Karter Duff, '17, Writing Studies

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Karter Duff shares the story of his journey from high school drop-out to UW Tacoma degree to grad school acceptance.

Q: Tell us about your journey—what brought you to UW Tacoma?

I dropped out of high school when I was 15 due to some serious bullying issues in my hometown over in Eastern Washington, and I’ve spent the better part of ten years isolated and alone. However, over the past two years of college, I have met some amazing people within the City of Tacoma—it’s these people’s stories that truly resonate with me. I have found my place—not only within a community but in the world—because of these people.

When it came time to transfer from Tacoma Community College, I wasn’t ready to leave this city and people, so I decided to transfer to UW Tacoma to maintain that sense of community. That's something powerful in itself because I had convinced myself for the better part of a decade that I wanted nothing more than to move on from the state of Washington.

Q: How did you know the Writing Studies Creative Writing track was for you?

Declaring a major is such a huge milestone in a person’s life. One has to have a pretty big conversation with oneself about what it is one wants to do. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to have that conversation with myself, let alone other people, so I just began a process of elimination in terms of my abilities. I was never all that great at math, so computer engineering was out. I was horrible with science, so something like medical school was not in the cards. History was a hard pass. Writing, though? As a high school drop-out, I would spend my days locked up in my room, writing short stories which I refuse to read to this day out of self-preservation. I had the sudden realization that I was an okay writer; like, I wrote the world’s “okayest” stories. I figured with the “write” type of classes (see what I did there?) and with instructors who knew what they were doing, I could really hone the craft of writing.

Q: Which course was your favorite?

Writing is a skill that continually grows, even when you aren’t actively studying it inside a classroom. I’ve learned as much about my own writing through the literature and communication courses with instructors like Dr. Nicole Blair, Dr. James Liner, and Mr. Joe Welinske as I have in my writing courses with Mr. Michael Kula, or “The Kulanator” as I have been known to call him—but not to his face. All of the courses I have taken while finishing my degree have had an impact on my writing; it’s difficult, if not impossible, for me to select just a single course.

Q: What will you remember most about your UW Tacoma experience?

One thing I will remember from my time at UW Tacoma will be the relationships I’ve formed with other students. Though I appreciate each of my Writing Studies peers individually for who they are, making friends isn’t something that is easy for me. However, I have made one really great friend here at UW Tacoma and will always remember our time here fondly. I’m sure that sounds cheesy, but it’s a big deal when someone just genuinely likes you and wants to hang out outside of class. 

Q: What's next?

Writing was a big part of my time as a high school drop-out, and I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to study that, but video games were also a big part of my life, so I wanted to combine writing with my interest in video games in the right grad program after I graduate this spring.

I have just been accepted into the University of Southern California's Interactive Media master's program—it's the top video game design program in the country. They accept 15 people every year, and of those 15, they accept only one writer. I don't know how I did it, but somehow I tricked an entire university into thinking I was the country's "okayest" writer. Before UW Tacoma, I never would have imagined getting to this point in my life, and now I am going to grad school.

Continue Exploring Class of 2017

Written by: 
Interview by Meridith Hatch / June 8, 2017
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu