how to send a proper email, how to call strangers on the phone, how to go through an article line by line and checking for any unwanted Oxford commas. It has taught me how to listen and how to write, how to research and how to ask questions. But it has also provided me with a group of mentors and friends who I couldn’t have met anywhere else.
Recess has shown me the role of the arts on a campus like Duke’s and has taken me to galleries and museums and a giant arts center opening or two. Duke will always first and foremost be a research university, but a thriving arts scene exists both on and off campus.
And now Recess editor. A job that I’ve wanted for three years. I’ve seen Recess grow from a small and somewhat dedicated section to the flourishing group of writers it is today and I can’t wait to take it further — to continue uncovering stories regarding Duke culture and to figure out how the arts fit into them.
You may not find the biggest news of the day at Recess, but you may learn a thing or two about that local band or the latest film. You’ll find reporting on arts and culture on and off campus, personal essays and musings on the latest pop culture trends of the day. Recess focuses on the unexpected, on what you weren’t looking to find but you’re happy you did. Who knows, you may find a new passion. I know I did.
Christy Kuesel is a Trinity senior and Recess editor.
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