New minor program connects college to other Lehigh Valley schools: Documentary storymaking to begin in the fall


By Jane Collins ’18

Documentary storymaking, a new minor three years in the making, will soon be offered to students at Lafayette, Muhlenberg College, and Lehigh University through the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC).

The LVAIC is a consortium of colleges in the Lehigh Valley that “allows current [Lafayette] students to cross register for courses at participating institutions,” according to the description on the Lafayette website.

Going through the LVAIC allows for students to benefit from more resources, Film and Media Studies (FAMS) Chair Professor Andrew Smith wrote in an email. The schools will be sharing campuses, transportation, and even faculty.

There are 10 faculty members in this collaboration, Smith wrote. Each class is expected to be made up of a third Lafayette students, a third Lehigh students and a third Moravian students.

The benefit to this, Smith wrote, is that the college is “expanding and deepening our learning community.”

The new interschool minor is in keeping with the tradition of documentary filmmaking, Film and Media Studies Professor Nandini Sikand said.

“Documentary filmmaking is about building a community,” Sikand said. “It’s about getting our students to step outside their comfort zone, to take risks, engage with people they might not normally engage with.”

“We really want our students to work with the community in the Lehigh Valley,” she added. “It makes us think about issues with representation and the politics of location.”

Introduction to Documentary Storytelling, which Lafayette will host in the fall, is going to be the introductory course for the new minor. Each school will host the course on a rotation beginning next semester.

According to the official course description, Intro to Documentary Storytelling “merges the critical study of documentary media with the hands-on construction of documentary stories waiting to be found in local communities.”

The course had a 24 student cap and each school was given eight spots in the class, Smith wrote in an email. Muhlenberg and Lafayette have not only filled their quotas but also have students on the waitlist. Lehigh is still in the process of registering students, according to Smith.

“We expect a full class,” Smith wrote.

Although it will be easier for rising sophomores to complete the minor, Smith wrote that rising juniors would be able to complete the minor in four semesters. According to Sikand, the minor can also be for students of any major.

“It speaks to people of all different majors. It’s about who is being represented and how,” she said. “I think that’s something that, regardless of your major, [you] can really benefit from.”

There are already some ongoing collaborations between Lafayette and other LVAIC schools. Students from Lafayette, Lehigh and Moravian College have the opportunity to take Italian courses at DeSales University. Lehigh offers the Military Science and Leadership program to all students at LVAIC schools.

In the past, transportation has not been provided for students participating in LVAIC courses, said President Alison Byerly. But transportation is a possibility for next year, Smith wrote. Details of transport are still being worked out, but it will likely be a van, he added.