Lights, Camera, Leadership! Creating a Video to Spread the Word about the Emerging Leaders Institute

 November 15, 2023

The Chosen Challenge

Our team embarked on an exciting project to promote the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) to graduate students and postdocs. Before joining the program, we were strangers to each other. Once accepted, each of us individually interviewed stakeholders in graduate and postdoctoral education such as administrators, faculty, and staff to understand the community's main concerns. The feedback from the community was clear: while Duke offers many professional development options, students wanted more clarity about them. Armed with this understanding, we decided to showcase the ELI since we were already familiar with the program and, through speaking with program coordinators, became aware that the program had capacity for more applicants. To better understand who applies to and is aware of ELI, we surveyed past and present ELI participants as well as Graduate School students and postdocs. We used the results of this survey to inform the creation of a promotional video highlighting the ELI program to future participants.

The Journey Toward a Solution

Cohort Participants Experience Survey:

To learn more about participants’ experiences with the program, we surveyed all past and present participants, from 2023 back to the first cohort in 2014. In this survey, we wanted to understand why each person applied to the program and what skills they learned. The key takeaways from this survey:

  1. Two-thirds of the participants learned about the program from emails, indicating that this is currently the most successful method for recruiting applicants.
  2. About half the participants were hesitant when applying to the program due to the time commitment. (The program takes place over eight weeks, including five in-person sessions on Friday afternoons.)
  3. Although most participants went into the program wanting to learn general leadership skills and professional development, they found the most valuable part of this program was learning about themselves through strengths and emotional intelligence assessments.
  4. Nearly all of the program alumni have recommended ELI to their peers.

Overall, ELI was shown to exceed participants’ expectations, allowing each person to truly learn about themselves and recognize their unique strengths and skills. However, this information did not shed light on why some graduate students and postdocs did not choose to apply, thus motivating us to also survey the broader population.

graphs and pie charts

Cohort participant experience survey results.

ELI Program Interest Assessment:

To understand broad perspectives of Graduate School students and postdocs who hadn’t yet participated in ELI, we distributed a second survey broadly through emails. Key takeaways:

  1. Graduate students and postdocs are interested in developing their leadership skills, mentoring, and interdisciplinary collaborations through programming at Duke.
  2. Newsletters from departments, The Graduate School, and Office of Postdoctoral Services are sufficient channels for communicating these programs.
  3. A good portion of the survey respondents expressed general interest in the ELI program with accolades for the impact of previous ELI projects.
  4. A minority of the surveyed students and postdocs were aware of the ELI program’s offering every spring, with many of the individuals who were aware of the program citing time commitment issues for their hesitancy to apply to the program.

The Solution: Producing a Promotional Video

We prioritized showcasing the advantages of the ELI program. Our initial survey revealed that most participants discovered the program through email, indicating a communication gap in this social media savvy age. Drawing inspiration from past media hits like the Duke Library Pandemic book borrowing initiative, we created a video to amplify the program's visibility, specifically targeting Graduate School students and postdocs. This video accentuates the ELI program's benefits, the reasons participants joined, and the most valued skills they acquired for post-graduation. Our follow-up survey underscored these advantages.

We emailed former and current ELI participants and the facilitation team to gauge their interest in being interviewed about their experiences with the program. Our aim was to get as diverse a group of interviewees as possible to get a range of experiences. We drafted a set of questions to ask each participant depending on their affiliation with the program. Using these interviews as the backbone for the video during post-production, we added B-roll video filmed during ELI sessions to illustrate what was being said. We also added establishing shots such as aerial views of the library and the Graduate School found on Duke Webdam. It should be noted that we were unable to interview any alumni of the ELI program, though we had an even split of male to female interviewees (current ELI cohort and the director of the program) and diverse backgrounds.

A Learning Experience

The time we spent together as a team was invaluable and we gained many important insights. One of our main achievements was successfully overcoming the challenges of working in an interdisciplinary team. We leveraged each other’s skills and learned to communicate effectively, giving and receiving constructive feedback.

Furthermore, we took the time to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and used this knowledge to our advantage. As an example, we split our responsibilities across our disciplinary strengths with the creative tasks led by our team member with a background in media and arts, and the research and data analysis performed by members with analytical skills. This understanding not only allowed us to better allocate tasks, but also gave us a deeper appreciation for each other's contributions to the team.

As a result, we grew closer as a group and were able to rally around our shared goals. Our improved teamwork allowed us to execute our team presentation and deliverables with greater efficiency and quality. Overall, the experience was not only beneficial for our project, but also for our personal and professional development.


Veronique Koch headshot
Véronique Koch

Master's student, Graduate Liberal Studies

Véronique Koch is an Emmy-award-winning science filmmaker. She has a background in marine biology, but she transitioned to filmmaking after graduate school to work for the Discovery Channel, PBS, and Sesame Street. Currently, she is the Senior Science Video Producer at Duke University, making videos to promote the science at Duke and managing the @dukeresearch Instagram account. Véronique entered the master’s program in Graduate Liberal Studies in 2022 with the intention of learning more about filmmaking and science communication. Véronique enjoys spending time with her two boys outside work and school, walking her dog in the woods, and road cycling.

Ayodamope Fawole
Ayodamope Fawole

Recent M.S. graduate, Global Health

Ayodamope Fawole received his master's degree from the Duke Global Health Institute in May 2023, and he has continued at DGHI as an associate in research. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Dental Surgery from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He has worked as a clinician and recently as a disease surveillance expert at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. He is interested in health systems strengthening, health economics, and health policy. His thesis research employs mathematical modeling methods to forecast the health and economic benefits of a mental health and life skills intervention designed for adolescents and young people living with HIV in Tanzania.

Brittany Smith
Brittany Smith

Ph.D. student, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Brittany Smith is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. As a Connecticut native, she received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Connecticut in 2020 before coming to Duke. As a member of the Franklin group, Brittany works on developing printed electronics with a focus on transistor and sensing applications. She has been an active member of the ECE advocacy for student engagement (EASE) and materials research society (MRS) at Duke. Outside the lab, Brittany enjoys a good book, paddleboarding, and binge-watching her favorite TV shows.

Pratik Kashyap
Pratik Kashyap, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral researcher, Psychiatry

Pratik Kashyap, Ph.D. is a data scientist with ten years of quantitative research experience in the field of statistical signal processing and mathematical optimization theory. His primary areas of interest are medical imaging, inverse problems, Bayesian inference statistics, time series modelling, child psychiatry, infant neurodevelopment, and artificial intelligence. He has eight years of academic service experience in software maintenance; curriculum development coupled with teaching and mentoring university students of all levels; and nine years of leadership experience, including community outreach, campus engagement, career and social event programming, committee/team management, university-level policy advocacy and implementation.