The Scripps Experience: The Intercollegiate Media Studies Major

Photo by Trey Ratcliff

This may come as a surprise to students interested in working in entertainment: You do not have to graduate from film school in order to pursue a career in the movie and television industry. Just ask the Scripps alumnae who are showing their work at major film festivals or producing award-winning television shows—alumnae like Maril Davis ’74, executive producer for the Starz television series Outlander, recently nominated for several Golden Globes. She credits her time at Scripps as instrumental to her professional success, commenting, “I think a well-rounded, liberal arts education is a good preparation for any career.”

Scripps students who are interested in film and television often opt for a degree in intercollegiate media studies (IMS)—”intercollegiate,” because the department is shared by all five of The Claremont Colleges. The benefits of the consortium system are what drew Izzy Steiger ’18 to the program.

“Every college has a slightly different approach to film and media, so I’ve had access to a broad scope of philosophies, classes, and resources,” she says.

The IMS program is interdisciplinary, which differentiates it from similar majors at other institutions. Students who choose to focus on developing technical production skills may still take a class or two in art history, sociology, computer science, anthropology, music, or literature. And the IMS department takes an unconventional approach to production; rather than focus on traditional or commercial media, it steers students toward “independent narrative forms, documentary, video and digital art, and community-based and activist media.”

Professor T. Kim-Trang Tran, a Scripps faculty member who is part of the IMS department, sees this approach as a strength, observing, “IMS does independent media well, getting students involved in a variety of production practices in documentary, experimental film and video, animation, fine arts, interactive media, community engagement, and innovative hybrids of these.”

Tran also points out that, while IMS majors are trained in media production and produce their own independent work, they also spend time becoming acquainted with and understanding media history and theory.

“We have a unique gathering of artists and theorists who seek to innovate and help students develop their own ideas,” says Tran. “This honing of students’ abilities to creatively and critically solve problems is what distinguishes Scripps from other institutions. As our students enter media fields, this preparation benefits them as independent media makers and thinkers and even as they work on the ideas of others.”

In addition to offering an IMS major, Scripps’ location in Southern California—and its network of connected alumnae—give students interested in pursuing careers in media an advantage over their peers at other colleges and universities. As Tran explains, “Our media studies students benefit from the proximity of Los Angeles as a global media capital. They also have the support of the Claremont in Entertainment and Media (CEM) group, a Claremont colleges’ organization that facilitates connection, networking, and collaboration among alumni in the entertainment industry. Scripps students may request to join their Facebook page to seek out career advice as well as job and networking opportunities.”

Allie Hsu ’11, a dual major in media studies and Asian studies, recently finished graduate school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in Singapore. Hsu believes that studying film at a liberal arts women’s college gave her the confidence to pursue work in a still male-dominated field.

“I know that my voice and visions will be heard at some point if I just keep on practicing my craft. That’s what the Scripps community has taught me,” says Hsu.

“If you suddenly stop, nobody will be able to see what you’re capable of doing or making. Both worlds—Scripps and the film industry—have made me fearless, emotionally and practically. I’ve learned how to stand up to others, and I’m able to lead people in a way that I know best.”

Hsu has worked on several short films, music videos, and commercials in the roles of producer, director, and writer. During her time in graduate school, she produced the short film SOPHIE, which follows the story of a young girl who is abandoned by her mother and forced to connect with her grandmother. SOPHIE has been shown at the Austin Film Festival, Foyle Film Festival (in Northern Ireland), Bahamas International Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and New York University’s Fusion Film Festival.

While the IMS program is one pathway to success in the entertainment industry, it is the students who are the real stars. The creative talent of her peers awes Izzy Steiger ’18.

“Media studies students make amazing art in and out of the classroom. I’ve gotten the chance to help out on their film sets, screen my work beside theirs in campus film festivals, help craft some truly weird and wonderful screenplays, and work at Pomona’s student-run production center. I’ve learned a lot from my professors, but some of my greatest teachers at the 5Cs have been my peers.”

For more about the intercollegiate media studies program, click here.