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Thank you, college, for a creative education

Black-and-white film photo by Michael Clubb— for a creative project in one of his classes.

I nearly cried when I opened Premiere Pro and didn’t see my video timeline.

The video was my capstone project for my final journalism class of my undergraduate career, and I only had a few edits to make based on my professor’s suggestions.

Except that the whole video was gone.

I spent several terrified minutes reading Adobe discussion boards until I tried something that magically brought my video back. I looked with gratitude at the video and audio clips, the transitions, the graphics— because if the video hadn’t reappeared, there was no way I could motivate myself, a week away from my graduation date, to do it all again.

I made the necessary edits, pressed command S to save 100 times, then exported the video. (Later that weekend, I wrote a story that complemented the video and laid out the entire project on my website.)

Then, looking back at suggestions from my classmates and professor from my creative nonfiction writing workshop class, I revised and finished writing my final essay for that class— an ekphrastic essay, inspired by another piece of art.

I wrote about a glass lamp made by Louis Comfort Tiffany of the Tiffany & Co. jewelry family, weaving together his glass art with his family history with my family history with my favorite lamp in my grandma’s living room.

The night before, I had finished the final project for my contemporary African American literature class. We had two options: Write a more traditional academic essay, or produce a creative project that relates to the topics we discussed and the books we read in class.

I chose the latter and patterned my project on Citizen by Claudia Rankine— a book-length lyric that combines text, art, photos and more. I spent hours that night importing and arranging elements in InDesign until I had a 22-page document that included my writing about my personal experiences, the books we read, American history and more, plus photos and art and even annotated syllabi from past literature classes.

Only one of my four classes had a final; the rest finished with these creative projects. I’ve taken my fair share of tests, but I have had so many opportunities to be creative and push my learning beyond answering questions on an exam.

I studied journalism, English, political science and creative writing— with the occasional history or writing and rhetoric class thrown in and, unfortunately, one science requirement. (Thankfully I took enough AP math in high school to never take a college math class.) These main areas of study varied widely but also overlapped in cool ways— like the time I wrote an essay about Nixon’s relationship with the press for my American presidency political science class.

Because I chose these areas— all of which I loved— I spent the last week of my undergraduate career not studying for tests but editing video in Premiere Pro, laying out a web page on SquareSpace, designing in InDesign, and writing.

I’m not great at any of these things—except writing, sometimes— but I am grateful that so much of my college career was spent creating. I’m thankful for the professors who thought beyond tests and academic essays when assessing our knowledge. I’m thankful for classes with workshop settings that allowed my classmates and I to praise and critique each other’s creative work.

I’m thankful that most of my time outside of the classroom was spent at the offices of the Kentucky Kernel and KRNL Lifestyle + Fashion, where I practiced my writing craft and learned what little I know about design and video and photography from the most talented coworkers and advisers. I’m thankful that I’m graduating college with stacks of print editions of the Kernel and beautiful magazines— KRNL, Year in Photos— that I helped create.

And now that all of my assignments are turned in and I’m a former editor at the Kernel and KRNL and the great big world is ahead of me, many things aren’t certain but this is: I want to keep creating.


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