When I imagined what my college professors would be like, I pictured old, wrinkly men with long beards and suits. They spoke in British accents while repeatedly pushing their glasses up the bridges of their noses. They had an aura about them—a sophisticated, standoffish aura that said nothing more than ‘The Johns Hopkins University is quite the prestigious institution…’
The first class I ever attended at JHU was called ‘Introduction to the Study of Film I, from 1892-1941.’ I walked into the class, sat down by myself, and waited for the professor to arrive. After a few minutes, a student from the back of the room walked forward and introduced herself. Shoot, I thought. Is this how classes in college work? Am I going to have to introduce myself to the entire class? Right now? On the first day?
Soon after, the student plugged her computer into the projection system and opened a PowerPoint presentation. Did we have a project due today? I didn’t check the syllabus because I figured we wouldn’t have work on the first day of class! I looked around the room uncomfortably, trying to figure out if anyone else had forgotten as well.
The student opened the presentation to the first slide. It read, “Welcome to Introduction to the Study of Film I, from 1892-1941!”
“My name is Meredith Ward,” she continued. “I’m your professor!”
Wait a minute, I thought. This woman wasn’t an old man with a long beard and a suit. She was a (very) young-looking woman with straight reddish-brownish hair, bright pink lipstick, an adorable floral blouse, a high waisted skirt, chic patterned tights, and high heels. She definitely had an aura about her—it was most definitely not, however, a sophisticated, standoffish aura. She was warm, bubbly, and extremely passionate about film. I knew that Meredith was going to be my favorite professor during our second class period, when she went around the entire room of 30+ students and proved that she had learned all of our names.
Meredith Ward is a 30-year-old Hopkins alum (yesterday was her birthday)! She graduated in 2003 with a double major in Writing Seminars and Film and Media Studies, and then went on to Northwestern University for its graduate school program focusing on “cultural studies”—or how media interacts with things outside of itself. In addition to being a professor, she’s the faculty advisor of the Johns Hopkins Film Society where she has the opportunity to show students how to program a film series, budget a film series and film festival, “show caption” a screening, and how to—in a very hands-on way—project 35mm film print.
I didn’t take any film courses this fall (sophomore year), so after my first semester of freshman year was over, I was unsure if Meredith would ever be my teacher again. I expected to lose touch with her, and—as she had more classes of 30+ names to learn—I figured she’d forget me altogether. In the beginning of this year, however, I was walking by the library when I heard, “Hi, Lucie!”
Not only had Meredith remembered my name, but she remembered that, on the first day of my first class with her, when she asked us to tell her a little bit about ourselves, I had told her that I was interested in possibly pursuing film and media studies as a major or a minor. She asked how my classes were going and if I had made any decisions regarding the film and media program. When I told her I hadn’t yet, she strongly encouraged me to ask her any questions and to take another film course in the future.
While making my schedule for this spring, I noticed that there were five open seats in Meredith’s Film Theory course. I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take another class with her. Her teaching style is infused with a clear passion and love for film, and her desire to learn more about and delve into cinema’s mysteries and intricacies rubs off on all of her students. Meredith genuinely cares about each and every one of her students, and I feel so fortunate to be learning from the best of the best.
She says that her Film Theory course is unusual in that “it’s more focused on creating cinephiles than it is in simply in relaying the history of the body of film theory.”
And the rest is (film) history. Today, I’m a declared film and media studies minor, and I can safely say it’s all because of Meredith. She often talks about various advisors who have encouraged and mentored her throughout her journey, but what she may not know is how influential and inspirational she has been and will continue to be to others as they learn and grow. She’s my role model, my professor, but overall, my friend. Happy birthday, Meredith!