Hosting Duke’s “Office Hours”

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Like I’ve written in the past, I’m continually amazed at the type of productions that go on at Duke University. Believe it or not, I was able to host Duke’s weekly talk show called “Office Hours” on November 17, 2011. “Office Hours” is streamed live on UStream every week Thursdays at noon and then uploaded to YouTube to be viewed at one’s convenience. “Office Hours” is mostly promoted through Duke Alumni Association, as well as Duke Media Services, but the audience is expanding week by week. Just as the name suggests, the purpose of “Office Hours” is to let students, faculty, alumni and parents listen to conversations that are taking place on Duke’s campus. Viewers can send in questions to be part of the conversation. The idea of my involvement with the show has been in development for many months and started at the beginning of the school year. I initially applied for a social media internship and though I didn’t get the internship, my interviewer referred me to more production-based work with the show “Office Hours.” I’ve gotten to know the staff very well and have watched the past five shows grow into its own audience and style. The episodes usually have a different interviewer and each interviewee brings to the table his/her own flair and knowledge. Afterall, each episode features an important, topical subject. Each week brings a new host and new guests. On my episode, I brought the student voice to the show and I hope that I represented my colleagues fairly.

The topic I dealt with on “Office Hours” was not a light topic. “Campus Mental Health Issues” are serious issues and it is real and prominent. I talked with Dr. Glass, who is the Assistant Director of Outreach and Programming for Duke’s Counseling and Psychological Services (also known as CAPS), throughout the show. The end result is posted below, and though I am extrememly satisfied with it, I spent many hours researching and gearing up for the show. I had two sessions with producers from the show to roleplay the conversation and tweak my script. However, once you sit down in the hosting chair – all script notes fly out of the window. As soon as the show began, my adrenaline overcame by body and all that was left was Dr. Glass and myself. Though I stumbled on my words here and there, I felt I did pretty well for my first time hosting a live long-form talk show (and it’s not an easy task)!

I learned a lot about mental health for college students while I was preparing for this conversation. A common misconception is that everyone is happy here at Duke, at least that’s what it looks like to outsiders. Students cheer on their beloved Blue Devils in Cameron, walk through the beautiful Duke Gardens, converse with fellow students with meaningful dialogue. Though this sounds ideal, this is unfortunately not the case for much of the student population. For example, in a recent study, the American Psychological Association reported a rise in depression and mental illnesses on college campuses. The percentage of students with moderate to severe depression has gone up from 34 to 41 percent in the past 10 years. The American College Health Association assessed colleges across campuses and published shocking statistics such as over the last 12 months, 26.9% of males and 33.3% of females felt so depressed that it was difficult to function and “40.5% of males and 56% of females felt overwhelming anxiety. At Duke, it’s an even more crazed environment, and the situation is often amplified.

Many students at Duke feel they have to follow this Duke mentality of “work hard, play hard” which is mentioned in the upcoming Duke Magazine’s November/December cover story titled “Pressures Beneath the Surface.” Many students believe everyone else is succeeding at balancing their academic and social life, while doing so effortlessly. However, Bridget Booher writes in her article, that in reality, many students feel alone at Duke and experience periods of isolation and this is actually the majority of the population (called the marginalized majority). The current generation of students often experiences a strong fear of failure. We hold ourselves to such high standards and create these ideal expectations because everyone else seems to be doing the same thing at Duke. This fear can turn into either self controlling behaviors (such as eating disorders) or avoidance (which can lead to alcohol abuse or other issues). Dr. Glass hits on these subjects throughout the interview.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the conversation, but we talked about some pretty serious and meaningful topics. Instead of going into more depth, I urge you to check out “Campus Mental Health Issues” that was presented on “Office Hours” this past week.


DEMAN Weekend 2011

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“Come as you are, leave inspired.” I remember seeing this quote printed on the t-shirts that the Duke Career Center handed out to participants of the “Fannie Mitchell Career Conference.” The Fannie Mitchell Career Conference is an annual event for Duke students and alumni to meet and network with each other in many different fields. I felt this way after my weekend at DEMAN. DEMAN, in its third year at Duke, aims to help students specifically interested in the Entertainment, Media and Arts industry. Needless to say, I was very excited for this event. Duke students often assume the university is mainly interested in helping those who follow paths in finance, consulting, law or medicine. However, this past weekend at the DEMAN event, Duke made it clear that the entertainment industry is just as important as every other career Duke students may pursue.

DEMAN was a complete success. The talented Kara DioGuardi kicked off the event and treated eager students to a wonderful, passionate speech. Her lesson for us all was the right of “freedom to fail.” I think all students should have been there to experience DioGuardi’s inspiring speech. Those of us who plan on following a career in the entertainment industry must remember that this is NOT an easy field to break into. Kara is one of the most successful Duke alums in the entertainment business, yet she struggled for many years to make ends meet after graduating from Duke. After all, in the entertainment industry every individual starts off on an equal playing field. Just because you may have a law degree, graduated at the top of your class from Harvard or maybe just ended a jail sentence – everyone must start at the bottom (whether that be as an intern, mailroom worker, assistant, freelance worker, etc) and work extremely hard to move himself/herself up the totem poll. DioGuardi is living proof of the importance of hard work and persistence.

On Friday evening, students and alumni participated in a panel at the Nasher Museum. Various successful entertainment alumni talked to their audience about the struggles, risks and rewards of working in the entertainment industry. I learned from John Harwood that print drives the media train and I learned from Brandt Joel that work ethic is more important than background. On Saturday morning, I attended a panel with Dave Karger and Jim Rosenfield. Both were open to answering student questions and helpful in sharing their experiences with the crowd. For example, Karger believes media is so niche oriented and one must think outside the box when applying to entertainment companies. When writing a review for Entertainment Weekly, Karger must use the third person critical eye perspective and not show personal bias. Rosenfield suggests students continue to find ways to make themselves “relevant” in the industry. Taking his own advice, Rosenfield is currently spending some time at Duke University to further develop his skills as a reporter and anchor.

One may think I’m naïve for being extremely excited about starting my career in the entertainment industry, yet I see it a different way. I’m eager to work on projects, meet people who are successful in the industry and I’m ready and willing to work long and hard hours. I want this career and I’m thankful Duke has given its students this source of knowledge that will help us as we step into the “real world.”


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I may have an addiction and I may need to enroll in B.A.A. What’s my addiction and what does that stand for? Well, I know the first stage of recovery is admittance. B.A.A. stands for Baking Addicts Anonymous. Yes, I made this up (I think). However, I think I show all the signs. This weekend I spent over 5 hours baking in my free time. This is what happens when it’s a slow news week! I create occasions in order to justify the need to try a new recipe. I’m also known to be the first to offer baked goods in exchange for help with work and projects (such as if someone volunteers to be in one of my films or helps me edit a piece). Can baking really cure my problems or do I turn to baking and ignore my problems? Before we delve into my feelings (even though I am a Psychology major this blog is not intended for self reflection), I managed to put the baked goods to good use this weekend. My dad’s 56th birthday was on Saturday so I made him White Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie Supreme. He loved them, I was satisfied. On Sunday I baked Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies to sell for a fundraiser to support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Baking for fundraisers are my favorite hobby. Baking serves so many different occasions no wonder I love it so much. I figured why not document the experience and blog about my baking endeavors over the weekend.

There is no denying the fact that the basic Chocolate Chip Cookie is divine. Oozing chocolate chips, chewy soft dough and the heavenly smell is usually enough to keep me satisfied for life. However, sometimes the same chocolate chip cookie can become a bit of a bore. The thing I enjoy most about baking is modifying the ingredients. Baking is like sculpting– adding and subtracting different elements (ingredients) to make the most beautiful (and tasty) creation. It’s always fun to take recipes found online and modify them to one’s own liking. I took this recipe and created my own modified version:

“White Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies”


4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, and baking soda. In a large bowl, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat eggs and vanilla extract into butter mixture. Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop a heap onto ungreased baking sheets. Press down lightly on the dough to flatten. Leave about an inch space between each cookie. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until light golden brown. Serves about two dozen.


The Making of a Cooking Show!

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I’ll be the first to admit I was hesitant when Matt Straus pitched a cooking show to my partner Jasmin Aldridge and I in early September. He told us he wanted to write and star in a cooking show revolving around a spice of the month. Though I am known to watch the Food Network in any spare moment I may have, I was nervous to actually film a show that revolved around the preparation and cooking of a meal. How is a cooking show filmed? What b-roll should we shoot? What should the set look like? There are many technical issues that could occur which became the root of my anxiety. However, after meeting with Matt and realizing how enthusiastic he was about this project, my fears instantly dissolved. A few days later I printed out a hard copy of the show’s script and knew that the show would turn out okay.

I left the script and meal preparation for Matt’s own development and I worked on all the other logistics. I found a location for the shoot in the kitchen of a friend’s house. After receiving the script, I went through it and looked for any continuity problems and made sure Matt’s show would be entertaining and never dull. I set up the shoot and was the main shooter. I was very happy when Jasmin showed up with a second camera.

In my opinion, though production elements are important in a show, the storyline is the driving force behind a show’s success. I felt Matt brought a good idea to the table and implemented his cooking skills properly into the show. Viewers are actually able to learn cooking techniques just by watching the segment. This show has the potential to help teach undergraduate students the cooking skills they will need once they are out in the “real world.” He also presents his meals in a fun and classy way, so even students who are looking for ways to entertain their friends while in college can do that as well. The show has the potential to appeal to all ages and to people at all cooking levels.

Episode 1 of “Matt Straus is…The Spice Smuggler” was a learning process for us all. I now know I need to use stable shots and more b-roll would enhance the show. For example, when shooting the food in its finished form I will aim to have a zoom on the image and a solid background so that it can be used anywhere in the show. I also want to show all the ingredients at the start of the show, if possible. I found little editing errors in the final product which I will learn from as well. However, overall I am satisfied with Episode 1 and I look forward to producing the next episode.

What’s next? I plan to promote his show through Facebook events, twitter postings and premiere episode parties. Matt hosted the first episode premiere party and I plan on hosting the next. At these events Matt will make sample dishes for attendees to try and to hopefully be inspired to make their own meals after watching the show! I also hope to have Matt try some vegetarian dishes for the growing population of vegetarians that are making their way on Duke’s campus. We are aiming to shoot at least one episode per month and will feature a new spice on each show! The next spice is a secret so keep checking back here and on Facebook to see what Matt smuggles next!

Want to watch the first episode? Check it out BELOW:

New Boyz Plays a Game with Me!

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 The New Boyz performed at Duke’s “Heat Wave” concert at the beginning of the school year. Since I am the Entertainment Producer for Duke Student Broadcasting I jumped on the opportunity to talk with the explosive music duo New Boyz (comprised of Ben J and Legacy). Luckily, I had seen their performance on “America’s Got Talent” and knew of their music for some time, but as any interviewer should do, I heavily prepared for my interview with the duo. After their YouTube video for “You’re A Jerk” went viral in 2009 (warning uncensored version), the duo released their debut album titled “Skinny Jeanz and a Mic.” Fast forward to 2011, New Boyz are still going strong blending their hip hop roots with different musical genres such as electro, R&B and alternative rock. Their sophomore album came out May 17, 2011 and is titled “Too Cool Too Care.” Their second single off that album “Backseat” has sold over 1 million digital copies to date and became the duo’s third top forty hit. Now more popular than ever, “Better With The Lights Off” featuring Chris Brown is blowing up the music scene everywhere.

After waiting for over 5 hours for my interview, I walked into the green room nervous and excited to meet the duo. The New Boyz were very friendly and open and graciously waited while my partner and I set up the equipment. Part of New Boyz group’s motto is: New Boyz do new things. Therefore, I decided to be creative with my interview with the group. Luckily, they were receptive of my interview surprise and you can see for yourself:

Coca-Cola Surprises Duke with its Happiness Vending Machine!

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Coca-Cola surprised Duke University with its Happiness Vending Machine! Students and staff were able to put in a dollar and see what surprise would be personally delivered to them! I got a box of candy. Some people got a litter of soda, a COOKIE CAKE (that said “Go Duke!”), 6 additional sodas, tattoos, a water gun, and an apple pie. I spent about 30 minutes being entertained by this machine and the crowd reactions so I decided to film a few vending machine reactions for the rest of the world to enjoy! Where will the machine stop next??