Lehigh establishes film and documentary studies program

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Associate English professor Michael Kramp, gives a presentation as the director the new film and documentary studies program on Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 at Williams Hall. Both students and professors are optimistic that the program will be able to expand the amount of opportunities for students interested in film. (Courtesy of Lehigh Communications and Public Affairs)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect Kevin Kirner has finished the requirements of the graduate certificate.

Lehigh has created a new film and documentary studies program to formally house already existing minors in film and documentary storymaking. 

These minors that have been a part of course offerings for over three years include a film studies minor that was housed in the English program and a graduate certificate in documentary filmmaking that was previously housed in the American studies program.

Additionally, a Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC) minor in documentary story making has been offered. This minor allows Lehigh students to take classes with professors and students from Lafayette and Muhlenberg colleges.

Michael Kramp, an English professor and the director of the film and documentary studies program, is hopeful about the program’s future.

“I think the biggest change with this new program will be that we’ll see film more integrated into different aspects of the university,” Kramp said. “We’re going to see documentary studies integrated and have a much further reach than before.”

There will be eight students graduating with a film studies minor, three with a graduate certificate and three with the LVAIC documentary minor this year.

With professors who are based in disciplines such as Chinese, English, American studies and more, there are ample opportunities to get involved in the new program for educators as well as students.

Olivia Landry, a professor of German who will also teach courses cross-listed with the program, is optimistic about the educational opportunities that the program will provide.

“My hope is, because I’m new here, to develop some new courses and then teach those in a cycle, so that students can take a variety of courses with me throughout their college career at Lehigh,” Landry said.

Landry said her students come from different disciplines and do not necessarily study German or film. 

This new program, which was developed in January, was highlighted during an information session on Feb. 27 in Williams Global Commons.

At the information session, Tristan Rai, ’19, Donterrius Walker, ’19, Kevin Kirner, ’19G, and other students talked about their experiences within the minors and played excerpts of their films.

Kirner said he is also optimistic about the cohesiveness of the film program, and the opportunities for community building it will bring to its students. He finished the requirements for the graduate certificate in December and will be graduating from the American studies program in May.

“It’s interesting to see how a cohort of students will get created because of this because it lived in so many departments leading up to now,” Kirner said. “I never really had a group of other students that I was working with.”

He emphasized how important being able to network with other film students is, and how much easier that could be going forward.

“If you’re looking to go into film, these are the people you’ll be collaborating with for the rest of your career, if you make those connections,” he said. “It’s nice to see it housed under one roof so those connections can happen.”

Kramp said this program and the opportunities it provides would not be available at Lehigh if not for the late professors John Pettegrew and Alex Doty.

Pettegrew, who was a history professor, played a large role in establishing the graduate certificate in filmmaking and the LVAIC minor in documentary storymaking. 

Doty, a former English professor, was an impactful voice in the realm of queer film studies. Although the Film and Documentary studies program did not officially come to fruition until 2019, Doty was an integral part of it becoming a reality during his time at the university.

“This Film and Documentary Studies Program does not exist without these two amazing scholars and teachers,” Kramp said.

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