RTF Pre-Grad Intern Michelle Mejia
My name is Michelle Mejia and I am a third year Radio-TV-Film student doing a concentration in Latino Media Studies. I have to admit I had no clue what to expect when I jumped on the offer to be part of this program. Fall semester I was enrolled in a class where we analyzed the digital divide in Austin, Texas. This really opened my eyes to the inequalities and lack of resources that certain people face in this city. We learned about the historical segregation that once existed in this city and how its aftershocks are still felt today through lack of technological accessibility. One of the requirements for the course was to interview our own family and then interview a 3 generational family from Austin and their use of technology and how it has changed through the years. I was fortunate to find a family that I thought very interesting and questioned myself as to what would happen to these interviews once the term ended. Some database seemed to be the answer. I think the decision I made was directly related to the idea of what happens to some of the work we do in our classes in the end. I wanted to find out.
This offer came about and it was directly related with the interviews that we conducted. Professor Straubhaar presented the program invitation to the class, and our mentors would be Laura Dixon and Dean Graber. They brought this notion of grad students are humans too to the table. I appreciated their advice and guidance. They were quite the pair, and I must say they were pretty awesome. Our IE group consisted of about 5 students including myself who enrolled in this class. We met once a week, first to discuss our plans and then to develop them as individual tasks. We started by learning how to code these interviews through the database. We corrected the transcriptions and I must admit that I realized what a sloppy job I had done transcribing the interview I conducted. As we read through these interviews I realized that we all have different speaking patterns and ways of interviewing and asking questions. We came across the person who answered in one-liners because their interviewers asked them yes or no questions. I came across that person who side tracked as much as they could on their own behalf. I was overly critical when it came to mine and I was that person that asked only about certain things, because they felt the most interesting to me. I know this might not make sense to anyone reading. This is what I learned on the surface but when it came to the actual substance of the interviews I think it got deep. People let us into their lives for a brief moment and the retelling of these events took us to their living rooms, their televisions sets, radio transmitters, and even their familial past.
I appreciated the tasks we had to conduct for the IE part of the grade. I interviewed two of my current instructors and was pleasantly surprised with what I learned from their living experiences. Coming into this program I must admit I felt alone to a certain degree with this idea of grad school. My parents only got so far and no one in my family has pursued education post undergrad. Plus, I don't hear or read about people like me in these roles. I am a first generation Chicana student at this institution of higher ed. I know I am not alone here but sometimes it sure does feel like I am. I am pursing a career in a field where men have historically dominated the field and women are every once in a while given the chair to edit. When this intersects with where I come from, this place where I was taught to be humble, respectful, and quiet, it sometimes doesn't work out so well. Some of these people are fierce and it scares the living hell out of me. When I talked to my instructors I realized, that we had much more in common than I ever thought. We were all first generation college students and we faced some of the same insecurities. This might sound a bit unprofessional on my part but these weren't actually interviews, they were more of the side of conversations with real people. After each interview I felt like I got to know somebody on a completely different level and vice versa. It's almost like I had a free pass to ask about anything in their academic career and life. I didn't abuse the power IE granted over these assignments.
My main assignment for the two-hour course I enrolled in was making a connection between my Professor and my friend Hortensia Palomares, who let me interview her for his class. This basically represents a connection between this institution and the Austin community, more specifically the east Austin community. This is where she grew up and lives to this present day. She has seen the drastic changes that have occurred through the decades. She is currently a grad coordinator in the education school and was an active student when she attended UT. I met her through MEChA, which is an organization than I am a member of. She approached us last semester to help her out for an event she conducts in the East Austin community that commemorates familial legacies. The program goes by the name of Our Neighborhood Reunion. It was started by a woman years ago that passed on the job to Hortensia, so every year she finds a family that will be recognized that once lived or lives in east Austin, and tells their story. She conducts oral history interviews for their archives and for little pamphlets that are passed out to those that attend the day of the event. When I told professor Straubhaar about what she was doing he was really interested to form this connection. Hortensia has been part of this community and I think they can both benefit from each other's work. It was hard trying to get them to meet, I am not sure if it has happened yet, but I do know that they are arranging a meeting soon. It was hard for me to get a hold of her because she is rather busy but I think this meeting is on the verge of occurring. I think that Hortensia will bring a very important and organic perspective the work that they do.
Both Laura and Dean were very supportive with choices we made and with questions we asked. Laura helped me through the process of applying for scholarships for a study abroad program I will be attending this summer. I learned how to prepare a resume and feel a little more confident about myself. So overall the experience was a pleasant one.
At the general meeting where Grad mentors were invited I lingered afterwards to talk to one of the mentors that spoke very wisely. I came to only find out that she was from my hometown and taught at my high school. Prior to this encounter I felt a little unconfident about my success at UT and the potential I have when it comes to getting into grad school. I wasn't prepared for this university and at times I still think what makes me prepared for grad school? I mean I have yet to acquire the lingo that is heard around here and no I don't want to mold myself into a white male. Is that such a bad thing to say? I mean the number of minorities pursing graduate degrees is increasing but it's still a dominated space. How can I contest this space and become an active participant without forgetting where I come from? What role do race, class, and gender play on the number of those who seek higher education? I am not isolating any of these factors because we intersect with people at random points and I think that is one thing that this program has brought to my attention. My TA told me "don't say you can't do it, because theirs going to be others who think that way, you can't let it be yourself, let others do the job." Then I started talking to people and it just seemed like it was a possibility. I have no clue what I want to do, but I think that's okay.