Where are you from? And why did you decide to come to KU?
I’m from Overland Park, Kansas. I decided to come to KU because I attended a summer camp here with Duke TiP in middle school, and I absolutely fell in love with campus. It’s also a nice mix of just close enough to home, but just far enough, too.
Describe your areas of study and academic interests in a couple of sentences that we can all understand, and tell us why these subjects are important to you:
I’ve always been a creatively oriented person with skills in math and science, so I feel like this is a good marriage of the two different areas I like- I enjoy my classes and they work well together.
For example, if I ever wanted to do freelance photo or video work in the future, I have the skills to successfully run a business and the skills to create amazing video. It also provides a huge pool of potential careers, which is helpful to think about in the later years of college.
Why did you choose your major(s)? And how do they complement each other? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study? What was that journey like?
I actually came into KU as a Women’s Studies major and had been trying to decide on a second major (I had considered everything from Political Science to Religious Studies). I fell in love with FMS after taking FMS 177, the first-year seminar that also tied into a history class. I also made my closest friends in this class, and that’s when it hit me that I wanted to major in Film & Media Studies, doing the production track.
Getting into Business took a little longer, because the amount of prerequisite foundation courses and the credit hours was extremely daunting. When I discussed it with people close to me, they suggested it because it provides a lot of career opportunities and gives me better security should I decide to freelance- courses like Business Law would help me out in the nitty-gritty like drafting client contracts for a shoot.
What is the most exciting part of your major(s) and/or minor(s)? What do you think is most valuable about your experiences in these programs?
The most exciting part is learning concepts that are applicable to my life and experience, such as in business classes. The most exciting part of film is getting encouraged to be creative and to not be afraid of my abilities or what I can create.
It’s the best confidence boost, and it makes me feel at peace with confidence in my talent, which I know can be common among filmmakers, photographers, and all other kinds of artists. And I think experience in a social science, such as women’s studies, is beyond valuable in today’s ever-political world, because it encourages you to keep an open mind and observe the world around you and notice social/identity aspects you may have not even considered before. It’s eye-opening to realize there are issues other groups of people face that you didn’t even know about since you’re not part of that group.
How did you get into photography? What do you enjoy most about that? Are there any particular themes or subjects you like to explore?
My family has always been super connected to photography- my dad was a photographer for the student newspaper and yearbook at his high school (he still dabbles in it a bit).
I got to take a photography elective in high school, and my parents gave me the old Canon film camera they used on their honeymoon. Once I learned how to use it, I was given my first DSLR for Christmas, and I’ve been incredibly involved in photography ever since. During my freshman year, I applied to the University Daily Kansan as a photo correspondent, and then got promoted to a paid photographer after my first semester- now I’ve made it all the way to being the Photo Editor! It’s one big family and has helped me grow as a photographer in ways I didn’t know I could.
I love photography because I struggle with anxiety and a cramped schedule, so photography as a creative outlet is very relaxing and calming for me. Even in chaotic events, such as loud concerts or protests, I’m kind of “in the zone” and I’m in my own world.
I think my favorite theme or subject would be community. I love taking photos around the University and Lawrence as a whole. I also love when I get assigned to cover events for work that take place as a community gathering, because candids of people having fun without a care make me so happy, because sometimes it can be difficult to capture the pure, unadulterated happiness in someone’s face when they’re having fun.
Is there a particular professor or mentor you’d like to give a shout out?
I’d like to shout out the professor of the class that convinced me to switch my major- Professor Germaine Halegoua from the FMS department. Even though the last class of hers I took was online and I took FMS 177 in freshman year, we still catch up whenever we see each other on campus and she has been beyond uplifting and encouraging when I mention any of my accomplishments from work!
What is the benefit of being in the KU College alongside students studying sciences, arts and humanities?
I’d say being in the College allowed me to experiment with what kinds of classes I like taking, and a lot of the courses I was experimenting with ended up fulfilling KU Core requirements! I also love how I meet people outside of my majors when I take CLAS classes.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my classmates (and you’ll see a lot of the same people semester after semester in FMS), but it’s still cool to meet new people! I’ve made cool friends in those classes who I probably never would’ve even met otherwise. Also, free t-shirts!
What has been your favorite class at KU? And why?
I’d have to say one of my favorite classes is one I took this semester: Cinematography (FMS 376). I’ve always had an admiration for good cinematography, and it was incredible to be able to learn it a little more in-depth for the whole semester. We learned the fundamentals at first, and then in the second half of the semesters we acted as directors of photography on our own individual projects, where we could play with any element of cinematography- some people used cranes, some used handheld camera techniques, and some worked with unique lighting setups. In my project, I experimented with how light colors affect the emotion of a scene. Plus, Professor Jacobson made the class a total blast.
Have you done any internships, study abroad programs, or any other learning experiences you’d like to share? If so, what was that like?
I got super lucky to find an internship the summer after my freshman year that I really liked- I was a photography intern for the City of Olathe. I will say, it was extremely difficult to balance an internship (even if it wasn’t full-time) and being in accounting classes or 3 hours a day all summer, but I love how it kept me busy and it definitely made me capable of staying sane when I have a lot on my plate. While I don’t think it’s ideal to overload yourself every summer with both internships and classes, it’s not the end of the world if that’s what happens!
What would you tell your freshman self?
“Always shoot your shot and never be afraid to ask for help with anything.”
What do you want to do when you graduate?
Ah, every college student’s favorite question. I’m still trying to take in all the options ahead of me, but ideally, I’d really like to do photography or videography work or an esports organization! I find the industry super fascinating (and fun!), and it’s also growing at a rapid pace with job opportunities popping up left and right.
This other one is a long shot, but I’d love to make a career out of doing BTS photography on film sets. I’ve done a bit of BTS for my cinematography class, and it was really fun on top of providing me memories of the class to look back at.
What motivates you?
I think that what motivates me is that I want to be proud of myself (even if that sounds a little narcissistic). Sometimes I get so busy I wonder why I’m pursuing two full degrees and a minor, but it’s because I want to accomplish as much as possible so I can look at those pieces of paper and say “hey, I did that!” because persevering and finishing something successfully makes me, well, super proud of myself. I think as humans in general, we all love seeing the results of our hard work and want to show it off, and that feeling specifically is what encourages me to persevere through all the work it takes to get there.
Be like Sarah. Find your fit, and seize opportunities to “shoot your shot.” For more information, see the Department of Film and Media Studies, the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the School of Business, and the University Daily Kansan at the University of Kansas. Also, check out some of Sarah’s incredible photography on her Instagram profile.