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.”
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 Roegor 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.