American University and the School of Communication have been my home for twenty years. Now, you might be wondering: How is that possible? Well, I came to AU when I was two years old when my mom, Jane Hall, was hired as a professor in the School of Communication. I have vivid memories of going on nature walks around campus with my teachers at AU’s Child Development Center. I loved watching the college students as they ran to class or sat on the quad with friends.
Sixteen years later I would hear kids playing outside my Anderson Hall dorm every morning, on the same playground where I had played. In elementary school, I would sit on the floor of my mom’s office, drawing pictures, while she graded papers. And there was this bright green AU shirt I always wore. Not blue, not red, but bright green. I wore that shirt on my first trip to L.A. when I was 10, which was the same trip I decided I would be a filmmaker. I had always been surrounded by AU and dreamed of going here since middle school.
And so, when I started my first year at AU, I knew I’d fall right into place. But that wasn’t exactly the case. My first semester was incredibly lonely. I was too shy to ask people to hang out, and it seemed like everyone was having fun without me. The only time I didn’t feel so alone was during Visual Literacy class with Professor Llerena. I was immersed in film, photography, graphic design, and SOC from the first day of college. And I was surrounded by classmates who also had a love for communications. I joined Photo Collective, SOC Ambassadors, and Delta Kappa Alpha, the professional Cinematic Arts Fraternity. I became the photo and video chair for my sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, and I represented our school as the SOC Senator in Student Government. SOC became my home.
As I found my place at AU, I learned that so many people felt the same way I did first semester. I think social media plays a big role in this feeling of loneliness. I love Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat and their ability to connect people in a time when our world has become so expansive. But at the same time, social media can make us feel more isolated than ever before, and many people don’t know how to communicate how they’re feeling or how to get people to listen. It is extremely important that we, as communicators, use our skills to make people’s voices heard and teach the world that we are not so alone.
SOC is made up of driven students who want to share stories that matter, caring faculty and staff who are not only outstanding in their fields, but who encourage us to succeed, and courses that challenge our thinking and teach us to work collaboratively with our classmates and the community around us. Russell Williams brings industry professionals in to help us as we leap towards our next steps post grad. Sarah Menke-Fish guides us in finding organizations to partner with on short films. Rodger Streitmatter teaches us how to be well-rounded writers in every field of communications, and Margot Susca shows us how to think critically about media. SOC professors approach teaching in a way that is so thoughtful, holistic, and exciting, and I wish I could list them all.
From Dean’s Internships to study abroad to the many achievements our graduates have and will receive, we are proof that SOC has given us the tools we need. When I started working as the assistant editor at a film company last year, I was so pleased to learn that the editor, the producer, and the communications director had all graduated from the School of Communication. SOC provides us not only with the tools to communicate, but also with a wonderful network even after we leave AU.
One of greatest things that connects us in SOC is that we are all storytellers, and we all want to teach the world to be better. In a time when so much hate and ignorance can consume our everyday lives, knowing how to get our messages across, whether through film, journalism, public communications or communication studies, is vitally important. So congratulations to the Class of 2019 and thank you to the School of Communication. For as we become graduates of American University, we can proudly say, “We have stories to tell, and now, we know how to tell them.”
Born in China and raised in DC, Emily Eldridge Hall has always loved filmmaking and the arts. She has been the assistant editor at a film company for the past year and a half and is excited to start her career as a film editor in Los Angeles. She will be attending the L.A. Intensive program after commencement and in June, she will begin a Television Academy Foundation Internship in editing in entertainment programming at Fox 21 Television studios.