From left: Grace Boak, '20, Griffin Fox, '22, and Jessica Mun, '21, film in Sierra Leone for a documentary about maternal motherhood. Students who pursue a film and documentary minor have opportunities to work in various communities. (Courtesy of Stephanie Veto)

Programs change during seniors’ time on campus


The class of 2020 has experienced a shifting academic landscape since their arrival on campus in 2016, through both the addition and removal of various academic programs.

In 2017, the health, medicine and society (HMS) major was launched. A few years later, in 2019, the film and documentary studies department was established. Both of these interdisciplinary programs were introduced in response to the changing needs of the 21st century. 

Alysse Weinberg, ‘20, is an HMS and psychology double major. She said her classes were mostly populated with psychology students at first, but now there is a wide variety of students that are enrolled in HMS classes. 

“Since I started taking HMS classes, it has increased in popularity tenfold,” Weinberg said. “So many more people are double majoring, minoring or just taking HMS classes. There are so many different combinations with HMS now, which is really exciting to see.”

Weinberg said she appreciates the diversity of learning backgrounds and perspectives in her HMS classes, since it is an interdisciplinary program. However, she said she hopes to see it expand into its own program. 

“I think that the HMS major is really important on its own, and I think students should be able to have an opportunity to only major in public health,” Weinberg said.

Adding her HMS major is one of the most productive things she has done as a Lehigh student, and it has made her look at society and life differently, she said.

Before the film and documentary studies department was officially created, minors and graduate certificates in this field were offered. These minors include film studies and documentary storymaking through the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC). 

Michael Kramp, director of the film and documentary studies program and associate professor of English, said the recognition of this program and administrative support from the Office of Interdisciplinary Programs has been integral.

“This program is an attempt to bring the various classes that were in existence for five or six years now under one umbrella to give it a central home, central leadership and central recognition on campus,” Kramp said. 

This program has reached students across the university since it is an interdisciplinary program, which speaks to the reach of film and documentary studies. 

The interdisciplinary nature of this program has allowed the campus community to develop a culture of film and an understanding of the potential of film in the 21st century, which has helped the campus community understand how to message, communicate and share ideas through film, Kramp said.

“The most rewarding part of this program was that it is so hands on and interdisciplinary,” said Grace Boak, ‘20. “I always felt like I was doing something real.”

Boak, an English major with a film studies minor, said she is proud of the community engagement aspect of the film and documentary studies program. 

The program makes students get involved with the South Side  by engaging with issues in the city  and the Lehigh Valley region, Boak said. 

While Lehigh has made additions to its offering in the past four years, there have been cuts as well. The sustainable development minor was eliminated in 2019, and the President’s Scholar program was discontinued the same year for incoming students.  

Sofia Ramirez, ‘20, is an industrial and systems engineering major in the IDEAS program. She is a Presidential Scholar who will be using the scholarship to pursue a master’s degree next year.

The Presidential Scholar’s Program was one of the main reasons Ramirez was attracted to Lehigh when she was in high school, she said.

“I definitely think the scholarship should have been kept in place,” Ramirez said. “It gives students a goal and something to aspire to, especially students in five-year programs. This scholarship really helps parents and families with paying tuition if you are in a five-year program.” 

Ramirez said her college decision might have been different four years ago if the Presidential Scholar’s Program did not exist at Lehigh. 

Ramirez said she has a piece of advice for incoming freshmen — work hard and set achievable goals. 

“The number one thing is making realistic goals,” Ramirez said. “Making goals that you can achieve and working really hard to reach them is what matters.”

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