Words Matter: How Writing Helps Alums Make a Difference

In a new exhibit at Perkins Library, 12 recent Duke graduates explain why writing matters, both personally and professionally

This new exhibit at Perkins Library,
This new exhibit at Perkins Library, "What Are They Writing Now?: Duke Alumni Write Their World," is on display through mid-November. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ahern-Dodson

As she sorts through the challenges and complications that come with life after college, 2009 Duke graduate Carina Barnett-Loro often puts pen to paper. Whether it's a personal journal or a simple letter to a friend, Barnett-Loro finds solace in writing.

Her experiences with writing are highlighted in a new Perkins Library exhibit put together by the Thompson Writing Program. It is called "What Are They Writing Now?: Duke Alumni Write Their World." In it, Barnett-Loro and 11 other recent Duke alums talk about writing and its value to both their personal and professional lives.

"In my personal life, writing serves as incredible, low-budget therapy," Barnett-Loro writes in her testimonial. "I just turned 25, and find that the first half of this decade has been far more complicated and confusing than I expected it would be when I graduated from Duke three years ago. I am constantly voicing my excitement and frustration with this uncertainty through writing."

As an organizer for the Sierra Club, Barnett-Loro writes e-mail action alerts, letters and blog posts to lobby legislators and mobilize fellow activists. In addition, she writes op-ed articles and letters to the editors of newspapers in hopes of influencing public opinion.

The profiled alums use writing in different ways to make a difference in the world, from technical writing to journalism to the young woman aspiring to be a novelist. Contributors include Jimmy Soni, a 2007 Duke graduate who is now the managing editor of the Huffington Post, and Mel Baars, an Army chaplain with two Duke degrees who blogs about her experiences with a ministry in Afghanistan.

"There are lots of ways that writing helps us to think, to reflect and to engage with the world," says Jennifer Ahern-Dodson, the writing program's director of outreach. "Regardless of the form, it's about communicating your passion and getting people on board with your ideas."

The exhibit, located on the first floor of Perkins Library, will be displayed until Nov. 18. Alumni writers who would like to be featured in a future exhibit should contact Jennifer Ahern-Dodson, Director of Outreach for the Thompson Writing Program, jahern@duke.edu.