Duke Documentary Classes at a Discount

Employees save 10 percent on Center for Documentary Studies courses

Marc Maximov, coordinator of continuing education at the Center for Documentary Studies, assists Diana Monroe with her documentary about baby boomers. Photo by Marsha A. Green.

Diana Monroe loves her two-story suburban house but realized its shortcomings when her mother was dying. The house wasn't wheelchair accessible and didn't have a full bath on the ground floor, so she couldn't bring her mother there.

"It got my husband and I talking about how to prepare for getting old," said Monroe, 64, a certified health education instructor for LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke's employee wellness program.

Their conversations blossomed into an idea to make a documentary film about the housing decisions baby boomers make as they prepare to become the elders of society. For the past several years, Monroe has filmed interviews with architects, builders, gerontologists and people nearing retirement age to capture "aging-in-place," the desire to create housing options that allow people to live independently in their homes even as they get older. 

To guide and inspire her efforts, Monroe has taken eight continuing education classes at Duke's Center for Documentary Studies (CDS). As a Duke employee, she is eligible for a 10 percent discount on each class through PERQS, Duke's employee discount program.

CDS offers the employee discount on all continuing education classes, workshops and institutes. Classes cover documentary techniques in video, audio, photography and writing and include the opportunity to work with instructors and state-of-the-art equipment in CDS computer labs. The discount ranges from $15 to $145, depending on class length. Some classes meet once, while others meet weekly for six to 14 weeks. A few are intensive multi-day immersive experiences. 

"We teach the technical aspects of creating documentaries, but our niche is to help students learn about the process and traditions of documentary work," said April Walton, continuing education director. "Our real focus is on the story and how to create the narrative."

Monroe structured her learning by applying for the Certificate in Documentary Arts. The continuing education certificate is awarded to students who complete 112 class hours, including three required courses and several electives. Students must also produce a final documentary project for public screening. 

"In each class, the teachers and fellow students have helped me tighten my focus on what I really want to say and show and how to use different techniques to do it well," Monroe said.

This semester, Monroe used the 10 percent discount for the six-week "Final Project" course to polish her 10-minute documentary film. She will join other continuing students completing the Certificate in Documentary Arts for a screening final projects at the Nasher Museum of Art at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7. 

After she receives her certificate, she plans to continue attending classes.

"It's exhilarating to be with like-minded people who are also trying to capture a moment in time," Monroe said. "I'm hooked."