Liberal Arts Honors/American Studies/Radio, Television, and Film
In the early part of 2020, I came across a short poem, “And when the storm was over, everyone danced, new flowers bloomed, and we were all gifted new beginnings.” It has been a source of comfort and guidance, even becoming my computer’s background as something to look forward to. This last year has been challenging for everyone, to varying degrees. I am grateful for my health and my loved ones’ health. I am also appreciative of being able to continue my education and community involvement.
Over the last year, there have been a series of storms, as well as moments of sun. After five fully-remote summer courses, I felt more adapted for the fall semester in a digital landscape. Through my courses, I was able to deep dive into the world of film noir with Dr. Noah Isenberg, something I knew little about. I also took classes on advertising, the main themes of American culture, and even two digital media courses with fellow Dedman, Ingrid Piña! As part of my course load, I was able to work on many creative projects, one of which being a short documentary that focused on interviewing women and the stories behind their favorite pair of shoes.
Outside of classes in the fall, I was fortunate to find new and different ways of connecting to students and staff on campus. I was an Undergraduate Learning Assistant for Dr. Madeleine Redlick. It was the first semester of the course Introduction to Communication Foundations and we had over eight hundred students enrolled in the course! It was amazing to work with a team of ULAs in order to support student success in an online environment. I was also a part of the Undergraduate Teaching Assistant humanities team with Dr. Elon Lang as part of the Professionalism in Healthcare course. As part of this role, I worked closely with other UGTAs and a cohort of sixteen students as we developed research and writing skills throughout the semester. I also spent time volunteering as a mentor and a presenter for the Leadership and Ethics Institute. I worked with a cohort of students to develop their leadership skills, as well as present a variety of workshops to different student organizations. I participated in CoachUT as well, a program that allowed me to meet with a leadership development coach, which has truly been one of the most eye-opening and impactful experiences I’ve had at UT.
After spending the fall focusing on media-related courses, I spent the spring focused on my interests in American studies. This led to a wide array of course topics, from the food culture in America to the presentations of the prison system in films and television shows and how that impacts cultural memory. These were smaller, seminar-style courses that allowed me to get to know my classmates and professors even more than normal semesters. We had daily check-ins, and one of my professors even showed us her collection of beans. These classes also allowed me to complete projects and papers that I wouldn’t have expected. I wrote research papers on topics spanning from the role of food culture as part of the Las Vegas tourism industry to a critical analysis of the role of the gulag in Muppets Most Wanted. I also explored the intricacies of oral history in my Preserving Austin, Texas Queer History course, which allowed me to interview two people, activist Trella Ann Laughlin and Maggie Lea, co-founder of Cheer-Up Charlie’s. I transcribed these interviews and they have been donated to the Austin History Center as part of the course! Although my focus was on the liberal arts this semester, I did take a video editing course that allowed me to edit raw footage from the AMC show Mad Men, as well as ABC’s Alias, which was created by J.J. Abrams! It was such a unique experience and it reminded me that even online, UT is a special university with world class professors and opportunities.
I continued on as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for Professionalism in Health Professions in the spring as well. Focusing less on research and writing skills, we worked on weekly critical thinking exercises and public speaking activities. I also became a Student Assistant in the Leadership and Ethics Institute. I worked with other students and full-time faculty to raise money for the office during the Forty for Forty campaign. We also overhauled our curriculum to be more accessible in an online environment, which included creating an engagement portal and presenting leadership development workshops to student organizations online. I was also one of two student panelists on “Making Lemons into Lemonade: Online Learning during COVID” for Moody College of Communication’s Advisory Council. It was both really cool and daunting to share my experience of online learning with leaders in the college!
Although interactions behind a screen were not always ideal, it did allow for some unique opportunities. I was able to be a virtual audience member for the battle rounds of NBC’s The Voice! I also found ways to safely engage with friends, whether it was social distancing in Aoife’s garden, or Lori hosting a game of The Oregon Trail over Zoom. I am very much looking forward to resuming the Dedman intramural soccer team this academic year (hopefully!). This summer, I will be continuing to work with the Leadership and Ethics Institute. I will be promoting our office at freshman and transfer orientations sessions, as well as assisting the office as it rebrands to the Texas LEAD office this fall! In addition, I am working on a Public Relations certificate. I’m also dabbling in new hobbies and skills as I’ve officially completed my first carpentry project with my dad!
I am so grateful for the graciousness of the Dedman family. Through this program, I have received the best Buc-ee’s gift basket, opportunities, and friends that I could have ever asked for. I was also able to obtain a new computer that was essential for my studies this year because of the generosity of the Dedman family. I am looking forward to more dancing, more flowers, and more new beginnings this fall. Hook ‘em!