In the summer of 2023, Eniya Cropper (Studio Art, ’24), Ben Dickinson (Political Science, ’26), and Kasey Ripper (Communications and Digital Studies ’25) worked with Dr. J.D. Swerzenski (Assistant Professor of Communications and Digital Studies) on a project titled “Community-Based Documentary Series” as part of the UMW Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Summer Institute (AHSSSI). The aim of this project was to create student-produced documentary shorts featuring University of Mary Washington student and community engagement initiatives.
Students worked together on three topics: the UMW Paint Crew, the UMW Summer Science Institute (SSI), and the UMW-Bragg Hill Community Garden (also an AHSSSI project). Students used university equipment such as Canon SL3 DSLR Cameras, wireless lapel microphones, and learned to use video editing software. The projects were collaborative, with each student taking the lead in interviewing, sound recording, filming, and video editing duties at various points. Beyond these technical abilities, students developed critical communication skills. Students served as the lead for one of the feature videos, and assisted their fellow team members as crew members on the other two.
Eniya Cropper created a short documentary on the university’s paint crew, which she had served on herself in the summer of 2022. She filmed footage of 2023 paint crew students at work, interviewed them, and also interviewed UMW’s (in)famous Paint Crew supervisor Mr. Milton Kline, who attended her presentation of the documentary at the AHSSSI Symposium. Eniya commented about the skills and knowledge the gained:
During this program, I learned how to set up and edit multi-camera footage, conduct interviews, and plan and produce a mini-documentary. I’ll use what I learned from this program in my experimental documentary class and my internship this fall. I’ll likely use what I learned about multi-camera editing for any film project I do from now on.
Kasey Ripper’s work on the Bragg Hill Community Garden, which was the project for a group of sociology students in the AHSSSI program, was also transformational for her:
This program was very eye-opening for me, not only in the context of gaining more knowledge about video production, but also regarding my struggles with deciding on a future career path. Whenever I am asked what I want to do after college or with my degree, the art of deflection has always been my go-to. However, that has changed since my time in this program due to how much satisfaction and pleasure this type of work brings me. I am now actively searching for more opportunities to emulate the work I did over the summer, and I feel as though I may have finally found a field that I can realistically find a career in that I genuinely enjoy.
In the process she also learned a lot about gardening and composting too. “In fact, my experience with them led me to become involved with the Gardening Club at UMW!”
The docuseries can be found on The University of Mary Washington YouTube Channel, and linked here: