2nd Quarter, 2005
Communications Scholarship Winner
Rachel attended undergrad at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri where she studied Creative Writing. Prior to entering the graduate program at Columbia College, she did promotions for a Seattle area radio station and marketing and public relations for various other firms. Upon graduation, she hopes to be an independent documentary filmmaker focusing on issues that don’t always grab the attention of the mainstream media.
A Portion of Rachel’s Winning Essay:
“The strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total of the education and the character of our people.” -Claiborne Pell
I believe that education is a continuing dialogue that assumes and honors different points of view and experiences. If you believe the words of Claiborne Pell, as I do, then the education of a nation is vitally important to the strength and survival of that nation, and an open dialogue and exchange of ideas is the best way to ensure such an education. If education is dialogue then media and communications professionals, as guardians of that discourse, have a very real responsibility to the citizenship.
In today’s world where information is exchanged at a lightening rate through thousands of different portals, media and communications professionals have the responsibility of disseminating information and ideas and discerning what pieces of information are most vital to offer up to the public for consumption and discussion. Never has this task been so weighted as it is today, as we move through a world that is as volatile, mobile, and multi-dimensional as our own. In these times of global tension and widening socio-economic gaps within our own borders, it is more important than ever that we maintain lines of communication so that a very real and very frank and educated national discussion might be undertaken. We hold a position on the global stage that is tenuous, and in that reality there are few dangers greater than a citizenship that is uninformed and uninvolved.
Media and communications professionals have a very real charge to inform the public and to aid in the maintenance of an open discourse that seeks out more than one point of view on a matter so that we may move forward collectively as an educated body. To maintain our vitality as a global community member and neighbor and to confront social ills within our own borders, information is a powerful commodity while communication and the exchange of ideas is a necessary practice.
I have chosen an education in media and communications because I want to be a part of the dialogue. Albert Einstein famously quipped that the definition of an insane person is “to continually do something the same way with the expectation of different results.” I cannot expect the world to change if I do not, myself, become engaged in it. I love the exchange of language and ideas and believe the onus is on the people themselves to keep the dialogue, and therefore our education and evolution, alive.
I am not a crusader but rather a person with an innate need to create, to speak, and to contribute. I want to contribute a voice to help ensure that our nation does not become complacent in its consumption of information and allow itself to be spoon fed its own policies. To my mind, communication is one of the only means to progress – without communication ideas remain stagnant and no new methods are added to the pot. I would like to add to the pot, to ensure that voices that are not always heard are represented and that viewpoints that are not always recognized be given validation.
Moreover, I would like to help ensure that lines of communication, whatever they may be, remain open. I think each person has a responsibility to contribute the best of themselves to society, and a career in media and communications is the avenue through which I choose to make my contribution because it is farthest reaching and holds the most potential for impact.
My contribution to the profession will be as an independent filmmaker, producing both narrative and documentary films. My films will seek to honor voices and experiences that are not always highlighted by the mainstream. I think it is important to question yourself and your world and to be open to alternative interpretations of your environment. Not only that, but I think it is important to actively seek out alternative interpretations because, though they won’t always be readily accessible they will almost always be valuable.
It is apprehensive that in a society of hundreds of millions of people, the majority of us have accepted that there are only two labels with which we can identify ourselves and our fellow citizens: liberal or conservative. For all the immigrants we welcome through our borders, the cultural consciousness of the United States is growing increasingly homogenized and absent of variation. We read the same magazines, pick the same books off the New York Times bestseller list, see the same Hollywood blockbusters, listen to the same music recycled over the radio waves, watch the same celebrity interviews, view the same newscasts, and digest the same information disseminated from the same source via interchangeable channels. We feng shui our homes because we saw a segment about it on Oprah. Restaurants and grocers offer Atkins friendly products to accommodate the anti-carb craze sweeping the nation. We hear that pilates is the workout of the stars, and within a year every health club in the nation teaches a pilates class. Madonna takes up Kabbalah, and that becomes the religion du jour.
I would like to offer, not a dissenting voice, but a voice that is not heard in the pages of Cosmopolitan or interviewed on Leno. In our increasingly homogenized society, it may seem as though many voices are getting heard but in reality, it’s the same voice magnified through the power of repetition. I would like to offer different views and experiences: that of the single handicapped woman raising her children, or the public figure suffering mental illness, or the children of immigrants who can’t get into college because their parents are illegal, or the underground lifestyles hidden in the streets.
I would like to explore how our foreign policies affect not just ourselves and their immediate target, but how they alter the lives of children in France or factory workers in Paraguay. I would like to explore how our domestic policies change lives, for better or worse, on both the basest of levels and the most intricate of levels, not just on a ledger. I would like to move beyond the packaged sitcoms and the readily accepted ideas of status and being and happiness and explore the existences and experiences of members of our society that live brilliant lives hidden in the corners. I believe this is a vital part of the dialogue and that through taking the time to illuminate the lives of those who might disagree with us or take a varying view, we help ourselves to better understand our own wishes, motivations, attitudes, and needs.
I would like to create films that, at the very least, make people think. Too often we take sides on an issue based on habit. The world is not black and white and we can too easily become addicted to our own pasts. I would like to offer films that might not always be popular, but that might cause people to consider the gravity of their own choices and actions, both personally and politically. In today’s world, where we are all so dialed in and wired and mobile and where lives and relationships can be changed in an instant, being thoughtful and educated is essential, if not dire. Our society has a tendency to take a self-centered view on many things, both as individuals and as a collective. I would like to offer films to help shake us out of the mold and to open our eyes, even if just for a moment, to new and different possibilities: to envision, if just for the duration of that film, a different way of inhabiting the world.
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