Intellectual Autobiography

08Mar10

I was a lost freshman.  I chose Communication as my major without really knowing what it was.  I knew my university didn’t offer journalism as a major and that was the only career I had seriously considered.  But after four years in high school of writing for three newspapers and various other publications, I was already getting a little bored with journalism.  Communication seemed broad.  Maybe I’d find something I liked.

I began my first communication course, “Principles of Communication Theory,” and the content was as dull as the title.  When I finally had the opportunity to do a project that offered some outlet for creative expression, I made a video.  Maybe I could be a producer.  I’ve always had a secret dream to work in movies (and I’m not talented in acting).  I met with my advisor; an old man that the department kept for his academic accomplishments in the communication field but it was clear he had no knack for teaching so they made him the department head so he had little interaction with students. “We don’t have that here,” he said as he sorted through his paperwork only half-listening to my woe.

Dead end.  I resorted to the course catalog to find a different major.  Nothing interested me.

The next semester, I took my second communication course, “Mass Communication and Culture.”  My professor, Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, was new to the university.  While coping with the recent death of her husband, she continued her research on political humor while obtaining her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.  She was also a comedienne.   I never lost focus in her class and couldn’t tear my eyes away from her teaching style or the content.  She became my academic advisor and an inspiration.

The following year I went full speed into the communication program.  I hadn’t been officially “accepted” into the major yet (the school only accepted the top 100 communication students after the completion of 4 core courses in the freshman and sophomore years).  Nevertheless, I was confident in my GPA and picked up as many courses under the concentration of mass communication as was allowed.  The same year, the journalism minor was introduced.  I knew that subject would make a comeback sometime in my life.

After being officially accepted, I took an advanced (actually, graduate level) course on content analysis with a professor whose name came up in every academic document I came across.  Dr. Nancy Signorelli headed the graduate program and had a lot of experience in research.  After this course I realized research could mean watching primetime television.  I did my own content analysis on the features of characters that commit violence on primetime shows.  About two months into the semester I got a letter from Professor Signorelli telling me my grades showed an aptitude for the communication field and asked me to consider graduate school.

I took a breath and started to identify my interests.  I knew I loved my concentration – mass communication interested me much more than interpersonal.  I wanted to deal with the media.  I loved creative aspects: movie making, editing, interactive media (another minor I discovered and quickly took up).  And now, I realized I like the research.  I have always loved to write, but long nights in the library with stacks of books and documents higher than my cubicle was something that excited me rather than sent me into a panic.

I began to search for MA programs that dealt with the mass media.  I looked into Media Arts but I was no artist and programs were scarce.  I considered film school as a pursuit of my previous goal to be a producer.  I didn’t have the time or money (and I couldn’t convince my parents on the practicality of that degree).  I looked at the big universities but many (including my undergraduate university) were strictly theory-based.  I wanted a balance between the theories and a way to express my creativity.  And, once my parents told me I was on my own financially after I graduated, I needed a part-time program that would let me work during the day to finance it.

Obviously, this led me to pursue my MA in Media Studies at the New School.  Dr. Signorelli was happy to write me a recommendation and Dr. Young was ecstatic about helping me with my application.  Once I was accepted, they wished me luck.  I graduated a semester early and began my MA in January, before my BA diploma even arrived.

Many people come to these programs with a clear idea of what topic they want to pursue.  I, however, am a person that is interested in absolutely everything and loves having many choices when it comes to opportunity.  I often compromise my time and pursue many areas of interest. In this way, I may be preventing myself from becoming an expert in one particular area, but I’m also well rounded in many areas.  I picked up a major, three minors and a certificate in only three and half years as an undergraduate.  Now, I’m more knowledgeable in all of those fields.  I picked this program because it didn’t make me choose between theory and practice and I knew I wanted to do both.  It offered many areas of study; I knew I’d be interested in all of them.

I recognize that now I have to pick an area of interest to fall in love with and commit to.  I’m currently at the beginning stages of this process.  Again, I have to identify my interests.  I often still return to my initial love for producing.  With courses on documentaries, I recognize an opportunity to combine another area of interest – culture.  I love American culture and media, but I also love to travel.  The fact that so much media is exported from the U.S. and that even British comedy requires a certain “appreciation” from Americans fascinates me.  Why is media so different in other cultures?  Why do other cultures appreciate American media more than we can appreciate theirs?  Special effects?  Amounts of money poured into our entertainment industry?

If I’m able to combine my love of culture with my love of media, I may have a topic worthy of a thesis.  Whether this is through traditional research or a documentary, I’m unsure, but I’d be happy with either method.  Overall, my goal will be to “discover” something.  Even if I can’t pinpoint what I’d like to contribute to the field, I simply want to have a contribution.  I want to explore a topic so in depth that my name will be attached to pieces of information.

My love for learning didn’t stop as an undergraduate and I don’t expect it to stop after completing my MA.  I always keep my options open and consider obtaining a PhD or an additional MA degree in another field.  But with my MA in Media Studies, I hope to produce something worthy of referencing in the future.  I hope that whatever career I am in, whether it still be public relations or a career more directly associated with the media, that the knowledge I have from this degree will enhance my understanding of the industry and enable me to do more valuable and meaningful work.

This degree will keep my curiosity from waning and help me to not only educate myself with theories of the media industry, but also educate me on the technologies involved. I hope to be better trained with film and other creative tools.  Perhaps this could be my gateway into the film industry.  My most recent dream job is combining my current field of public relations with the media industry by working to promote new films.  My studies will only get my closer to this dream.

As a very new MA student fresh out of college, I’m unsure of where I will end up and exactly what I will accomplish.  I do know that I am motivated, curious, and intelligent and I will accomplish something to be proud of.  My current area of interest – investigating media in other cultures – could very well change as I take up new courses and fall in love with new topics.  My overall goal of working in the media industry could change as well.  However, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.  If my journey takes a detour, that’s fine with me.  I know that I am pursuing the right subjects and I will be committed to wherever my coursework leads me.

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