photo by Kyoko Takenaka

I grew up between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges in the breathtaking San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado.  At 17, my passion for understanding other cultures led me to leave my town of 800 for the United World College of the Adriatic, an international high school in Duino, Italy.  I studied with students from more than 70 countries, and earned my International Baccalaureate diploma.

As an undergraduate at Brown University, I was preoccupied with the power of media.  Having grown up without a TV, I had been impressed throughout my life at the ability of audio-visual material to shape people’s understanding of one another.  I was particularly intent on understanding how U.S. media shapes Americans’ perceptions of “others,” as well as the impact of American media on people in other parts of the world.  I chose to study Art Semiotics in the Modern Culture and Media department, a combination of theoretical media studies courses as well as practical production classes.

I spent my third year of studies at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, primarily at the Alle School of Fine Arts & Design.  At that time I could not have predicted the profound effect this period of my life would have on my future.  Upon my return to Brown, I wrote, directed, shot, and edited a feature-length documentary entitled “At Home in the Valley” as my honors thesis, an investigation into the aspirations and trajectories of youth from my hometown.  This project was inspired in part by the lack of image

The film inspired me to return to the SLV, and I taught high school there for four years.  Deciding to further my dream of filmmaking, I pursued my MA in Film and Video at American University, directing my thesis film “The Strong Force” about a rancher from Southern Colorado who despite the outbreak of war, refuses to leave his cows.  The film will be released to the film festival circuit in 2015, but in the meantime you can view “The Making Of:  The Strong Force” here.

As a Fulbright student in Ethiopia in 2012-2013, I taught a digital video course with students at Alle School of Fine Arts & Design and workshops with youth.  I collaborated with Whiz Kids Workshop to turn my students’ one-minute films into Season 3 of the Involve Me TV show, which aired on Ethiopian Television in spring 2013.  In collaboration with my students at Alle School of Arts and Design, we interviewed around 20 influential Ethiopian artists and created a promotional video for this important school.

I began my PhD in Communication at American University in the fall of 2013.  My dissertation will address the history of the digitization and standardization of the Ethiopic script.


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