No Program? No Problem!

Thursday, May. 9, 2013 8:23 am

Although several departments offer film courses each year and there is an active calendar of film-related events and film clubs at Grinnell, there is no film major or concentration. Nevertheless five Grinnellians presented research at national film conferences in April — making this the fourth year in a row that students from various majors have traveled to national cinema studies conferences to present their work.

“The first assignment in my Film Genres course is to write a conference abstract, which students then had the option to submit to various conferences,” says Theresa Geller, assistant professor of film theory and history in English.  

In response to the several abstracts she received from Grinnell students, Pamela Wojcik, professor of film, TV and theatre at Notre Dame, host of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) National Undergraduate Conference, wrote, “your students really stand out!”

They certainly did: Nearly half of Geller’s Humanities 290 class presented at two national conferences. Vilma Castaneda ’14, a sociology and gender, women’s, and sexuality studies (GWSS) major from Washington, D.C.; Claire Fleckenstein ’13, a French and GWSS major from Olympia, Wash.; and Brian Buckley ’14, an independent major in American studies presented at the undergraduate SCMS conference. Benji Zeledon ’14, a political science major and policy studies concentrator from Miami, and Victor Kyerematen ’14, an English major from Accra, Ghana, were the only undergraduates invited to individually present their original research at the 20th annual (dis)junctions Humanities and Social Sciences Graduate Conference at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). 

Geller’s students were thrilled to meet others pursuing film studies. “The conference was a success, and being able to gain experience at that level went a long way,” said Kyerematen, who presented on the shifting form of racism in recent American films. “Everybody who attended was quite impressed [with us]. The other people on my panel had, on average, 10 years in academia each and had J.D.s and Ph.D.s; but to be honest, their writing wasn’t so far off from what we produce in class. … We made good friends in the English department [at UCR] and several of the grad students encouraged us to apply to the program.”

ACA-Media's "Please Mister, We'd Like to Put on a Show" talks about the SCMS conference starting at 23 minutes, and includes extensive information about Grinnell's film studies and interviews with Geller and students starting a little more than three minutes into the segment.