ES has a lot of intersection with cinema studies; I can use multimedia tools to tell stories to reflect the beauty and the conflict between humans and nature. – Reggie Huang ’19
Major: Environmental Policy
Minor: Cinema Studies
Environmental Humanities related Courses taken: Digital Maine Cluster (American Studies and Cinema Studies): Digital publishing and multimedia storytelling. English: Environmental Revolution. Environmental Studies: Ecological History.
What drew you to Environmental Humanities?
In my first year, the Center for the Arts and Humanities had the theme Human/Nature. My course on digital storytelling focused on that. We sort of explored this area before the (Environmental Humanities) Initiative got started. That is how I got into this. I found this opportunity to combine environmental studies and possibly digital storytelling in cinema studies, so I chose to do those two majors. I did two multimedia projects: one is the Human/Nature stories, and the other is the The Good Life, an oral history project.
I took the risk of taking a class I completely had no understanding of before, the Cinema Studies course and an American Studies course. I come from China, I’m an international student. I always had this passion of studying environmental studies. And back home, people mostly do science. Frankly speaking I can’t do chemistry which is why I chose the other path Colby offered, which is Environmental Policy. But the more I look into this path the more I realize that this topic, environmental studies has a lot of intersection with humanities subjects. I took a course, Ecological History, that completely changed my perception on our mentality toward the environment. And I realize more and more that environmental studies has a lot of intersection with literature, with history, and most of all with cinema studies, that I can use multimedia tools to tell stories to reflect the beauty or reflect the conflict between humans and nature and stuff like that.
So it started with this Human/Nature theme the Center offered during my first year, and by taking the cinema studies course, I started looking into this more, and I took the environmental studies course and I looked into it more. It was a gradual process that led me to this field.
Are you planning on pursuing this path further?
As I’m looking for jobs or grad school, I’m looking into an environmental journalism path or any journalism path where I can use this tool of digital storytelling as well as my background study on environmental studies to combine both and explore more stories and cover more current issues and events.
I work at the Colby Communications office, they do mostly marketing stuff, but this year I’m trying to work closely with Colby Magazine. They are doing the Colby Climate Project. I am hoping to contribute video to that project, with a more interview-style delivery. I am graduating after this semester and am pitching the idea, hoping to help full time next semester.
Right now I think what really interests me is to find stories, especially how people in their daily lives cope with a lot of environmental problems. We have different ones, we have climate change on the global scale but we also have local ones, like environmental health, justice and food. So, I think with this background with this tool that I studied, I can use this to uncover more stories and empower some of the local communities in whatever issue they are dealing with. This path set me on a bigger goal or course for my life.
You are also on the Student Advisory Board for the Center for the Arts and Humanities. How has that experience been for you?
Being a part of the Center has always been a great pleasure and important part of my Colby career. I actually joined the Center board before I even joined Colby. I saw an email call for applications for the Center Student Advisory Board. What drew me into this was their theme Human/ Nature. I said “Wow, that’s cool, I don’t know what that is, but I’m going to apply for it.” Now there is a rule that you can only apply after your first semester. My first semester getting to Colby was kind of difficult because I had to orient myself in the campus, and also learn about the Center. It took me a long time to get to know what the Center does, get to know what kind of activities or events we could propose, or my role in it. But the more I’ve been in it, the more I realized that we have a very strong student-faculty collaboration, especially with Kerill (O’Neill) and Megan (Fossa). They are super helpful. I actually got awarded one of the student research grants on my freshman winter break. I did a similar digital storytelling project. I took a train down to Florida and talked to people about why they took a train rather than flying.
When (2017 Mellon Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Humanities) Winona LaDuke came, she spoke at our environmental revolutions class. She was a very powerful speaker. I got the opportunity to interact with speakers and guests at dinner times and lecture times. As a student advisory board, we are not involved in the decision making process of what theme we will take, but we will help the theme in terms of getting students involved. We try to collaborate between different organizations or communities and guests to engage in the Center’s events. We also propose events under the theme. During the Revolution theme we invited a speaker and organized an event around a conversation between our speaker and the Oak Fellow about art and activism. The speaker we invited was a designer for the hijab, and the oak fellow that year was doing political cartoons as a way of activism. So it is great to have the ability to do that invite speakers to get them on campus. It’s really cool.
On this campus it is very interesting that there’s a hierarchy between different majors, and arts and humanities are probably not ranked the best or the highest. Sometimes we do feel isolated or marginalized, because a lot of people study government and economics and go into Wall Street and finance, but that’s not the pathway I want to go. It’s great to have this community at the Center that welcomes us and equips us with this ability and gives us opportunity to be in a leadership role, to lead events on our interests. Other than that, Kerill really encourages us to take intellectual risks. We might have second thoughts about whether this is going to work or not going to work, but he encourages us to do it. He points out examples and invites living examples to come in and talk to us so we actually realize something. For example the train project was one he encouraged me to do. And this past summer I went with Milton’s team to produce the Presence of the Past film. That was a big intellectual risk but we did it and we produced it. I made on a behind the scenes documentary on how they made this happen.
What about your future plans, are you planning on staying here or going back to China?
Yeah… That part I have to figure out. But I will see what my heart’s driving me to do, but I definitately want to be first of all in the city, but second of all where the story happens, so I plan to be doing a lot of traveling.