During my time at Oberlin, I became close to a couple of different professors that went beyond just a student/teacher relationship. My professors were my mentors, something of a bridge between professor and parent, but they also became my friends. I found myself excited to see them in class and I looked forward to their office hours because I knew I would always leave with a smile. While there were many professors with whom I feel I still have a strong connection, I want to highlight two of them.
Ann Sherif, East Asian Studies
One piece of advice I give new Obies is to wait at least a year before officially declaring a major (even if you know what it will be) because that’s also when you pick your advisor. I emphasize this because of my relationship with Professor Sherif, or Sherif Sensei. When I came to Oberlin, I knew I wanted to major in East Asian Studies (EAS) but it wasn’t until my second class with Sherif Sensei that I knew I had found my perfect advisor. She was the first EAS professor I felt a complete connection with. We were both from Oklahoma (something she realized upon seeing my Okie Grown computer sticker) and we shared a love of Japanese art and film. I knew that she understood why it was so important for me to study Japanese but she also knew what I struggled with personally and linguistically. This understanding became incredibly important when I decided to stop taking Japanese (and, consequently, drop the EAS major) my senior year. I knew I had my parents’ support, but I didn’t want to let down Sherif Sensei. To my relief, she was more than supportive. She could see how sad it was for me, but she also knew that filmmaking was my priority. After changing my major to a minor, I continued to take EAS classes and now whenever I see her she tells me that she still claims me as an unofficial EAS major.
Rian Brown-Orso, Cinema Studies
It will come as no surprise to anyone that I feel close to many of the professors in the Cinema Studies department, but none more so than Rian Brown-Orso. I actually met Rian when I was in high school when I sat in on one of her introductory film production classes – the exact class that I took with her when I came to Oberlin. I learned so much from Rian and she pushed me to explore areas of film that I have never considered. Most significantly, Rian taught me not to limit myself. I have loved animation all my life but never believed that I could do it because I can’t draw. Rian was the first person who told me that animation is so much more than drawing. She gave me so much support that I ended up making three animated short films at Oberlin, even entering one in multiple festivals. Since graduating, I have stayed in touch with Rian, even doing some commissioned work for one of her documentaries.
When I graduated from Oberlin, I knew that one of the things I would miss the most would be my professors. But more than anything, I knew that those relationships wouldn’t end. I knew that we would stay in touch and that I would always have their support. And even though it has been two years since I sat in their classrooms, I have continued to learn from so many of my professors and I look forward to seeing them again when I return to Oberlin.
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