Our Alumni Spotlight series returns, as Lily Inskip-Shesnicky interviews 2021 Masters in Film Studies graduate, Rachel Loewen about her time at Carleton and new adventures in the UK.
Lily: Hi Rachel, let’s start with the question that every film major will get asked repeatedly for the rest of their lives: what are some of your favourite movies or genres?
Rachel: Fantasy and science fiction are my go-to genres to watch for fun. I like movies that take me away from reality and allow me to live in a fantasy world for awhile. I would have to say that my favourite movies of all time are the three Lord of the Rings films. I watch them every year or so!
Lily: Okay, now that the important question has been answered, let’s talk about Carleton. You were a graduate student in film studies, what was that experience like for you?
Rachel: I loved every moment of it! The two years of the program absolutely flew by, even with me finishing my degree during the pandemic. Some of my fondest memories came from my time at Carleton. Specifically, I loved the strong sense of community in the department and among the MA students, even during lockdown.
Lily: What was your original goal going into university and did that change at all during your time at Carleton?
Rachel: My original goal was just to stay in academia. I’ve always been happiest when I’m studying, to the point that I would be excited for the summer holidays to end because I wanted to get back to campus. All I knew was that, at the end of my BA in Film Studies and Sociology, I was not ready to leave university. Although I had harboured dreams about pursuing a PhD one day, it was my time at Carleton that made me decide to pursue that path. I was a TA while at Carleton, and I fell in love with teaching. I knew after the end of my first discussion group that I wanted pursue a career in academia.
Lily: That’s so wholesome. What are you up to now?
Rachel: I am living my dream! Currently I’m in the UK pursuing my PhD in Film and Television at the University of Warwick. I honestly could not be happier.
Lily:That’s so wonderful to hear! How would you say film at Carleton helped you prepare for that?
Rachel: Carleton gave me the confidence that I could do my PhD. I found that researching and writing my thesis, along with working closely with my supervisor, gave me a taste of what writing a PhD dissertation would be like. Carleton was literally a training ground for what I’m doing now, and I am utilizing so many of the skills I learned at Carleton as I work on my PhD.
Lily: What would you tell someone who wants to go into Film Studies at Carleton but is unsure about it?
Rachel: It is worth it! Don’t get me wrong – it is hard. There were lots of late nights and early mornings during my degree. But I developed so much as a person, and as a scholar, because of it. I made lasting friendships, along with memories that still make me smile. The program is so rewarding, and I highly recommend it.
Lily: That’s exactly how I feel as well, Carleton Film Studies has been such a great experience! Is there anything else you’d like to say before we close off?
Rachel: Out of all the things I love about Carleton’s Film Studies program – and I could write an entire list! – is that they take a wide view on the discipline. It is not all ‘film’ in the classic sense, although film is a vital part of what is taught. I wrote my thesis on YouTube video diaries, a fellow student wrote a MRP (Major Research Paper) about memes, and another student wrote a thesis on deepfakes. Film Studies is so much more than movies – it is the pursuit of knowledge regarding how moving images are constructed and function in our daily lives. Film Studies at Carleton changed my life. Maybe it will change yours, too.