2018 Distinguished Alumni
The Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize exceptional leaders and contributing citizens who are alumni of the Duke University Talent Identification Program. Candidates are selected based on achievements in their field. Visit the Distinguished Alumni Award page to see a list of past recipients.
Derek Wallbank runs Bloomberg’s First Word breaking news desk in Washington, DC, the top media source for breaking news on everything coming out of the White House, Congress, and the rest of the US federal government. A policy-focused news source in Washington since 2008, Wallbank’s desk regularly moves world markets and currencies with its scoops and breaking news.
“The goal now as always is to examine the inner workings of Washington and lay them out in the open, in plain English, so people know not only what’s happening, but why,” Wallbank said about his work as a journalist.
Wallbank is chairman of the Board of Governors at the National Press Club, the nation’s foremost professional association of journalists. He is also a member of the board of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the Club’s charitable wing that provides training for journalists and promotes press freedom around the world. Wallbank is a regular commenter on US political news for national and global outlets, and has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, C-SPAN, and Bloomberg TV. His work has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press, and Chicago Tribune.
Wallbank attended the Duke TIP Summer Studies Program three times—once at Appalachian State and twice at Kansas—before attending Michigan State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science. He was also
named Michigan State’s 2015 Rising Star for its College of Communication Arts and Sciences.
Asked about his proudest moment as a journalist, Wallbank pointed to a northern Minnesota school that was rebuilt after he and other news outlets brought attention
to its appalling condition and neglect. “If the life or future of an eight-year-old is better, in any small part, because I did my job, then it’s a good day,” Wallbank said.
1996 Myths and Legends
1997 Algebra I
1999 Political Science & International Relations
Michigan State University, BA, Journalism and Political Science, 2006
Early Achievement Award winner: Morgan Dameron
“I wrote down ‘Plan A: make a movie’ and didn’t write a backup plan,” TIPster Morgan Dameron said. “I didn’t give myself a second option.”
Dameron didn’t need one, either. She is the award-winning writer, director, and producer of Different Flowers, a feature film that tells the story of two sisters on a road trip through the Midwest after one of them runs away on her wedding day. Dameron raised the money for the film herself before premiering it to sold-out crowds at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, seeing it open at AMC theatres, and finally selling it to Showtime.
The Kansas City native began dreaming of making films at five years old. She made homemade movies as a child, took art classes at local film organizations, and was eventually awarded a full scholarship to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where she graduated summa cum laude. She also experienced TIP in 2006, taking part in a study abroad course called France: Philosophic Quest.
In addition to her success with Different Flowers, Dameron has worked on hit films such as Star Trek into Darkness and Star Wars: The Force Awakens—there’s even a Star Wars character named after her! She also has directed commercials and cooking shows and served as executive assistant to director and producer J. J. Abrams. Dameron also received the Spirit of Kansas City Award from Kansas City Women in Film and Television for her work furthering the filmmaking community.
2006 France: Philosophic Quest
University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, BA, summa cum laude, 2011