When I met Dusty and Taylor, I wouldn’t have guessed about the particular gifts that they would add to my life. I met each of them early in their college careers at Malone University. Like many of the students that I worked with, Dusty and Taylor both told me that they were “into” film, but similarity was only the tip of the iceberg for these two young people.
When I developed the film program at Malone University, I created a process that maximized flexibility and invested in uniqueness. During their time at Malone, each of these students discovered more about the unique thing that they brought to the process, but for both of them that was a journey that was only beginning.
Taylor won the “Best Film” award at our annual student film festival one year, but in some ways I’m just as proud of the fact that she took a risk as she wrote her honors thesis — choosing to write a feature script that focused on the (unheralded) Beattle, George Harrison. During this process she wrestled with all kinds of expectations: the Beatles mythology, music biopic structures, historical films, and the lack of an “official” storyline about George and his contribution to the Beatles.
As a student, Dusty dove into his understanding of classic film, going beyond class assignments to understand the great films and the great filmmakers. The films he made for the annual film fest were replete with homages to these films. His strongest piece in college was a documentary that he made about a longstanding dorm tradition, and in some ways I think that this project led to a much larger documentary project that he took up in his first years after college.
My role in the matriculation of Dusty and Taylor was wide and varied. I worked as a teacher, an advisor, a critic, a producer, a film critic and a champion. My role as a professor needs to be flexible and varied enough to give the support, information and direction needed that allows the young adult student to forge a path that is uniquely their own.
I’m glad that Dusty and Taylor are nothing alike. It was a gift to our program to have them simultaneously in our midst. And it is a gift to the world that they are both committed enough to their own unique visions of the world that they will make the contributions that only they can make.
A teaching philosophy for adult learners needs to focus on the possibility of unique outcomes.