Moving Image Studies

School of Film, Media, and Theatre – College of the Arts – Georgia State University

Q&A with Drew Ayers (Ph.D., Moving Image Studies)

AyersD_08aDrew is currently working as an assistant professor of film at Eastern Washington University.

How do you think your major prepared you for the job you have now?

Eastern Washington is primarily a teaching university, so all of the teaching opportunities that the PhD program at Georgia State offered have prepared me well. GSU didn’t simply prepare me for teaching, however. The emphasis on professional development—conference presentations, publishing, networking, and job market advice—provided me with a very well rounded foundation. The academic job market is very tough for everyone right now, and GSU equipped me to fit in with many different kinds of universities and colleges, both teaching- and research-oriented.

What did you like about the program?

The dual focus on teaching and research is something unique to Georgia State. Many of my friends at other institutions didn’t have the opportunity to teach and design their own classes, and this experience was invaluable on the job market. Academics on the job market simply can’t confine themselves to one type of college or university. R1 institutions, regional comprehensive institutions, liberal arts colleges, community colleges: newly minted PhDs must consider them all. In fact, before securing my current job at EWU, I worked at each type of institution, and I felt equipped to succeed at every one. GSU also provided fantastic opportunities for research and professionalization. The weekly proseminar was a great resource, and I also had the opportunity to be instrumental in the planning of the Rendering the Visible conference. This conference drew scholars from all over the world, and it taught me many valuable lessons about planning, service, and networking.

Can you think of any special accomplishments you’ve achieved after college that you might not have been able to do without your college experiences?

Since my career path kept me in academia, my experience at Georgia State has been vital in securing a tenure-track job, preparing me to be a teaching, and equipping me to be an active member of the academic research community.

Was there a professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you or helped you when you were here at Georgia State?

It would be unfair to single out one particular faculty member. As every academic knows, scholarship is a group effort. I will say, though, that without my student cohort—Steven Pustay, Kristopher Cannon, and Karen Petruska—I would never have completed my PhD. The faculty members at GSU where phenomenal, and they’ve directly helped me secure a job, become a better scholar, and become a better person. Of course, I have a special relationship with my mentor, Alessandra Raengo, but everyone in the department is special to me. Angelo Restivo helped me get into my first conference, Alisa Perren (who is now at UT-Austin) helped me get my first post-PhD job. Jennifer Barker has written numerous recommendation letters for me (and introduced me to phenomenology, a topic central to my work), and Ted Friedman helped shape my dissertation. The faculty at GSU are dedicated not only to professionalization but also to molding the type of person who can make a valuable addition to the community. The personal is just as important as the professional.

Do you still keep in contact with any of your classmates or professors?

Yes, just about all of them. Social media certainly makes things easier, but conferences are also like mini-reunions.

Do you have any advice for current or incoming students?

Be flexible with your thinking and open to new ideas. Get to know your professors and try to take a class with every single one, even if their research interests differ from your own. Moving Image Studies is a very broad field, so you can only benefit from learning as much as you can about the diverse perspectives the faculty bring to the area. Also take time to care for yourself. Engage in hobbies, go to a movie, grab drinks with your cohort. It’s easy to get sucked into the chaos of academia, but remember that there’s much more to life than the daily grind. Sometimes, that paper or reading can wait until the next day.

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