2016 Julia Harper Day Award Winner: Katie Jane Fernelius

Katie Fernelius

Katie Fernelius

The Julia Harper Day Award was created by the Center for Documentary Studies in 1992 in memory of the young woman who was CDS’s first staff member, a writer and photographer of real accomplishment. This $500 award goes to a graduating Duke University senior who has demonstrated excellence in documentary studies and contributed significantly to CDS programs. This year’s Julia Harper Day Award goes to Katie Jane Fernelius, a global culture studies major.

Katie is also graduating with a CDS Certificate in Documentary Studies, for which she completed a final project; rhapsody is her multimodal work that explores the question, Who is a citizen?, and the stakes of that question for different people around the world. For her project, Katie traveled to seven different cities around the world and interviewed individuals about love, community, and global citizenship. She wanted to pose the same questions she was asking in her critical theory classes to people who are often excluded from those conversations. For Katie, documentary work challenges her own conceptions of what is true and who gets to speak their own truths, and is a mode of inquiry that enhances her other intellectual pursuits, like literature and critical theory. After graduation, she plans to continue to write and produce audio documentary work. 

Kelly Alexander, a CDS instructor, writes: “I have known Katie for three years. In that time I have come to respect a young woman who is a talented writer and a deeply curious student of the world. She is driven to document the stories of her subjects in a way that is respectful, authentic, and original. As a close supervisor of much of her work during these years, I have vetted her projects and helped her develop storytelling techniques across the genres of writing/reporting and online journalism. Throughout this time Katie has consistently personified the kind of engagement in documentary studies that John Grierson described when he coined the term for the field: She is interested in history, stories, responsibility and representation, and a focused study of the social and cultural forces that shape modern life. I particularly appreciate her engagement with women’s rights and youth activism in general.”

In addition to her success in the documentary field, Katie coordinated School Days, an annual program where three hundred local 8th graders who will be first generation college students visit Duke’s campus. She was also an editor of The Chronicle, Duke’s independent student newspaper, as well as coeditor-in-chief of The Archive, a literary magazine published each semester.

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