Farewell to our Graduating Seniors!

Sarah Rogers

Each year, we hire a small number of undergraduate student assistants to help out with events and institutional communications. Usually we say good-bye to our seniors while gathering around a congratulatory cake, but this year we have to settle for wishing these graduates all our best from afar. Below, you can find short interviews with three of our senior humanities majors - Lizzie Butcher, Nonnie Egbuna, and Caroline Waring - as they reflect on working at the FHI, as well as quotes from their FHI supervisors. Please join us in wishing them congratulations!

Nonnie, Lizzie, and Caroline, no matter where you head next, everyone at FHI will be rooting for you!

Lizzie Butcher
Lizzie Butcher (T'20) outside of Smith Warehouse. An English major with minors in Visual Media Studies and Psychology, Lizzie supported a variety of humanities-related events at the FHI. She also contributed to institutional communications, writing social media posts and blogs for the websites. Photo by Dean Rhoades.

What made you apply to work at FHI? When did you start?

I stumbled across Story+ my freshmen year. I didn’t have summer plans but I was interested in going into advertising after graduation. The project combined advertising research with humanities research that I thought was interesting. Experiencing the intellectual community at the FHI and the close-knit friendships made me want to come back. I’d accepted student loans and I thought I could handle doing something to ease the burden. I started working as a sophomore in the fall.

What did you learn by working at the FHI in particular?

I liked that I would get exposure to different events on campus. Even while flyering, I used to take pictures of different things and send them to friends with majors or minors in the humanities. I’d never tried to write for social media in a professional capacity until I wrote Facebook posts for FHI, so that was new. I covered events and wrote articles about them, and I appreciated that when I made a portfolio for a class last semester. I’ve linked it in job applications.

What’s been the project you’re proudest of?"It’s been a real pleasure working with Lizzie over the past three years, and the Institute will surely miss her contributions in the areas of operational and communicative support. It’s always nice to have someone you can count on to be prompt and responsive when dealing with large-scale programs and events, and Lizzie was always ready to help wherever she could be most useful. I know I echo the entire staff’s sentiments in saying we wish her the best in her future endeavors!" - Dean Rhoades, Operations Coordinator, Frankl Humanities Institute

Probably Story+. We combed through the advertising archives in Rubenstein to look how the representation of racial minorities evolved over the past 100 years, locate where the materials were found, and create a database to help scholars locate them. And we looked at advertising reports and fashion catalogs, and did comparisons between mainstream magazines populated by white men and women and publications like Ebony. It was interesting to analyze and notice how strange the language and images and messages were, especially of African Americans, and how normalized that was. Each of us made our own digital exhibit about something we were interested in.

"I really admire Lizzie’s persistence. Whether she was applying for internships in Los Angeles or trying to work out a course schedule that would challenge and inspire her, she always pushed through to reach her goals. Even though times are difficult for recent college grads, I am sure she’ll succeed at making – not finding – her own path." - Sarah Rogers, Program Coordinator, Franklin Humanities Institute    It was really cool to learn that Duke has tremendous resources like the archives and they were at our disposal. We would have weekly meetings with Rubenstein staff, and doing research in the library felt like a big deal, like we were trusted and people cared about our ideas. We built a website using Omeka. We put time and research into something and made a tangible project that people were interested in. 

What’s next for you?

I’m hoping to make a start in TV or film in LA or New York. It fits in with my love of research, reading, TV, and film. At the core of development, it’s about searching for stories that are worth telling. It’s kind of similar to what I was doing at Story+, and it’s the kind of thing I’m passionate about, whether it’s creating an online exhibit or writing coverage for a screenplay.

Anything else you’d like to say about FHI?

Thanks for supporting me for all these years and making me feel like I had a home and people to turn to, whether I was dealing with something personal or professional! FHI and Smith Warehouse has felt like a safe and welcoming place to me during my time at Duke University.

Nonnie Egbuna
A Visual and Media Studies major, Chinonyelum ("Nonnie") Egbuna (T'20) shot and edited videos for FHI's communications. She worked at FHI from her first year to her senior year. She recently won a Robert E. Pristo Filmmaking Award to complete her short film project, Poppy. Photo courtesy of Nonnie Egbuna.

What made you apply to work at FHI? When did you start?

I was a freshman and knew I wanted to get into video production, but I didn’t necessarily have the skills I have now, shooting and editing. I saw the job on Duke List during the October of my first year. Literally Eric [Barstow, FHI Multimedia Director] taught me almost everything I know. 

What did you learn by working at the FHI in particular?

Eric [Barstow, FHI Multimedia Director] has been transformational to my college experience and personal and professional growth. He’s been very adamant about making sure I’m equipped to go out into the world into this industry. He made me learn Premiere because it’s industry standard...and has been hinting that I should learn Avid. I’m aware I’ve been in a unique position at FHI. It’s a unique opportunity because I learn every day on the job. My technical skills have grown tenfold. There’s so much more on my resume - half of my portfolio is what I’ve done for FHI.

What’s been the project you’re proudest of?"I have always been impressed by Nonnie’s dedication to personal excellence. From video editing to recording b-roll to developing her own voice in visual storytelling, she has embraced every challenge with impeccable distinction." - Eric Barstow, Multimedia Director, Franklin Humanities Institute

I really loved working on the videos related to Pauli Murray. I didn’t know that much about her before working at FHI. I edited three videos related to her, including the Homecoming video where they opened her house as a National Historic Landmark. Putting that video together made me feel like I was a part of that story, like I was making history last beyond me. It was impactful for me. 

What’s next for you?

I am wrapping up my senior graduation with distinction project. It’s a short film titled Poppy, and it’s about a young woman celebrating birthday on anniversary of best friend’s suicide. Thinking about mental health has been an important part of my college experience. I want to get it into the 2021 short film festival circuit. I’ll be applying for that at the latter end of this year.

Anything else you’d like to say about FHI?

FHI is a community. I didn’t expect work to be this kind of community. Ms. Mary [Williams, FHI Financial Manager], if I even cough around her, she’s like, “Hold on, here’s some tea!” It’s an amazing community and workplace culture. It shaped my college career and it’s been a foundational experience.

Caroline Waring
A Literature major with minors in English and Creative Writing, Caroline Waring (T'20) worked as an FHI undergraduate communications assistant, creating newsletters and writing social media posts and blogs for the FHI website. She recently won the Bascom Headen Palmer Literary Prize for best senior honors thesis on literary study for her thesis on imaginative models of subjectivity, "Sapphic Mapping: Counter-discourse in Three 'Lesbian' Novels." Photo by Jennifer R. Zhou.

What made you apply to work at FHI? When did you start?

I did Story+ the summer after my sophomore year and throughout my junior year, I attended different talks at FHI – things that my professors had pointed out would be interesting. It seemed like a pretty nice work environment, a friendly environment. I started at the beginning of November in 2019.

"I recruited Caroline to work at FHI because I saw how enthusiastic she was about humanities scholarship, and how well she was able to communicate about it. She fit right in at the FHI. It’s easy to see her succeeding at advanced studies in the humanities in the future, because frankly, she’s already there! She would be a great member of a graduate cohort, or any community lucky enough to have her." - Sarah Rogers, Program Coordinator, Franklin Humanities InstituteWhat did you learn by working at the FHI in particular?

I definitely learned the basics of communications work. I never worked with Mailchimp [a digital newsletter platform] before, and it was helpful to learn how to break things down into very consumable bullet points that people can understand and read. It was almost the psychology of marketing. And it allowed me to figure out how to put the words of humanities scholarship into words that a broader audience could understand, through writing blog posts or writing summaries of projects.

What’s been the project you’re proudest of?

I liked my blog posts about Story+ projects. And I liked my Story+ project [on the labor history of Duke Chapel]: it was a whole website with the data that we found, and we had a few more journalistically-minded articles. I wrote about regulations and OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], which wasn’t an agency when the chapel was built, and about how the workers would be in the scaffolding and a couple of them died from falls. And I went on The State of Things with Valerie [Gillespie, the University Archivist]. I’m also interested in radio, so it was interesting to see a publicly-funded radio setup. They asked about the conditions the workers were in, and our different discoveries, and I told them about the wage gap between black and white workers, and how black workers were always assistants and weren’t promoted to managers. There was a thesis we read that was studying Durham in 1920s and 1930s and it was about how black workers couldn’t get electrician licenses because trade schools were segregated. But people in black neighborhoods would hire friends who were as good as licensed electricians but couldn’t get the jobs.

What’s next for you?

I have an internship at Duke Performances. I haven’t started yet, but I think I’ll be learning how to write grants and looking ahead to the fall season and doing some communications work.

I’m going to be applying to MFAs in fiction writing, but I don’t really know what I’ll be doing work-wise. I want to move somewhere but it depends on what the virus situation is.

Anything else you’d like to say about FHI?

I guess the thing that I like the most in FHI is the general work environment. I thought it was cool to be around people who were really interested in the humanities in all sorts of different capacities. It was a nice place to hang around!

Associated Program(s)