Director - Center for Documentary Studies @ Duke University

Center for Documentary Studies @ Duke University
North Carolina, United States
Competitive Salary
Mar 23, 2021
Employment Level
Employment Type
Full Time

The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) is dedicated to documentary expression and its role in creating a more just society. A nonprofit affiliate of Duke University, CDS teaches, produces, and presents the documentary arts across a full range of media – film, photography, audio, narrative writing, experimental and new media – for students and audiences of all ages.


Having steadily grown over the past three decades, The Center for Documentary Studies is poised to move into an exciting new phase in its evolution, and seeks a bold and strategic leader who will identify a compelling path for an expansion of the Center’s mission, vision, and impact.

 The Director should bring:

  •  knowledge of the broad documentary landscape, to determine where opportunities for CDS might lie; 
  • a demonstrated commitment to documentary practices that are non-extractive and that hold artists accountable to the communities and individuals with whom they work; and 
  • a passion for advancing the documentary field through CDS’s unique Teaching—Producing—Presenting model.

While embracing the Center’s programmatic multiplicity, the Director will focus CDS’s diverse offerings into a more impactful whole – ensuring a clear and collective vision that: 

  • anchors and guides the internal work; 
  • aligns with the needs of the documentary field; 
  • further distinguishes CDS’s external identity; and 
  • encourages substantially increased support of, and investment in, CDS.

Reporting directly to CDS’s Board, the Director is also accountable to Duke University’s Provost, Associate Provost for the Arts, and Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences on the intersection of CDS’s programs with Duke. The Center currently has an operating budget of $5 million, sourced almost evenly from Duke University, CDS’s $27 million quasi-endowment, and private fundraising. Leading a dedicated team of staff and faculty, the Director will provide the strategic guidance, fundraising leadership, and management expertise needed to grow the Center and deepen its impact. CDS also works with other Duke units and faculty, neighboring universities, community partners, and documentary organizations in the United States and abroad.

The Director will drive a bold agenda which includes CDS’s current priorities of bringing more diverse voices into the organization and into the documentary field, strengthening the organization’s educational foundations, and broadening support for artists of color long underrepresented in access to documentary resources. Pivotal to the Director’s success will be the ability to empower others; engender creativity among the staff and faculty; further anchor CDS within the Duke Arts family; and effectively advocate for the Center’s long-term vision of using documentary, in all its forms, to be a force for change in the world.




 It is expected that the Director will:

Vision & Strategic Planning

  • Evolve CDS’s vision and distinct identity; 
  • Leverage CDS’s uniqueness as an organization with both strong artistic and educational initiatives, seeking opportunities to innovate in both areas;
  • Launch (ideally, within the first year) a comprehensive strategic planning process, developing long-term objectives that ensure CDS’s ability to function as a truly transformative force within the documentary field;
  • Embrace and continue to lead the deep institution-wide exploration currently underway on what racial equity means for the Center’s internal culture, and also as a lens for its external work;
  • Strengthen CDS’s educational core. Regularly evaluate all curricula, ensuring that CDS’s programs advance educational outcomes that prepare students to meet the emerging needs of today’s documentary field;
  • Evolve CDS’s role as a primary and collaborative member of the greater Duke Arts family; serve as a vital bridge between Duke and the community;
  • Build productive partnerships with documentarians, artistic leaders, festivals and other stakeholders – local to global;
  •  Continue the building and broad use of CDS’s unique Archive of Documentary Arts;
Organizational Development & Management

  • Assess and refine CDS’s infrastructure, business and financial models; 
  •  Lead a highly-skilled professional team, providing meaningful opportunities for staff development and growth; 
  • Advance an organizational culture, grounded in diversity, equity, and inclusion that supports the agency and productivity of all staff; 
  • Oversee all financial systems, including budgetary processes, audits, cash flow management and financial analysis; ensure that sound financial structures and reporting systems are in place; 
Fundraising & Communications

  •  As the Center’s chief advocate and fundraiser, articulate an aspirational vision to encourage major donor investment in CDS. Work to diversify and expand the Center’s funding base, exploring revenue opportunities (earned and contributed) aimed at ensuring long-term financial sustainability and growth; 
  • Cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships across Duke’s campus;
  • Serve as a visible thought-leader and spokesperson around issues central to CDS and its mission within the documentary community (local to global) and beyond;
Board Relations and Governance

  •  Build and nurture good relationships with all Board members marked by open communication and responsiveness; 
  • Help to identify and cultivate new trustees whose talents, interests and commitment will further CDS’s mission and expand support.



Ideally, the Director should have:

  • A solid grounding in the arts; preferably with significant experience as a practitioner, teacher, and/or leader in the documentary field; working knowledge of new ideas, practices, opportunities, and challenges emerging in the documentary field;
  • Senior-level experience leading and managing a cultural entity of a scale and/or complexity similar to that of CDS, with commensurate planning, analytical, fiscal, and human resource responsibilities; 
  • A commitment to, and competency in, dealing with antiracist practices at the organizational level; 
  • Successful fundraising experience, including developing and framing projects to appeal to a broad range of potential partners – institutional and individual; 
  • Presence to serve as an effective spokesperson and ambassador for CDS, with strong oral and written communication skills; 
  • A terminal degree is preferred, though other education combined with relevant work experience is acceptable. Holding an academic appointment at Duke is not a requirement of the job.



The ideal candidate will be: 

  • Passionate about the documentary arts, and personally committed to CDS’s mission, values and goals; 
  • An inspiring and entrepreneurial leader; able to think in interdisciplinary ways, and to anticipate and act on events which might create opportunities for CDS; 
  • Deeply collaborative; able to unify stakeholders around a shared vision, and cultivate an environment where mutual respect, collegiality and diversity are valued.



CDS believes that a story, well told, can deepen insight and empathy, encourage connection across differences, and open possibilities for meaningful change. The Center values documentary work that balances community goals with individual artistic expression, and promotes work that cultivates progressive change by amplifying voices, advancing human dignity, engendering respect among individuals, breaking down barriers to understanding, and illuminating social injustices. As one of its major goals, CDS seeks to cultivate new talent in the documentary field, particularly among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) makers.

 The Center is renowned for a range of hallmark programs, which include:

 Innovative Education

In its approach to education, CDS emphasizes documentary fieldwork and collaborative partnerships. Its educational offerings include: Undergraduate courses (and a Certificate Degree program) offered to students enrolled at Duke University (with reciprocal credit arrangements for students enrolled at a host of other universities); Graduate courses towards a Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke; Literacy Through Photography, School of Doc, and other collaborations with Durham Public Schools; and a wide range (up to a hundred annually) of open-admission Community Education courses (include a Certificate Granting Program) for adults;

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

One of the world’s premiere showcases for nonfiction cinema, the Festival draws an international mix of 10,000+ attendees to Durham every spring. The Academy Award®-qualifying festival screens close to a hundred films, hosts panels, and fosters community among filmmakers, industry professionals, and audience members;

 Curated Exhibitions & Public Programs

Featuring still and moving images, documents, writing, audio, and interactive installations that seek to heighten historical and cultural awareness, create discourse, and challenge traditional views of “others”;

 CDS Books

Works of creative exploration by writers and photographers who convey new ways of seeing and understanding human experience in all its diversity;

Scene on Radio Podcast

Launched in 2015, a podcast which explores human experience within American society;

 International Prizes

Over the last quarter century, CDS has given awards to more than 350 emerging and established documentarians to recognize excellence and extend monetary support;

 Doc Exchange (DocX)

Which pushes the boundaries of documentary innovation and exploration; and provides residencies, fellowships, and intensives that support BIPOC creatives working across the documentary arts; and


CDS is committed to the preservation of significant documentary work through its collaboration with the David M. Rubenstein Library, where the groundbreaking Behind the Veil Collection, the Archive of Documentary Arts, and the SNCC Digital Gateway are housed.

By establishing a collaborative workspace for artists, scholars, and students to explore and develop multiple artistic and interdisciplinary approaches to storytelling, CDS seeks to push the documentary field to new levels of achievement.




Equal employment opportunity and having a diverse staff are fundamental principles at The Center for Documentary Studies, where employment and promotional opportunities are based upon individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation/preference, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status or any other protected characteristic as established under law.

To apply for this position, please forward a resume, as well as a substantive cover letter outlining your interests and qualifications via e-mail to:

Sandi Haynes

Executive Search Consultant