Westmont’s first “film and new media studies” major
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Third-year student Izzy Esber has lived in four dorms, participated in the Westmont Downtown program where she created an app that helps Santa Barbara County foster care families obtain helpful resources, played on the women’s soccer team as a goalie, participated in a number of theatre productions, been a two-time intern with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and switched majors twice, from communication studies to studio art. Now, Esber is the only student to have ever successfully petitioned the Academic Senate to create the “film and new media studies” major under the interdisciplinary track.
Moving from her home in Ohio, Esber came to Westmont undeclared. She became a communications major her second year and took coursework within the major before she “fell in love with film when [she] realized the amazing stories that were flowing into her life needed to be expressed visually.”
After discovering her love of film, Esber switched majors to studio art. While she enjoyed her time as an art major, she notes that it “was not allowing me as a student to fully express my artwork in filmmaking media types,” and that she “would have to make paintings and sculptures that were not at all related to my interest in filmmaking.” With support from the head of the art department and her academic advisor, Dr. Lisa DeBoer, Esber started the process of petitioning to become Westmont’s first film and new media studies major.
Esber accounts that the compiling of documents took about one month, and then more time was added after the Academic Senate requested a more thorough application. “After I compiled a write up, cover letter, petition paper, and class comparisons to Wheaton College’s ‘film and new media studies major’, I still needed to petition against the rule that interdisciplinary majors need to submit their proposals at least three full semesters prior to graduation, since I’m already a second-semester junior,” Esber recounts. But in the end, she says “it was all worth it”. Her proposal was accepted in mid-January, and she became Westmont’s first film and new media studies major.
Her major coursework consists of classes from various departments including the English department’s Introduction to Film Studies, Screenwriting I, and Screenwriting II courses, communications’ Focus on Film: Screwball Comedies, theatre arts’ Contemporary Theatre and Film Performance, and religious studies’ Religion and Filmmaking.
When asked if she feels isolated being the only student in her major, she quickly responded, “no way. I feel like I’m an oatmeal raisin cookie in a group of chocolate chip cookies -- unique, but still good. I am excited to finally have brought this major to Westmont, and hope other pursuing filmmakers will take advantage of this new major in the future.” Esber encourages any student with a serious interest in a field of study not currently offered as a major by Westmont to pursue it by petitioning through the Academic Senate.“ I am much happier knowing that I am actually pursuing the major I want instead of trying to make things ‘work’ in other majors when in reality, don’t really fit.”
Esber encourages all students to push the limits of what Westmont has to offer, and challenge the status quo through academics.