July 7, 2000
UW-RF Summer Film Institute Reception
By Jolene Bracy
UW-RF News Bureau
A reception welcoming 22 high school teachers and their families on July 3 marked the opening of the month-long University of Wisconsin-River Falls Summer Film Institute emphasizing the depiction of minorities in film.
Directed by Professors Carole Gerster and Laura Zlogar, the institute is funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. "Picturing American Diversity: Cinematic Representations of America's Ethnic Minorities" will present film and the images created by film as a learning tool to be incorporated into high school classrooms across the country.
Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau welcomed the group and spoke about the unique learning environment UW-RF has to offer, referring to the location, staffing and commitment to educating others. He stressed the importance of learning about diversity and using film as a teaching tool to promote the educational experience.
He also praised Gerster and Zlogar in obtaining funding for the Summer Film Institute. "To have a successful grant application in the competitive environment for funding at the national level is quite an accomplishment," said Thibodeau.
English Professor Nicholas Karolides, noted the commitment UW-RF has to film studies, and the importance of the impact of film on society. Karolides, associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, who acted as the reception's master of ceremonies, uses film as a learning tool in his classes, and instructs students in University's secondary education teacher training program on the merits of using film in their classrooms.
He said too many students reach the college level and see film as little more than a visual aid. Film should be taught as literature, not simply used as an aid in the classroom. He said the film institute would underscore the importance of film to both high school teachers and students. "The cinematic representations of diversity are vitally important in today's culture," Karolides said. The study of film, the images created through films and how best to teach others what they are viewing is the purpose of the institute.
Teachers from across the country are attending the film studies institute with such specialties as teachers of English, history, social studies or literature.
The teachers receive a stipend for attending the program and will use the seminar to build film and diversity into their curricula.
Renee Evans, a high school teacher from Crownpoint, N.M., was among those excited to be in River Falls and anticipating the seminar. She has been using film in her classroom to complement literature, such as "Of Mice and Men," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Outsiders." Her students view the film, read the book and then discuss the differences.
Jane Leive, from Mount Tabor, N.J., has a different viewpoint on the use of film. "My classroom population is very diverse; I teach in an inner city school. The issue of diversity is constant and I use any device I can to get my students' attention. Film is an excellent tool for initiating critical thinking skills in students."
The reception gave participants and facilitators a chance to relax, converse and establish relationships that will form and bond over the five-week seminar. Some of the attendees commented on the attractive campus, the great weather and their pleasure at being selected to attend the institute.
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