This spring, the Department of English is pleased to honor the achievements of our Graduating Class of 2021. The seniors below were each nominated by individual faculty members of the Department of English for this public recognition. Click on a profile below to learn more about these students’ time as English and Film Studies majors at MSU, their inspirations, passion projects, and future plans. They also have advice for their peers, and reflect on graduating during this unprecedented semester in MSU’s history.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as a Film Studies major has been great! I have grown to appreciate older films and the theories and interpretations that come with them. I also have met a great community of people that are passionate about the same things as I am. I am glad I was able to make so many friends that have a love for film. The professors and faculty have also made my time at MSU amazing. Because the professors and students have similar passions, it makes it easier to connect with them. The professors can relate to the student experience in a way I think no other major can. This community helps me create projects, not only for a grade, but projects that I am actually passionate about.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I’ve had some of the same instructors for multiple classes. Pete Johnston was the first film professor I met on campus. I met him before I even took any of his classes because I had questions about filmmaking, and he was available to answer them. I was in two of his digital media filmmaking classes and I took a cinematography class. I also had the privilege to participate in a study away ran by him and Kate Sonka. Throughout my time here I have been able to look at Pete as a mentor. He taught me how to use cameras the way I use them now and hired me as an assistant in the film lab. His advice is what got me through every year of college.

I met professor, Jeff Wray, my junior year of college in my film directing class. I also had him in the fiction filmmaking capstone where I was the line producer for the film Varnish. Jeff teaches in way where he makes it easy for the student to be able to communicate with him. His advice has taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to and he has also given me job opportunities on multiple occasions. I never thought I would ever be a Teacher’s Assistant, but Jeff gave offered me a job to be his TA for the film collective. Although, the job was cut short because of campus closing, it was a great experience. Jeff also referred me to Yomaira Figueroa-Vasquez to create a documentary for her study away trip in Puerto Rico. Both Jeff and Pete helped me gain experience. 

Bill Vincent is another professor that comes to mind. Bill is a great professor and loves to help outside of the classroom. I had him for advanced screenwriting but met him before I even had his class. He was the star of a short film I did in my film directing class and the star of Varnish, the capstone film. He’s very easy to talk to and has helped my screenwriting skills improve.

Lastly, I’ve had Joshua Yumibe as a professor in most of my film theory classes. He was my professor When I took all my History of film classes and contemporary film and media theory classes. I also have had him in an archival film class. I always think the hardest when in his classes. Discussing films in his classes has helped me come out of my shell and help my communication skills when discussing the deep layers behind films. Joshua is always so helpful when it comes to projects and creates a space where every opinion is heard.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The faculty here is always happy to help with any questions you may have about your career. Use the resources on campus. I don’t have a lot of film equipment that I own and I’m able to rent film equipment on campus free of charge. This equipment will make the things you create look so professional and the faculty here are happy to teach you how to use it. Also, don’t be afraid ask for opportunities. There’s always a job that the department might need. Doing these jobs will build your resume and help you gain experience.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

This year I was the line producer for the student capstone film Varnish. I started my own production company to produce my short films, so I wanted to see what it would be like to produce a film with a larger budget. I oversaw the budget and I worked with every department to get each department what they needed for the film. I was able to see how each department comes together to create a finished film and learned things I never thought of before. I also made sure the schedule ran smoothly while shooting and handled any problems that arose on set. I also worked directly with the executive producers to oversee production and give jobs to the crew. Sometimes I helped the gaffer with the lighting, and I also was a boom operator. I also worked with editing doing DIT work. I was excited that I get to work with the friends that I met in my past film classes on one big film, and we all work together well. 

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I want to start working on film sets to build my resume and eventually become writer, director, producer, on a high level. I also wouldn’t mind being a director for hire, I just love making films. On the side, I want to continue to create my own short films and try to get noticed independently that way. I have so many ideas that I want to share with the world, and I have no doubt in my mind that it will come to fruition.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during COVID. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation? 

Because of COVID, a lot of my job opportunities were put on a halt. But, as everything is opening back up, these opportunities are starting to reappear. Because of the capstone, I had an in-person class, so I was able to see my friends sometimes and go out and make a film. But my other classes were fully online and there was just a lot of typing to do. I don’t like working that way. I like getting hands on experience and you can’t do that over zoom. Film studies is an in-person type of major where you need to experience films with people and work on films together. Doing it on your own isn’t the same.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU? 

My time as an English major could be summarized as a period of immense personal growth. The beauty of the English major is that it is vast and encompasses many areas of study, which explains why I felt drawn to it. By studying English, I was able to explore gender, race, psychology, history, politics, education, religion, film, theatre, and so on. My major allowed me the freedom to learn as much as I could about the thousand things in life that interest me. This comprehensive learning experience helped me grow as a scholar, a professional, and, most importantly, as a person. 

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

The days when I would walk into an English class and see all the desks forming a big circle in the center of the room were my favorite days, filled with intense discussions over whatever life-altering book we were reading that week. I miss getting to hear the transformative thoughts of my classmates and debating over a particularly interesting plotline. These in-class conversations with my peers are some of the most important experiences I had in college. I was able to think beyond myself and learn from the perspective of others. 

Additionally, my education courses will always stand out in my mind as catalyst moments in my learning experience. Although I found my path separate from education, the things I learned in classes with Professor Emery Petchauer and Professor Lamar Johnson have altered the way I think about learning, education, relationships, society, and life in general. Understanding the education system has helped me understand the function of society. The things I learned in education courses have equipped me with knowledge from the classroom that I can translate into any professional setting.

Lastly, It would be wrong if I didn’t mention all of the theater and music courses I have taken throughout the years at MSU, which brought me so much joy and helped me build my confidence to discover where my passions lie.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I would advise incoming English majors to go for what you really want! I spent so much time convincing myself that I wasn’t good enough to pursue a certain career path, that I wasted the opportunity to improve myself so I could actually have that dream career. Anything is achievable if you are willing to work for it, and with the resources provided here at MSU, you can reach the stars if that’s what you desire!

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

My ENG 400 writing intensive was in tandem with Professor Julian Chambliss’ course on literature and visual culture. I spent the Fall semester of this year conducting interviews with two different Afrofuturist comic creators, where I was able to learn so much about not only their individual creative processes and career paths, but their knowledge of Afrofuturism. This was an opportunity that allowed me the freedom to facilitate an interview experience, transcribe it, and then connect the dots from my interviews to other oral history accounts from “Voices of the Black Imaginary” in a paper that explored how various Black creators define the term Afrofuturism today. This was very special to me because I have spent so much of my experience at MSU studying critical race theory and pedagogy, and Afrofuturism was a term that I had yet to explore. Getting to talk to two successful Black comic creators was a privilege that I learned so much from and inspired me to continue to work towards my own creative goals. 

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

I have so many aspirations, you would think I was crazy if I were to list them all here, so I will keep it brief. I aspire to be present. I aspire to go many places in life, meet many people, and experience many things. I aspire to make a real change in others’ lives, while living my own as authentically as possible. Most of all, I aspire to not let the opinions and pressures of society influence the way I live my life. 
I hope to work in some way in the entertainment industry, whether that be managing music tours, being a background singer, or running a theatre company, but I am not set in stone on any one career path. I want to do it all.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during COVID. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

Oh, COVID… the stealer of joy and giver of life-lessons. My experience living in this “apocalyptic dreamscape,” as one of my professors calls it, changes day by day. Sometimes I am fearful of life after graduation and heading out into this broken world, other times I am filled with the hope of potential that I now have the freedom to truly do whatever I want. I think that this is probably a common thought that all graduates have, COVID world or not, but I have found the pandemic to add just a little stress onto the experience… or a lot. I am sad that I had to miss out on so many classic MSU experiences that we would have had in a normal year, but I am grateful for the time this pandemic has allowed for me to grow. Can we shout out Zoom really quick? That was the most useful thing to me in this pandemic. Also escaping reality through reading actual, physical books. Sometimes, you just need to smell the pages and float away into literary dreamland. 

Faculty Shout-out from Dr. Hui-Ling Malone: “I appreciated Johnny’s presence in two of my courses (Critical Literacy and Communities as well as Language and Composition). He offered a unique perspective (living in different places, nationally and internationally) in both classes. Johnny graciously led our optional post election discussion for all of my students. Johnny is a talented writer, and to my surprise, a stand up comedian! His engagement with comedy helped inspire my writing course, where students selected various genres to discuss from humor to horror.” 

Faculty Shout-out from Dr. Justus Nieland: “Where to start with such a remarkable and joyful student? Johnny impressed me early on with his passion for movies, and his encyclopedic knowledge of film history. He’s especially steeped in cult, camp, and genre movies, and loves trashy films, but his tastes are wildly wide-ranging. Hw consumes cinema with a truly astonishing voraciousness. In the classroom, this translates into Jonny’s routinely funny and sharp observations about the craft, aesthetics, and business of filmmaking. It was my great pleasure to get to know Johnny better during the 2019 Film in Britain program in London and Edinburgh. He is exactly the kind of student you want on a study abroad program–always up for new experiences and adventures, willing to challenge himself, and ever kind and generous with his peers. Johnny also is a talented comedian and gifted vocal performer, and his podcast “We Are Movies” is so smart and engaging! Everything he does combines contagious passion, good cheer, and remarkable intellectual range. I can’t wait to see what Johnny does next!

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

As an English major and Film Studies minor, I got to spend most of my college experience on things that interest me. I basically had the luxury of loving the focus of my everyday life. Being excited about certain classes and assignments is something high school me wouldn’t have dreamt, but I was constantly invigorated by the new and progressively bizarre texts that my professors were gracing me with, whether it be movies like Performance by Nicolas Roeg or novels like Empire of the Senseless by Kathy Acker.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

One class that stood out to me was Film 452 with Dr. Mikki Kressbach, which was focused on women in horror. Dr. Kressbach is deeply engaged with disreputable genre films, which is a big interest of mine, and she really opened our minds toward examining these movies with the same precision that we would any assigned text.

Both English 408 and 413 with Dr. Hui-Ling Malone were wonderful classes that taught me the importance of establishing a rapport with your peers and instructors. Dr. Malone makes English class an exciting thing to come to, creating an environment that feels like I’m hanging out with friends without sacrificing productivity.

Lastly, the entire Film in Britain program with Justus and Pete in the summer of 2019 was the highlight of my entire college experience. Not only did I learn a lot about film (particularly in our great conversations with filmmakers like Gurinder Chadha and George Amponsah), but I made some of my best friends in the process. I also attended my first film festival in Edinburgh and got to witness early screenings of various quality, but the whole hustle of sticking in as many movies you can before dinner while also staying for a Q and A with a producer was a wild ride that I look forward to going on again. We also got to attend the world premiere of the motion picture masterpiece Boyz in the Wood (which has since been renamed Get Duked for the Amazon Prime release).

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice for students would be to embrace your community of peers and faculty. I think you will find the most creative stimulation through dialogue with others and through seeing their work. I find myself incredibly inspired by my talented friends in these departments. Whether I’m peer-reviewing someone’s writing, seeing short films online and at college events, or listening to my roommate tell me about his screenplay in progress, I am so energized by the community that I belong to here.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

One exciting course was an independent study with Dr. Nieland on the British films of Albert Hitchcock. This invited me to explore a lot of films by a canonically important director that I had previously not seen, such as The Lodger and the original Man That Knew Too Much, and I was also given the privilege of focusing my own studying however I wished, which was a level of freedom that has helped me engage with my own interests in film writing.

I also did a project in the spring of 2020 for English 320B with Dr. Nicole McCleese where I presented on the relationship between 1960s postmodernism and Spaghetti Westerns. This was a great opportunity to talk about a lot of my major interests in film as well as politics, while I also practiced turning it into something digestibly educational, which is important considering the teaching certificate that I am continuing to pursue after the summer.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

Post-graduation, I will begin my teaching internship in the Lansing area for my English Education major and Math Education minor. In the meantime, I will continue producing my podcast We Are Movies, which has featured several of my peers and some professors at MSU talking about their favorite films.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I have been doing disarmingly okay in my pandemic studies. I certainly don’t quite feel like I am getting the full experience of my classes, but all of the professors seem to be doing their best to help us along the way. As for resources that have been useful to me, my blu-ray player and air-fryer have done just fine.

 

Faculty shout-out from Dr. Kaveh Askari: One of the first memorable conversations I had with a student at MSU was with Fabrizzio. It was after an introductory lecture, to ninety students, during week one of my new job. I was intrigued by this first-year student who approached me after class and wanted to talk about obscure films by Agnès Varda that I had not seen in years. I have been lucky to work with Fabrizzio in multiple classes over the years. He consistently seeks out the most challenging material in the course. It has been a pleasure to engage with his original writing about topics ranging from new wave cinemas to experimental video art in Beirut. I look forward to following his career and to checking in, periodically, about whatever happens to be driving his deep intellectual curiosity at the moment.

Faculty shout-out from Dr. Justus Nieland: Fabrizzio is a whip-smart and terrifically surprising student. In the first class I had him in, he was very quiet in discussions, and then would submit the kind nuanced and deeply intelligent written work that wowed me with its critical acumen and maturity of voice. He can pack so many fascinating ideas into just one sentence! Happily, I got to know Fabrizzio better during our 2019 Film in Britain trip. I remember sitting next to Fabrizzio during a group lunch in Windsor, and somehow, the conversation moved from favorite movies to novels. Turned out that Fabrizzio and I shared a love for the novels of Roberto Bolaño! Throughout the trip, Fabrizzio demonstrated not just this deep intellectual range, but also a real kindness and gentleness of spirit that I really appreciated.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as a Film Studies major has been great, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of my film classes and professors, and am grateful for the experiences I’ve had due to my program. I still remember my first day in Intro to Film, feeling at home in the department and right in my decision to follow my interest, and the varying courses I’ve experienced and instructors I’ve gotten to know have only amplified and reinforced that feeling.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

All of my classes I’ve taken with Kaveh Askari have offered me a profound, holistic way, of viewing film and all the components that fall into it. The courses exposed me to artists and filmmakers I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise without Professor Askari’s guidance, many of which have gained much personal significance in my life. His classes, specifically the two 451’s I took with him, Cinemas of the Middle East and North Africa and Recycled Cinema, are high among my favorite classes I’ve had during my time at MSU.

Film in Britain with Justus Nieland and Pete Johnston was definitely one of the highlights of my entire college experience, getting to participate in film culture through festivals and screenings and talks was something I had always longed for and this study abroad gave that to me in spades, with the courses themselves offering me an introduction to the much-needed for me basics of film production and editing under the setting of another culture, through Professor Johnston’s 260 class, as well as giving me an expansive and thought-inducing manner of thinking about genre through Professor Nieland’s British Noir class.

Contemporary Film Theory with Ellen McCallum was another favorite class of mine. Professor McCallum’s consistent comments on me and my peers’ writing were incredibly helpful and always pushed me to better my construction of thoughts, and films we viewed and readings we were assigned were equally challenging and moving to me, leading to many memorable class discussions. 

The classes I took with Jordan Schonig I value highly for the sense of community they offered. Professor Schonig’s courses always led to free-flowing, often humorous, and often provocative class discussions, his manner of teaching theory and gender and sexuality in Film was always thought-provoking and a highlight of my week.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I would tell future Film Studies majors to take advantage of the various resources the department offers, and to not be scared of reaching out to professors’ and participating in other events hosted by the department, like Broad Underground and Film Collective.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

I got the chance in Professor Askari’s Recycled Cinema class to make my own recycled media project. I decided to focus on Lima, and digging through archival and found footage from various sources and trying to turn these fragments into a whole, was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had with a course project.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I am still not sure what I want to do, or am going to do post-graduation, but I hope to be surrounded by a creative community that inspires and supports me, similar to the one I found in the Film Studies department.

Despite the many challenges of being a senior, support offered by my professors’, peers, and friends, has made it a memorable year full of positive, defining, academic and social experiences.  

Faculty Shout-out from Dr. Joshua Yumibe: “I’ve known Nicole pretty much since she started at MSU—and showed her some of those early morning black-and-white films she mentions (e.g. Killer of Sheep and Meshes of the Afternoon), as well as a whole cinematic world of color. Always incredibly perceptive and eloquent, one of my favorite class essays I’ve read in a while was final paper she wrote on Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. Attentive to the film’s sonic palette as well its richly saturated hues, she brilliantly read it in relation to the formal experiments of Sirk’s earlier melodramatic work. As she argued, the selected saturated hues of Paris, Texas, worked not only to “represent the emotions the characters are feeling but more so to mask the emotions,” particularly those of the shell-shocked, and nearly mute Travis Henderson. This chromatic struggle between emoting and repressing, as well as speaking and silencing, gets to the melodramatic center of Wender’s remarkable film.

While I was so very aware of Nicole’s sharp skills at critical analysis, I’ve been stunned when I’ve subsequently gotten to know her amazing filmmaking work. Her most recent short film, Meeting People Always Separated, is as stylistically remarkable as it is politically engaged. The editing, cinematography, and color design of the film sparkles. Throughout, she demonstrates such a profound sensitivity to camera framings, and particularly close ups. My favorite shot of the piece is its final one, a young East Asian woman lays back on the hood of her car, stopped on a country road at dawn. There’s a certain Neorealist, naturalism to the beauty of this moment. It also encapsulates the film’s sense of loss, as in the midst of the pastoral beauty, she is about to be expelled from the country due to a reduction in foreign student visas. Against the broader political turmoil of the past year, the film works through the personal, accented experience of exile. The way that Nicole embeds this into the very formal texture of the film is stunningly effective. I am incredibly excited to see what’s next, as she begins the CalArts MFA Director program this coming fall.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time being a Film Studies student was worth every second. Even though the 8AM’s were slightly ruthless, especially if we were to watch a long Black and White old film, every film shown helped broaden and helped develop on what my style of filmmaking is today.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

My favourite classes being a Film Studies Major were Colour in Cinema, taught by Yumibe, Screenwriting by Bill Vincent and Directing by Jeff Wray. They stand out to me because those were the 3 classes that shaped what kinds of films I want to make, what filmmaker I want to be and what I want to show to the world. Which is why in my work, you can see that colour and lighting is important to me, as well as more of a raw dialogue, than the usual dramatics. Other than that, I was able to develop a closer rapport with those 3 professors, being able to not just talk about class work but also personal style and create a nice relationship to help guide my path of being a filmmaker.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

Be friends with the professors. Some may be scarier than the others but I promise you they are mostly just as awkward as you are. They’re all amazing people with great taste in art, who will help you with your goals in almost every way and can give you advice if needed.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

I worked on a personal short film and helped out with another short both in the middle of July of 2020 and I’m currently Directing MSU’s Fiction Filmmaking capstone thesis Film. It’s exciting to work with people I’ve known for the past few years, not as individuals who are helping with each other’s projects, but more of a collaboration of togetherness and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and being able to be there to support one another.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I’m currently planning to attend CalArts for my MFA in Directing but for my aspirations and hopes, I know it will all depend on my will power of how well I perform and achieve the next couple of years. But in a more ideal world, I would want to create more WOC queer films to destroy that perception of what a WLW relationship seems like in a heterosexual dominant society.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I think the only good resource that has helped with this pandemic and graduating at this time is knowing that keeping a constant communication with friends and people I became friends with from classes is such a helpful tool regarding mental health. As well as the weekly Spartan Spit test to make sure everyone is health and safe, especially since my Thesis Capstone film class is filming in person, it’s important to also keep up and care about each other’s health.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

The two words that come to mind are eye-opening and empowering. I entered the Film Studies program knowing that I loved watching films and that was it. I hoped that Film Studies would be a starting point to explore different areas of film and find what suited me best. After three years, I can confidently say that the program was much more than that. Through learning the history and theory of film, I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the medium and its extraordinary feats. The courses have sparked a passion in me that I never knew I had. As a woman of color in film, the Film Studies program has helped me find my voice and confidence in pursuing a career in a male-dominated field. I am grateful for the support and guidance I’ve received from countless professors and am graduating with an overwhelming feeling of empowerment, ready to tackle any challenges that come my way.

 Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

 It’s difficult to narrow down which classes and instructors stand out because, in all honesty, every film professor that I’ve had has shaped who I am as a writer and filmmaker. Professors Alexandra Hidalgo and Pete Johnston have both been amazing mentors who I’ve been able to rely on for guidance in my career path. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with Alex on her feminist film publication agnès films since my freshman year. Alex has taught me so much about collaboration and navigating the film industry as a woman. I would not be the ambitious woman and writer I am today without her. Pete’s unmatched creative and technical skills have guided me in my decision to become a cinematographer. I have always been so impressed by his knowledge of and passion for camera work and am very grateful to have learned from him in FLM 337 and in the film lab. I am also appreciative to have been taught by Professors Joshua Yumibe and Lyn Goeringer. They both have a clear passion for what they teach and the energy they brought to class every day made my experience as a student unforgettable.  

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice to future film students is to be open to every topic and era of film history. Although not every film movement can be as interesting as the French New Wave, they all have value and build off each other. In my experience, having a broad and diverse knowledge of film history and theory has benefited me in ways I never thought it would. Whether it be in my writing,  storyboarding, or conversations with industry professionals, having that foundation of knowledge to draw from has been a huge advantage. To any future film students out there, the next time you’re tempted to skip an 8 am lecture, just know that an understanding of Soviet montage theory or Italian Neorealism can and will come in handy at some point. 

Another piece of advice is to not be scared when creating. Filmmaking can be an incredibly vulnerable process. I always shied away from collaborative opportunities with the fear of having my ideas shut down. That’s one thing I really regret, so don’t do what I did and pursue any and every opportunity to create, because it’s really not as scary once you’ve dipped your toes in the water. 

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This school year I had the opportunity to create three short films in FLM 260 that I’m very proud of. I’ve always been the kind of person who starts a project but never finishes it, so I was glad to have the time to really focus on my ideas and bring them into fruition.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

 I hope to continue writing about and reviewing films while also taking steps to become a cinematographer. I am currently in the process of applying for an 18-month production apprenticeship with BBC Scotland that will allow me to develop my camera, audio, and editing skills. I’ve been invited to complete the next stage of the application process, so fingers crossed that I can embark on this next journey! Wherever I end up, I plan to incorporate exploring new countries and cultures into it. 

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

 This has definitely been strange to say the least. It hasn’t really hit me that I’m graduating since I haven’t been in a classroom setting for so long. I’m going to be leaving MSU without the closure that I expected, but it just gives me a reason to come back and visit when the pandemic is over. Knowing that everyone is going through a similar situation makes navigating this transition easier. Something that this pandemic has taught me is how to be comfortable with the unknown. Not having every next step planned is something I never thought I’d be okay with, so, in a way, the pandemic has prepared me for this next chapter of navigating unfamiliar waters. 

In terms of resources, I’d have to say that therapy has helped me the most in getting through this past year. I think there is a stigma around turning to others for help. Some see it as a sign of weakness, but it’s honestly a sign of strength to recognize that you can’t do everything on your own and to take the initiative to find help. 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

Though I did not spend all of my time in university attending MSU,  I would say that my years and experience within the College of Arts and Letters has been an excellent one. I’ve been able to pursue my interests in both film and writing through the support of the many staff and students I’ve had the opportunity to work with.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Though I’ve had many wonderful professors throughout my years at MSU, a few of the most standout instructors have been: Jordan Schonig, Hannah Ensor, Justus Nieland, Peter Johnston, Divya Victor, Megan Giddings, and Mikki Kresbach. I know that is an extensive list, which still excludes some great professors I’ve had, but these specific people truly helped shape my experience at MSU into an excellent opportunity for growth.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

Working with Professor Johnston for my Independent Study has been a great experience despite the challenges presented by virtual learning. We have worked together to begin the process of creating a short film, which I already feel very excited for.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I hope that, a few years down the line, I can secure a job related, in some form, to my interests that pays more than minimum wage.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

Graduating, and attending my senior year, during a pandemic has been an interesting and challenging experience. Adjusting to virtual learning was absolutely strange and it still feels disappointing to lose that personal interaction that is so integral to the creative arts. Despite that, and the anxiety of graduating into an unstable economy, I’m hopeful that graduation will bring new and exciting experiences. 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

 My time as an English Major has been one of the most gratifying and insightful experiences I’ve ever had. In the time since I joined the English Department I have been introduced to a bigger world, one that I would not have experienced in my previous major. I have been challenged in more ways than I ever could have imagined, but I have also experienced so much growth, both intellectually, and personally.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

When I look back at my time at MSU, my experiences with Dr. Rachman stand out to me the most. I have had the pleasure of taking two courses with Dr. Rachman, and they have been eye-opening. His classes introduced me to a new realm of literature and theory that has impacted me in the most positive way. Dr. Rachman is extremely supportive, and he helped me navigate my graduate admissions, and gave me a space to talk through the stress of selecting a program. I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Rachman on a research project this semester, and it has been such a gratifying experience. Dr. Rachman helped me find my voice, and he always made sure that my thoughts were heard and helped me understand that my thoughts were important. He gave me the opportunity to explore a new area of my research interests, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

 The biggest piece of advice I would give is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s great to take classes about topics that you know and love, but sometimes the class that you take that explores a topic you know nothing about may end up being your favorite. It is important to understand your personal boundaries, but it is just as important to know when to push them.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

I have had the opportunity to work on three research projects this year, and each one of them has allowed me to further explore and shape my research interests. Last fall, I worked on a thesis project that explored the relation between economic systems and female identity in Kathy Acker’s work. Further expanding on my first thesis project, my second project explores the social implications of revolution and how post-colonial influence the perception of the black body following this separation of institutions. Both of the projects were exciting to me because I think it is important to acknowledge how social issues are multi-dimensional and rooted in the pasts of ruling institutions. It was important to me to make these connections so that I could further apply her commentary to 21st century movements.

I have also had the opportunity to partake in an independent study this semester. This research differed from the research I have done in the past, and a new frontier is always exciting. This project focuses on using Camus’ plague metaphor to understand the spread of ideological plagues and interpret this spread from a medical and social perspective. This project has brought me a great deal of joy because it has allowed me to work through multiple lenses and create different connections between concepts across linguistic, social, medical, and geographical borders.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

After graduation I will be attending Carnegie Mellon University to pursue an M.A in Literary and Cultural Studies. Once I complete my M.A I hope to continue my education and pursue a PhD.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

This year has been tough given all of the circumstances. My professors have been one of the best resources throughout the pandemic. I’ve found that communicating my needs to them has helped me the most. This year many of my professors have prioritized our health, and mental well-being, and have worked with us to build our courses to meet our needs.

Faculty shout-out from Dr. Kaveh Askari: It has been a real pleasure to work with Tyler this year. His essays in my Classical Film Theory course demonstrated fluency with the logic of difficult theoretical texts. I was particularly impressed by his disciplined viewing of the films, which allowed him to pinpoint exactly where those abstract ideas manifested themselves on-screen. He often took the essay prompts in unexpected, but convincing, directions. The abrupt shift to online teaching has been a challenge for everyone involved, but one of bright spots of each week this semester has been reading Tyler’s thoughtful (and exceedingly thorough) illustrated discussions of each film in History of Film after Midcentury.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

I would have to describe my experience as a Film Studies major at MSU as insightful and inspirational. With my Film Studies major, I have the privilege of taking film theory courses that provide me with an eclectic knowledge and nuanced perspective of film. I also have a minor in Fiction Filmmaking, which allows me to thoroughly understand how the production and post-production stages of the filmmaking process work. After pairing my Film Studies major with my Fiction Filmmaking minor, I now understand what it takes to transform my screenplays into fictional films.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Jeff Wray, Rola Nashef, Bill Vincent, Rick Blackwood, Josh Yumibe, Kaveh Askari, & Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai are some of my favorite professors.

I had Jeff Wray for Film Directing (FLM 335), Film Collective (FLM 200), & the Fiction Filmmaking Capstone (FLM 435A/B). Jeff always encouraged us to think outside the box while keeping an open mind for different points of view when collaborating on film projects. Without Jeff’s guidance in FLM 335, I wouldn’t have made strong connections with my classmates because I would be too afraid to break out of my creative shell. In FLM 435, Jeff and Rola Nashef often reminded our class of some of the harsh realities of the filmmaking process, and I respect them for that because they have helped me mature as a filmmaker.

Bill Vincent instructed me in Advanced Screenwriting (FLM 434) and Western Film (FLM 355). Bill isn’t afraid to tell you when you need to fix something in your screenplay, and that’s what I love about him. Another thing that I love about Bill is that (pre-COVID) he invited our screenwriting class over to his house for dinner during finals week. We got to meet his family and his animals, and it was a heartwarming experience. Upon exiting his home, Bill shouted, “keep on writing!” Bill plays Arthur in our capstone film, Varnish, and I don’t know anyone who could’ve fit that role better. Bill was so patient and generous with his time on every shoot day.

I had Rick Blackwood for Intro. Screenwriting (FLM 334) and Film Adaptation (FLM 337). He is quite an enigmatic storyteller, and I enjoy listening to his lectures because he often ties in psychology and philosophy into the class discussion. Blackwood doesn’t shy away from controversial subject matter, and for me, that is intellectually stimulating because it reminds me of how complex the human condition is. His detailed analysis of films from legends like Stanley Kubrick inspire me to think more deeply about what I watch, what I read, and what I write.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

  1. Follow your intuition. After four years of college, I had many moments where I doubted myself and my abilities. In the end, I learned that I’m my own worst enemy because sometimes I’m too hard on myself and sometimes I listen to the wrong people.
  2. Keep an open mind. You don’t know everything, and life is full of mysteries. If you don’t know something, ask someone. You’re not dumb for asking and you’ll only be smarter for having done so. Being a writer/filmmaker, I take constructive criticism to heart because it only makes my work better by exposing some flaws in my story that I failed to notice.
  3. Make connections. Four years will fly by before you know it. Your roommates, the professors that you have, and the friends that you make in and out of the classroom will be some of the strongest bonds that you can form while at MSU.
  4. Put in the work. Show up to class early, don’t just do the bare minimum, and take advantage of MSU’s resources.
  5. Pace yourself. Don’t procrastinate, plan out a feasible schedule, and designate some of your time to study on a daily basis.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

During my senior year, I completed many interesting projects/assignments. The Fiction Filmmaking Capstone (435A/B) allowed me to collaborate with my classmates on a 30-minute short film. The film is called “Varnish” and it is about an elderly father who wishes to reconnect with his son after he abandoned him a lifetime ago to travel the world. This is a story that I feel like anyone with family issues can relate to. The story is brilliantly written by Kendall Veasey and directed by Nicole Ma. I am the Script Supervisor and the Post-Production Supervisor for this project, so I keep track of continuity, editor notes, and I work closely with the editor, director, music composers, etc. I’m proud to be working with my classmates on this and we can’t wait to premiere it at a drive-in theatre next month!

I also took an independent study paired with FLM 400: Global Horror instructed by Professor Pillai. This class/independent study delved deep into horror films on a global scale. For instance, we started the semester off by discussing Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Kwaidan, and ended it by discussing Ringu, The Shining, and Pan’s Labyrinth. This class helped me understand the underlying meanings behind various fears within cultures around the world. I’m very proud of the final essay I wrote for this independent study, in which I discussed how horror films induce dread within the audience’s psyche via space, sound, and ambiguity.

I never had a class with Professors Yumibe and Askari before my senior semester, but I’m glad I finally got the chance to take some of the courses they instruct. For instance, Prof. Askari instructed me for FLM 301 and FLM 380 and those two classes introduced me to dozens of legendary film theorists/critics like Jean-Louis Baudry, Walter Benjamin, André Bazin, Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Lev Kuleshov, and more. Prof. Yumibe’s FLM 480: Cinema & the Archive was surprisingly an enjoyable course. At first, I wasn’t looking forward to studying old archival footage, but Yumibe’s teaching methods reinvigorated the creative curiosity within me because we analyzed profoundly interesting films such as Dawson City: Frozen Time, The Master Hands, Do the Right Thing, They Shall Not Grow Old and Welt, Spiegel, Kino. These films (and more) illustrated to me the significance of preserving/repurposing found footage as well as the importance of the representation of marginalized people.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I always knew that I wanted to make movies since I was in elementary school. As I grew older and matured as an individual throughout high school, I started to realize that writing persuasive, argumentative essays was my strong suit. I’m still not sure if I want to go to film school, but I may change my mind a few months from now. After I graduate, I hope to become a screenwriter/director for independent and/or commercial films. Writing narratives for video games also sounds like fun. I plan on writing dozens of scripts for feature-length films and TV pilots while working (and searching for) a steady job in the film/media industry. Hopefully a production company will like one of these stories. I love drawing scary monsters as well, so I will also be working on a few storyboards for my horror film ideas. Sam Raimi is one of my local heroes because him and Bruce Campbell raised around $200,000 independently for their film, Evil Dead, right here in Michigan in their early 20’s. Before that, they raised $1,600 for a shorter version of the story, Within the Woods, that they used as a prototype to screen in front of their investors. Personally, I want to see how well of a horror film I can make on a reasonably low budget. Overall, I plan on mastering my craft even further by gaining experience in the film production world and by building an interesting resume.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

COVID-19 has been a real eye-opener for me. This pandemic really turned everyone’s world upside down, including mine. However, through all the chaos of the virus, I realized that my family and my friends were always there for me no matter what. Due to the fact that most of my classes were online (with the exception of shoot days for FLM 435), my would-be roommates and I cancelled our apartment leases in East Lansing. Instead of living in East Lansing, my roommates and I saved our parents a lot of money by living in their homes during senior year. Unfortunately, I felt very isolated from the rest of my classmates after moving back in with my parents, but I took that personal time to reflect on myself as a human being and to focus on my grades and skills. Living with my parents made me realize how important I am to my mother and my father and how much they really care for my health and success.

Faculty shout-out from Dr. Hui-Ling Malone: C was a force in two of my classes this year (Critical Literacy and Communities as well as Language and Composition). As a nonbinary student, C led an insightful presentation about queering literacies that helped us all think more about inclusive and equitable classrooms. C is an avid writer and submitted multiple pieces of writing from our writing course and beyond. They are also highly engaged with the campus community, evident through leading webinars and participating in UURAF.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as an English Major has been primarily focused on education, since I was a secondary ed major before I had to drop out of the College of Ed. To that end, I took classes that would prepare me to be a teacher. I think that my English classes were the ones that prepared me for leadership and education, I learned how to be a better communicator and create culturally responsive curriculum.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

My classes with Dr. Johnson and Dr. Malone were invaluable to developing my teaching and leadership philosophies. I learned how to be a more expressive writer, how to encourage students to express themselves, and how to share my writing with the world. Dr. Johnson revitalized my love of reading through his YA Literature class, and Dr. Malone encouraged me to publish my research and writing.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

Read and write all the time, don’t let those skills lapse. Read the books assigned in class and find related readings, save relevant quotes for future use. Reading and writing both need to be practiced, make that time for yourself to hone those skills.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

I’ll be presenting two presentations at UURAF, which I’ve never done before. One is on psychological horror in the work of Stephen King, and the other is on a translation I did of a set of 1700’s Swiss almanacs. I also presented my poetry at a Sigma Tau Delta regional conference, and got my poetry published in two journals. But what I’m most proud of are my publications with HerCampus and The Current. My article on the College of Education’s internship year resonated with a lot of students who are struggling with the demands of that program, my article on women’s fencing was retweeted by the US Fencing Association, and I published the first-ever 12pg. spread in The Current on MSU-affiliated artists creating art in the face of the pandemic. I’m really proud of the content I created.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I will be getting my M.A. in Arts & Cultural Management at MSU, focusing my research on digital publication and writing center management. I know I’ll have a really busy graduate studies career, but I’m really excited for the opportunity. It’s been my dream to go to grad school, I can barely contain my excitement. I hope that it’s everything I imagine it to be.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

My background is in homeschooling, so remote school wasn’t terrible for me. But I definitely felt that sense of missing out on senior year experiences. Bunkering down in your house, watching the news, trying to be involved with communities that were suffering discrimination and violence, all without having the in-person support that you’re used to having. After a year and half it became exhausting. I missed out on a year of sports, of adventures with my friends. I’m grateful that I was able to continue practicing sports on Zoom, and I’m grateful that the writing center was there to help with writing assignments when my brain fried out. But I’m grateful we’re beginning to return to normalcy bit by bit too.

Faculty Shout-out from Dr. Joshua Yumibe: “The first thing I remember Devin asking, I think on the first day of class when I’d just met him, was if we’d be talking about Victor Sjöström in FLM 300: History of Film I. Yes! But probably not enough for his taste, or mine. Devin brings such a profound passion and life-changing focus to the study of film. As he’s just noted, in the opening of his final paper for me as a student, “I watched Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane for the first time when I was sixteen years old because I had heard it was considered by many to be the greatest film of all time and I had just taken a more scholarly curiosity towards the medium; I know it’s cliché to say this, but it was a formative experience for me . . . Citizen Kane and the way it makes you feel for a character that you cannot know, the way it makes you contemplate the way others perceive you and the impact you have on them, the way it makes you think about what one’s life means after death, and of course the way in which all of this is told uniquely through the visual medium in a way that was unparalleled for the time period . . . . Citizen Kane became an obsession for me, I watched it four times within a year.” I couldn’t summarize Citizen Kane better myself, and it’s a film I too have seen uncountable times. Cinephilia is the word for this, and ingrained in it as Devin reminds us, is a desire and need to get outside of ourselves, to see other ways of moving and thinking and feeling, which is essential not just for our personal lives but also for our political ones. I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations with Devin about  Sjöström and Welles and so many others as he moves forward as brilliantly as he has here.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as a Film Studies major at MSU helped shape me into the artist and the person that I am today; whether it be the classes I was enrolled in, the people that I met, or the books and movies I rented from the library, I was constantly learning and developing, growing into an expert in my field…well, at least while I was sober.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

MSU is blessed with some of the greatest professors in the world. I remember how excited I was meeting people who knew more about film than I did for the first time. I just kept watching more and more movies and reading more theory and criticism hoping one day I would know more than them—I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’ll catch up given the free time I’ll have after graduation. The most influential of these professors have been Professor Bill Vincent, who taught me the art of screenwriting and has been a constant source of support and wisdom throughout my entire time at MSU; Professor Jordan Schonig, a guest professor whose passion, enthusiasm, and humor were sorely missed this past year; and, Professor Joshua Yumibe who is one of the kindest and most intelligent human beings I have ever met.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

The advice I would give to future members of both the English Department and Film Studies Department is this: use the library as much as possible. Throughout my time at Michigan State, since just after I moved into McDonel Hall early for the job I had at Sparty’s Market—which I would inevitably get fired from for eating chicken nuggets…sorry not sorry—I have made sure to take advantage of the vast assortment of books and films that the MSU Library has available. I’ve probably checked out upwards of a hundred books and two thousand films over the course of my career here and it helped me excel past my peers and I would say my knowledge of art has at least quadrupled since coming to school. If you’re a senior English major and you haven’t read any Dostoevsky or James Joyce, what are you doing? Likewise, if you’re a senior Film Studies major and you haven’t watched any Fellini or Bresson, what’re you doing?

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

What I’ve worked on this last semester, in my independent study with Dr. Vincent has excited me more than anything I’ve done for school ever has: the third draft of my film, Lotus, which is partially about my time at MSU, and which I plan to shoot within the coming year or so.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

My hopes after graduation are to become one of the greatest filmmakers of all time—the only one this century comparable with the best of the best like Kubrick, Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, and Hitchcock—and to make the world a better place for people with autism, bipolar, post-traumatic stress, and other mental illnesses using my art.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

Being an English major at MSU has always felt like the right path for me. I declared my major prior in my initial application to MSU and have not looked back since. I have always felt a deep connection to the study of English and wanted to continue to deepen and grow my knowledge throughout my time in college. During my time at MSU, I have been able to do just that! Overall, my time in the program has been enriching and exciting, and I cannot wait to apply what I have learned in the “real world!”

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Many of my classes and instructors have stood out to me during my time in the program. I was lucky enough to take two classes with Dr. Lamar Johnson, and in these classes I was taught to look more critically at the world around me. While I am an English major, I am also studying to be an English teacher, so I found that Dr. Johnson’s classes helped me to look critically at the systems in place in our society, and how those seep into the classroom. I was also able to begin to look at literature and the classroom through a critical race perspective. In my senior year, I was able to build on this learning by taking three classes with Dr. Hui-Ling Malone. In these classes, I was able to develop my critical consciousness even more, and conceptualize what I want my future classroom to look like. Dr. Malone’s classes instilled a sense of knowledge and responsibility to my students in me. Beyond my English Education coursework, I was able to take two classes with Dr. Tamar Boyadjian during my time at MSU, where I was able to grow my critical analysis skills, while delving deeper into topics that were unfamiliar to me. Dr. Boyadjian’s classes created a clear link between literature and history, and this is something that I want to continue to highlight for my future students.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice for future English or Film studies majors is to get to know your professors and the people in your classes. This group of people will become your support system throughout your four years, so it is vital that you begin to create these connections as early as possible. I recommend being as vulnerable as you possibly can be, so that you can create an atmosphere of trust and respect between you, your professors, and your peers.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

My capstone course this year focused on teaching writing in the Secondary English classroom. I really have enjoyed this course, as we have gotten to explore many different genres of writing in general, as well as both researching and creating techniques to teach them in our future classrooms. We also are expected to submit one of our writing assignments for publication, which is something that I have never done before, so having that opportunity handed to me has been pretty exciting. I have been able to dip my toes into my different types of writing in this course, and in doing so, have learned more about myself as a writer, teacher, and human.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

Post-graduation, I plan to complete my student teaching year in the Lansing area. I am looking forward to being able to immerse myself in the classroom and am really hoping that there will be a return to in-person learning. I hope that my classroom can be a place where students feel safe enough to be vulnerable, their experiences in the world are accurately represented and appreciated, and radical love is centered. After completing my student teaching, I plan to apply to masters programs focusing on education and curriculum development. 

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during COVID. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

Being a graduating senior during COVID has definitely been an interesting experience. I did not expect to spend the last year of college, as well as part of my Junior year, learning in front of a computer screen. While it has been unexpected, I feel like I have learned a lot that I would not have otherwise, specifically the ability to adapt no matter the situation. I would have loved to have an in-person relationship with my professors and my peers this year, but I feel as if we are all still very close and able to learn from each other, while also leaning on each other for support in these difficult times. When it comes to resources that have been the most useful for me, I feel as if my professors being communicative and empathetic has been the best overall resource. It is nice to know that I have had a support system throughout this strange experience. 

How would I describe my time at MSU as an English and/or Film Studies major?

I have had an exclusively pleasurable experiencing studying both English (major) and Film Studies (minor). Each class that I took continually reaffirmed my interest and dedication to furthering my understanding of literature, authorship, and meaningful artistic engagement. More specifically, my experience at MSU, specifically in relation to the English and Film department, has been much more intimate than what I would have expected attending such a large university. I feel as though I have been able to build genuine relationships with professors and with the department as a whole.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

In terms of overall experiences at MSU and, specifically with the department of English, I would be remiss not to mention my time with the Red Cedar Review. I have been a part of the organization since my Freshman year, serving for two years a volunteer reader and then progressing through the Poetry Editor and Assistant Managing Editor roles all the way to, currently, the Managing Editor of the journal. This has been an exceedingly beneficial and rewarding experience which has prepared me to pursue a professional career in publishing and editing.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

Though it may sound cliché, I would advise prospective English/Film students to do everything they can to believe in what they are doing and cherish every moment that they have with the department. Never in my life have I felt as comfortable/at home as I have working with the department of English and Film. In my experience, I have been subjected to countless dismissive comments and conversations about the “marketability” of my degree, but the reality is that you have to do what you love, and where there’s a will there’s a way.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

Well, as a creative writing concentration, I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my advanced workshops, specifically ENG 429 (Advanced Poetics). I am currently enrolled in Professor Henry’s ENG 428 course (Advanced Fiction Writing) and it is an absolute privilege to be able to write stories and express myself in such a formal and validated setting. As someone who prioritizes art and artistic expression above most things, it is absolutely amazing to be able to create original pieces and have a place to share them with a set of receptive ears.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

I am currently seeking employment in some sort of publishing or editorial field. I have a ton of applications currently in and I’m just playing the waiting game of hearing back, but ideally I would like to get paid to utilize the countless skills that I have picked up during my time at MSU. More personally, I spend as much time as I can writing original music with my best friend and roommate of four years Noah Miller, and it is our collective dream to make a career out of our work. In the immediate future, my girlfriend and I are presumably moving to Atlanta, Georgia and I’m a healthy mixture of excited, hopeful, and terrified for whatever is next.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during COVID. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I am definitely heart broken at the lack of engagement I’ve had with campus and in-person classes, a someone who lived in North Neighborhood for two years and was very distraught about moving off-campus (initially at least), I very much enjoy the senes of community and belonging that I felt every time I walked into Wells Hall. Though it has been objectively strange to graduate during a time such as the one we are living in, there is a sense of comfort and camaraderie that I feel with the rest of the world, as the “unknown” is something that all of us are continually facing. Though this may sound like a contributing factor to post-grad stress, I honestly think that all of humanity is a bit more tender right now, and I am interested in experiencing that outside of a university setting.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as an English major has been transformative and filled with immeasurable growth. Throughout the past four years, I’ve learned so much about myself and the world around me. As a future high school English teacher, I am thankful that I was able to enroll in so many English classes that helped me develop my beliefs about the importance & power of literacy. Being a part of the College of Arts and Letters has given me an incredible foundation for teaching English language arts to others. 

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I’ve had the privilege of having Dr. Lamar Johnson each year of my undergrad. His CREE framework is now the foundation of my teaching practices. So much of who I will be as an educator is because of the work we did in his classes. He provided space for his students that few professors provide. We talked honestly and personally about race, and that has helped me to create space for those conversations in my future English classroom. 

During my senior year, I got to take two courses with Dr. Malone. She is fantastic. I’ve loved our class discussions and how she has helped merge my passion for teaching and my love of literature. She consistently brought in guest lecturers who shared their perspectives on how we can have a community-centered approach. Overall, I love the classroom community we had in Dr. Malone’s classes and I was glad to have her during my last year at MSU.  

Dr. Boyadjian’s classes were also a favorite of mine. I look up to her as an example of how to make education challenging for students while still ensuring that all students feel supported in their learning. I grew so much intellectually in each of her classes. Topics like Said’s Orientalism and the text, The Death of the Author are still pieces I find myself coming back to. 

My first semester at MSU, I took an introductory English class with Briona Jones. She introduced me to Audre Lorde, a poet who has stuck with me throughout my undergrad. As one of the very first instructors I had at MSU, she introduced me to academia and helped me to feel like my thoughts and opinions were worth sharing. She pushed me beyond my limited view of the world and helped me explore new perspectives. I’m very grateful to have ended up in her class during my first year at MSU. 

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice to future students at MSU is to make the most out of every experience. If you see an event that you think will be interesting or you’re wanting to go to office hours to ask your professor more questions- just go. After a year of not being able to have a full college experience, I just recommend that students make the most of this time. 

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (Capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

In my honors seminar, under Dr. Johnson’s direction, I created a year-long lesson plan for a high school English classroom. The curriculum centered around the question: What does liberation look like? This lesson plan broke the year up into four segments: “Understanding My Identity,” “Understanding My Community,” “Understanding Systems of Power,” and “Understanding Liberation.” This was my first real opportunity to think about a whole year of instruction. It was meaningful to be able to design a course from scratch. Throughout each unit, students will explore their identities, learn about the vibrancy that exists in their communities, make connections to larger societal structures, and ultimately reflect on the society we hope to work toward. I am eager to teach this curriculum. 

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

After graduation, I will be participating in the fifth-year internship program through the College of Education. Specifically, I’m a part of the new residency program in Detroit Public Schools, where I will be placed in the Academy of the Americas. I will work as both a student teacher and a part-time substitute. Teaching is my greatest passion, and I’m excited to be on the path to becoming a high school English teacher. 

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during COVID. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

To speak honestly, this year has been painful & disappointing due to the circumstances of the pandemic. There are so many aspects of my senior year that I felt I missed out on. Mainly, I miss the opportunities to build more relationships with classmates, professors, and friends. However, my professors have been incredibly understanding. I appreciated how in many of my classes we’d do a “rant & rave” or a “daily question,” just so that everyone in class could catch up with each other. Also, being a part of the MRULE-ICA Program has been a huge part of my undergrad. So, I was elated that we were able to continue doing round table discussions in an online format. 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as an MSU English major has been both transformative and revealing. Coming into college, I knew that I wanted to take the Creative Writing Concentration to improve my fiction and non-fiction writing skills. I can say that after taking both introductory and advanced courses in CW, I have gotten much better at crafting stories with sound plots and realistic, dynamic characters. My other ENG classes from 210 to 492 have revealed to me how literature can offer an entry point into or, at the very least, a way to understand different ways of life, different life experiences. I have read Latino/a literature, poems by Audre Lorde, essays by David Foster Wallace and John McPhee, and books by Colson Whitehead and Kelli Jo Ford. I have found that there are countless experiences and narratives in the world. Literature, regardless of genre, offers a perfect conduit of expression. The English program showed me that conduit.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

During my sophomore year, I took ENG 280 with Professor Jyotsna Singh. That class helped me grow my analytical skills and introduced me to a diverse set of fiction books, my favorite of which was Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West. In reading each of these titles, I saw that genre fiction has so much to offer the literary community. That class inspired me to be wide read, something that will only help me in my future editorial career. Last semester, I took ENG 428 with Professor Megan Giddings. The advanced fiction class was centered around extensive revision and workshopping. Over the course of the term, I wrote four versions of the same story, changing the point of view to find the version that best enhanced the plot. I am grateful for that class making me a great writer.

And, of course, I have to give a shoutout to Professor Stephen Rachman and my other classmates in ENG 481. We were a small group, but I enjoyed every conversation we had. Thanks for making a great seminar!

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice for future English majors, and any student coming into the College of Arts and Letters, is to tailor your classes around a specific career/professional/literary interest. CAL offers Creative Writing classes, Film Studies courses, Screenwriting classes, etc. There are dozens of offerings and professors that can help you make the most of your degree. You can add minors and concentrations to help land the internship experience that will lead to your dream job. Take advantage of all of CAL’s offerings. You will not regret it.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

Like I previously mentioned, in my ENG 428 class, I had to write four versions of a story. That piece was a 15-page thriller about two homicide detectives trying to bring a serial killer to justice. The story represents my best fiction work in my time in the Creative Writing program. From all of the feedback I got, I learned how to focus both on my strong characters and on the main theme of the limits of justice.

In my ENG 368 class this semester with Professor Tamar Boyadjian, I am working on a creative adaptation of a Robin Hood ballad. I have had to consider class themes and the typical themes in the original Robin Hood manuscripts to produce a fictionalized adaptation. The project in particular has let me blend my love for creative writing with course material.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

After I graduate from MSU, I plan on building an editorial career with a trade publisher. I do not know who I will be working for quite yet, but I am eager to work with books and help authors get their stories in print.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during COVID. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that most businesses and organizations run. Last summer, I dealt with my summer publishing internship being canceled. This year, I have had to adjust to my work at The State News and the book publishing industry being fully virtual. The process has not been easy because of the fact that—and I am assuming I speak for many journalists and editors and publishers—I would love to return to the office. The pandemic, however, persists. As a result, I have had to lean on my friendships with my coworkers, rely on their knowledge and advice, and communicate with them to get quality work done. The State News has published amazing articles since the start of the pandemic and only because of our collaborative workflow. It is a process that will help me transition into a career in book publishing. 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as a Film Studies major has been nothing short of extraordinary. The education I have received has been so informative and enjoyable that I am sad it’s coming to an end. 

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I have had so many classes, instructors, and experiences that have positively impacted and prepared me for my next phase of life. Professor Joshua Yumibe was the professor for my first film class at MSU, and his knowledge definitely propelled my excitement for my degree. Professor Jeff Wray really helped me understand my role as a creative person and has expanded my love for producing film. Additionally, Professor Lyn Goeringer taught me about the importance of music in film and gave me a new appreciation for film sound.

Moreover, I was fortunate enough to Study Away in LA with Kate Sonka and Pete Johnston in 2019, and that class is probably one of the most applicable classes I have ever taken. I learned so much about what it is like to work in the creative industry and all the different jobs I could do with my major.

I also got to Study Abroad in Dublin, Ireland for the Spring 2020 semester, which, despite COVID, was an amazing experience. There, I had the privilege of studying Irish Film Theory and learning about the creative industry in Ireland.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

 My greatest piece of advice is to talk to your professors. All of the Film Studies professors I have had were so enthusiastic about teaching film theory and wanted to make sure their students understood it. They are very knowledgeable and willing to help, all you need to do is participate in class and talk to them before or afterwards.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This year I was the Producer for the Fiction Filmmaking Capstone Film Varnish, and I am beyond excited to share this with the public. This film is, at heart, about connection and connecting with people you love, which is a sentiment we can all relate to in these turbulent times. I honestly really enjoy public speaking and organizing everyone’s tasks, so being a Producer was the perfect fit for me.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

 After graduation, I hope to get a production job, probably as a Production Assistant, out in Los Angeles. I love the sun and I love producing, so it sounds like a win-win scenario to me.

Finally, reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this on-going period of pandemic, of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I think having synchronous class helped me navigate going to school in a pandemic. Being able to talk to my professors and peers weekly gave me a slight sense of normalcy. I also started utilizing CAPS (Counseling & Psychiatric Services) by talking to a therapist, which really helped my mental health.

Faculty shout-out from Dr. Divya Victor: Operating in the unlikely cusp of the angst driven grunge ethos of bands like Hole and the wistful critique of racism and USAmerican assimilation by thinkers like Gloria Anzaldua, Courtney Knoerl’s powerful imagination soars into the wilderness, rescuing her femme speakers and narrators out from within the cages of white supremacist patriarchy. In an autobiographical meditation on Zora Neal Hurston’s character Clare Kendry in Passing, Courtney writes: “I knew I was middle-fixed / I was a person definable by the eye, not the I.” In vivid and high-octane lyrical episodes on struggles against misogyny and anti-Latinx frames that erase and constrain those of us who are “middle-fixed”, Courtney helps us imagine a powerful and wild femininity unconstrained by colonial logics, open to ecological continuities, and constantly calling us back to a state of freedom in language and image.  

Faculty shout-out from Dr. Robin Silbergleid: Courtney is a quiet force in the classroom.  Her award-winning essay “America’s Dog” is a hybrid critical-creative analysis of dog breeds, miscegenation law, and her own family story.  Her personal essays deftly explore what it means to inhabit a body inscribed by dominant culture, and to reclaim it in her own voice. 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

I would describe my time as an English major at MSU as an exciting challenge. I took a variety of rigorous courses that pushed me academically and personally, but I would’ve taken more if my schedule had allowed.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

It’s difficult to narrow down my standout courses and instructors in the English department, because each one I took gave me important experiences that I will not soon forget. The Foundations in Literary Studies courses I took with Stephen Arch and Joshua Lam proved vital in my development as a student and person. To future students: if you can take any class with Natalie Phillips, sign up immediately, because you will thoroughly enjoy any course taught by her, regardless of your previous interest in the subject. In Advanced Nonfiction Writing, Robin Silbergleid helped me realize that I’m capable of much more than I could’ve imagined as a writer. Last, but certainly not least, Divya Victor, who I worked with on my capstone project, helped me gain confidence in and rediscover my passion for writing. I am forever grateful for her infinite kindness, grace, and genius.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

Try everything. Classes I never thought I would take or be particularly interested in ended up being some of my favorite courses. The more classes you can take–as long as you’re keeping your wellbeing in mind–the better. You will certainly find new interests and wonderful people along the way.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

In my Advanced Poetry Writing course with Dr. Victor, I am creating two portfolios of poetry that I can take pride in, and that I feel demonstrate my growth as a writer up to this point in my writing journey. I also created an award-winning essay in my Nonfiction course with Dr. Silbergleid. I also have plenty of writing from my time here that I would be interested in developing to try and publish one day.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

Post-graduation, I hope to continue writing, and continue growing my writing skills and style. I’d like to try and publish some of my work in a journal or magazine, but if I can continue to write outside of college just for myself, I will feel accomplished.

Finally, reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this on going period of pandemic, of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

The pandemic has been a challenge to navigate while maintaining a positive outlook, and I haven’t always been successful in cultivating that positivity. The support from my professors, friends, and family has been essential in my navigation of this difficult time. My writing has also been a welcome distraction, along with creating art in general, anything from drawing and painting to playing with makeup. Creativity is how I keep myself busy and hopeful in the current situation.

 

 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My undergrad experience at Michigan State was nothing short of amazing! Studying English has shaped me into an informed and critical thinker. I am now able to analyze the world around me through multiple lenses and share my knowledge with others.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I would say that the most influential professors throughout my undergrad experience have been Tamar Boyadjian, Lamar Johnson, and Hui-Ling Malone from the English department and Joanne Marciano and Raven Jones Stanbrough from the College of Education. Each of these professors have challenged me and encouraged me to become a better and more informed writer, educator, and human being.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I encourage future students in the department to not only take courses that align with their interests, but to also branch out and explore new genres or time periods when selecting English classes. You would be amazed at how much you can learn when you step outside of your comfort zone!

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

Over the last year, I have been working on developing lesson and unit plans that are both engaging and inclusive. I am really passionate about pursuing social justice work throughout my teaching career and finding ways to build upon and improve the curriculum in secondary English classes.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

After graduation, I will be completing a year-long teaching internship through MSU’s College of Education. Once I am certified, I plan to teach high school level English classes in the Detroit area. In the future, I hope to open a non-profit in the downriver area that provides academic support and resources for low-income students.

Finally, reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this on-going period of pandemic, of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

This pandemic has created less-than-desirable circumstances for the Spartan (and global) community, but we are stronger together. Connecting with my peers during this tumultuous time has made the situation much more manageable. I encourage everyone to find a support system to lean on in times of need.