Saw Min Maw '16

Saw Min Maw '16My name is Saw Min Maw. I am a third-year international student from Myanmar, with an independent major in Media and Communications. My background and interest, even before coming to Grinnell, was mainly in film and photography.

I am passionate about visual aesthetics and am particularly interested in examining the means through which this form can be utilized as a tool of communication. Although lacking in film and communication as standalone majors, Grinnell’s flexibility in allowing students the freedom to explore individual interests was a key attraction that drew me to this institution.

In order to further explore film and art as my focus areas of study, I decided to pursue an independent major that allows me the freedom to choose my own courses and design my own curriculum. My self-designed major incorporates courses from Studio Art, Film, Psychology and Anthropology that merge to form a coherent study of visual media and social behavior. For my senior year fall semester, I plan to study abroad at FAMU, the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Czech Republic. On campus, I work as a student photographer for the Communications Office, videographer/editor for the Video Production Studio, and production manager for KDIC, the Grinnell College radio station.

Kenneth Wee '16

Kenneth Wee '16I’m Kenneth, a Media and Cultural Studies Independent Major from Singapore. I first looked at American liberal arts colleges hoping to find places where I could explore new interests outside of English Literature, while still moving comfortably toward an English major. More importantly, I wanted to be surprised at every turn: to discover better ways of thinking and acting in the world. In that respect, the Independent Major turned out to be one of my best academic decisions yet.

Viewing an issue through different disciplines makes for some surprising insights, and I’ve found the practice uncannily useful with issues that require thinking beyond established conventions. In exploring the ideas and questions I find compelling, I’ve felt an unprecedented sense of freedom and drive in my academics that has helped me grow much as a thinker, and has led to some interesting experiences like presenting on New Media at a graduate conference and my current research semester at the Newberry Library in Chicago. While planning an Independent Major sounds daunting at first glance, it’s actually a fairly straightforward process with good faculty advice and feedback; I think it’s an option more students should explore before they commit to a field.

Michelle Risacher '17

Michelle RisacherLike many people, I came to Grinnell with an entirely different plan for the future than I have now. After taking various classes, I realized it would be difficult to narrow my interests to two disciplines. Thus, I have decided to apply for an independent major to permit me to pursue study across departments, because, in part, we do not have a Film Studies department.

My major, Media and Cultural Studies, allows me to take an interdisciplinary look at the way media negotiates between different cultural and institutional apparatuses, while doing what many assume a leisure activity—consuming media. Given how pervasive media is in our lives, my major allows me to deconstruct the idea that 'pop culture' is simply a low-brow form of entertainment by examining how media constructs our notions of gender, race, sexuality, class, and the nation state through certain signs and discourses. I believe that this major will properly equip me to move on to graduate school in order to pursue a career in academia.