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2014 Certificate in Documentary Studies Graduates

Eight Duke University students graduating in 2014 with a Certificate in Documentary Studies describe themselves and their work:

William Tobias Baumgartner
Boulder, Colorado
Major: Program II—Visual Media and Health Disparities (Documentary Studies and Global Health)


My Duke experience has been characterized by a pursuit of multidisciplinary studies. Through my self-created Program II major, I have been able to synthesize studies in documentary film and photography, biology, global health, statistics, epidemiology, and cultural anthropology (among others) in order to create multimedia pieces that explore and narrate complex health issues around the world. In four years at Duke, I have made films in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Guatemala, Bolivia, Durham, and Colorado, on subjects ranging from HIV to drug abuse to electronic music. The Center for Documentary studies was a huge part of my decision to attend Duke University, as faculty reached out to me before I had even made my decision and showed me the passion and dedication CDS has for learning to tell stories. I am hoping to spend the next year making a documentary film on Latin America water policy, and I will attend medical school this or the following year. Ultimately, I hope to constantly integrate health and media in order to tell untold stories of global health disparities.

Danzhou Duojie 
Major: Cultural Anthropology | Certificate in Arts of the Moving Image


Before my family owned a TV, I remember my parents narrating fairy tales and real stories. Those stories were my window into the lives of my parents and grandparents, and in some ways, the reservoirs of my knowledge about my culture and its past. However, the introduction of modern media technology has replaced the bedtime storytelling tradition. While I enjoyed growing up watching TV and movies as a member of one of the first generations in Tibet to consume such forms of entertainment, a part of me still longed for the bedtime storytelling of my parents. I believe that documentary fulfills the telling of traditional stories through modern means and preserves stories as episodes of the history and culture of a people. When I first tried to make films, I quickly realized the need to receive a proper training in filmmaking. Duke stood out as I was searching for the best documentary schools, and the Certificate in Documentary Studies program will enable me to achieve my dream.

My capstone project is a film about the process of recovery in the aftermath of a 2010 earthquake that devastated my hometown in Tibet. For the past three summers, I went back home and tried to capture the recovery and the reconstruction of the town. This film tells the story of the courage and the struggle of the people to rise from the rubble of the earthquake and build a new home.

Adrienne Harreveld
Jupiter, Florida
Major: History / Minor: Political Science

Adrienne Harreveld

I came to Duke from a performing arts high school where I concentrated in music performance. After arriving in Durham I wanted to completely forget my artistic background and only focus on what I thought my true passions were: policy and politics. But during my first semester of just academic work, campaigns, and thought talks, I deeply missed the creativity I had previously been immersed in. This is what led me to take classes at the Center for Documentary studies. I wanted to integrate my passion for policy, history, organizing, and journalism with creativity and artistry. Getting the Certificate in Documentary Studies has been the defining experience of my college career. It has introduced me to so many different, vibrant communities in North Carolina and instilled within me a love of storytelling. My capstone project is a historical archive and twenty-minute video piece on the history of Internationalist Books, a leftist/anarchist bookstore in Chapel Hill. I have loved combining my academic historical training with documentary and hope to continue making projects like this in the future. I hope to pursue a career in policy journalism or documentary.

Jordan Imbrey
Charlotte, North Carolina
Major: Communications—Media Production / Minor: Writing for the Screen and Stage

Jordan Imbrey

I have loved telling stories since childhood and developed a passion for filmmaking in high school as I embarked upon a journey to make a series of three thirty-minute superhero comedy films. I spend most of my time writing, directing, and producing fictional films on various comedic and absurd subjects. Courses in documentary studies have provided me the tremendous opportunity to explore the telling of nonfictional narratives—I have fallen in love with the projects that attempt to span the border between fiction and nonfiction.

Taking courses toward the certificate has been fascinating; I have learned more and more about what documentaries can achieve, both on a philosophical level and a tangible one. Courses with Bruce Ornstein and Michelle Lanier taught me about the power of the documentary form in policy. Josh Gibson led me to investigate the borders and questions of documentary work. In Karen Price’s course on Los Angeles, I got a picture of how narrative films can be woven to create a documentary thesis, and with Katherine Hyde, I learned about the origins of and ethical issues associated with this kind of storytelling.

The capstone seminar with Alex Harris has been a great opportunity to distill this learning and apply it to a project of my own—an investigation on a very basic level into what it means to be “normal” in my generation. We are bombarded with Baby Boomers trying to define us in Time magazine and trendy articles that refute that description, but what, at ground level, do college students say is normal for us?

Katia Griffin-Jakymec
Louisville, Kentucky
Major: International Comparative Studies (South Asia)


I became interested in cultural representations, connections, and real voices through my major. As my passion for identity, storytelling, and the “outward gaze” grew, I gravitated toward documentary studies as a means and platform for captivating, sometimes jarring, authentic expression of the world(s) around us. The Center for Documentary Studies has exposed me to fascinating new forms, themes, and questions, guiding me to seek the familiar in the foreign and the foreign in the familiar.

My capstone project follows the lives of three South Asian international scholars’ spouses at Duke University as they experience and navigate the spaces and faces of Duke and Durham. How does the idea of home change or remain the same? How do mundane everyday moments embody their sense of alienation or belonging? How do they tell their own stories? I included my interlocutors’ recorded voices and/or handwritten reflections on family photographs as I seek to portray how they reflect on their own lives on this campus.

David Mayer
Durham, North Carolina
Major: Visual and Media Studies

David Mayer1

People’s stories have always been what drive me. I have always been obsessed with how other people live and with the story that people tell about their own lives. I became interested in pursuing the Certificate in Documentary Studies in my freshman year when I took Gary Hawkins’ introductory course on documentary filmmaking. Professor Hawkins taught me an approach to storytelling that changed the way I see moviemaking. He showed me what is possible through cinematic techniques.

For the past two years I have worked on my capstone project, a documentary film titled Questions for My Grandfather. It is a movie about trying to find the story of the grandfather that I never met.  We all tell stories about ourselves, and these stories come to define us. And, as I found out while making Questions for My Grandfather, these stories even come to define the generations of people that will live long after we are gone. This is why I want to make documentaries: to tell and share stories.

Natalie Robles
Goldsboro, North Carolina
Major: Cultural Anthropology / Minor: Music

Natalie Robles

While I believe everyone is essentially a documentarian, I plan on becoming a documentary filmmaker after navigating this world with a nuanced, anthropological eye. I’ve taken an interest in filming the outcasts—those who are misunderstood or stereotyped in society. I’ve documented displaced families in Medellín, Colombia, street musicians in New York City, and an impoverished blues musician in North Carolina. I emphasize that I’m not here to give people voices, because I don’t have the ability to do so for anyone but myself. All I do is merely remind us that we are all human and that all stories deserve to be heard.

My capstone project, Kinston & Mother Earth, is a sociological analysis of one company’s power and presence in a town with a rich history but vulnerable economic status. I document the effect a recent and successful brewery, Mother Earth, has on a complex community of people, as locals deal with newfound tourism, hippie gentrification, and chronic unemployment. Kinston has been a laboratory for resurgence and revitalization every twenty or thirty years. What do Kinstonians think of this newest craft beer and gourmet food renaissance? How does a town interact with change? Who is benefitting and who isn’t? Most may see Kinston as just another dilapidated southern town, but its metamorphosis is emblematic of many changes occurring in all towns all over the country. I am fortunate to see it happening from the ground up, and as one watches my documentary, I hope they can see that transformation is incredibly complex, even in the tiniest of towns.

Yvette Vasquez
San Diego, California
Major: Cultural Anthropology

Yvette Vasquez

When I close my eyes, I can still see my grandmother standing in front of the stove, one hand on the counter while the other rhythmically stirs the pot of frijoles placed before her. I can hear the tortillas crackling over the adjacent flame. The scent in the air is a wonderful dance between the spice of the serrano peppers she mixes into the beans and the spice of cinnamon infused with the aroma of coffee that sits in a pot on the counter. As I open my eyes, I am once again reminded of the immense role documentary work has played in my life. It is the wish to capture moments such as these that drives the passion for my work, largely through writing and photography. By capture, I mean to go beyond a scratched note or an instantaneous click of the shutter. I have learned that beauty is found in the mundane. In this, documentary work has encouraged me to experience the moment as the best means through which to truly understand. In doing so, I seek not to capture an image, but an experience. This yearning has affected every aspect of my time here at Duke. Whether I am writing my thesis in cultural anthropology or completing my capstone project in documentary studies, retrospective images from my childhood in San Diego are what continue to drive this challenge within myself.

One Response to “2014 Certificate in Documentary Studies Graduates”

  1. Marta Sanchez says:

    Congratulations to the 2014 Certificate in Documentary Studies Graduates. Reading the bios gives a great preview of the work completed and the work that is to come! I look forward to this weekend’s screening of everyone’s documentaries.

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