Student film showcases award-winning professors

May 05, 2009

What makes the mind of a great professor tick? What makes him laugh? What inspires her to push students to even higher reaches? And why McDaniel?

A student-produced documentary project that profiles nearly a dozen McDaniel College Distinguished Teaching Award recipients, which premieres this week in two showings on campus, sets out to answer these and many other questions about professors who have been awarded one of the College’s highest distinctions for its faculty.

“Through this process, we have earned so much respect for all the work that professors put into teaching,” said Tyler Carr ’10, who has a major in Communication and a minor in Film. “This is definitely going to help future generations of McDaniel students come to respect professors.”

A 24-minute highlight reel will be shown at noon May 7 in Decker Auditorium. It also will be previewed at 6 p.m. that day during “Video-palooza,” an annual film festival where students showcase their works.

Carr and the 10 other students in the Special Topics course, “In-depth Interview Production,” spent the entire semester learning more about their subjects as part of the advance-level interviewing and video production course.

The class was designed in the model of the award-winning Bravo TV interview series, “Inside the Actors Studio,” according to the two professors who taught it, Communication professors Robert Lemieux and Jonathan Slade. Instead of interviewing actors, each student was assigned to interview one of the current McDaniel professors who has received the prestigious Ira G. Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award.

The teaching award, which was established in 1995, recognizes inspired classroom work and dedication to students. The award honors emeritus faculty member Ira G. Zepp, who taught full time in the Department of Religious Studies until his retirement in 1994.

Those profiled in this production include Julia Orza (Education), Debra Lemke (Sociology), Frances “Skip” Fennell (Education), Jeff Marx (Physics), Rick Smith (Chemistry), Mohamed Esa (Foreign Languages), Margaret Boudreaux (Music), LeRoy Panek (English), Christianna Leahy (Political Science and International Studies), Lauren Dundes (Sociology), and Michael Losch (Arts and Art History).

Lemieux said he had the idea to create the production class one day after walking through Elderdice Hall and marveling at the breadth of experience and wisdom represented in the photo display of winners of the teaching award. He felt compelled to provide a way to showcase these educators in an even more visible fashion, and to help humanize them to an even wider audience of students who might not frequently take notice of the photos on the wall.

For the class, Lemieux focused on teaching the students how to conduct effective interviews and Slade taught the production skills.

Students spent the semester researching the professors from both personal and scholarly perspectives to create 20- to 30-minute one-on-one interviews that are being compiled into the overall production.

Slade, who describes the film as a “21st century artifact” that will be added to the college’s archive, said it helps bring the Elderdice photos to life.

“This provides a more three-dimensional idea of who these professors are,” he said. “We get to see the paths of these teachers. We get to see them as people on a journey. It’s roadmap of their lives.”