Freshman Seminars Part 2: Race and Ethnicity in American Television

You may have heard horror stories about first year schedules packed with large, impersonal lecture classes, but some of my best academic experiences occurred during my freshman year. WashU has some amazing first-year seminars, classes about very specific subjects that are kept really small and open only to freshman. When I was a freshman I took two of these classes (one each semester) and now I am writing about them in a two part series!

Spring: Race and Ethnicity in American Television

At the beginning of the second semester of my freshman year, I was confident that I knew my way around campus. However, I was thwarted on the first day of Race and Ethnicity in American Television. The class was on the fourth floor of Seigle, a building I had spent plenty of time in. With 10 minutes to spare, I yanked the notoriously heavy doors open and headed up the central staircase. But when I reached the top of the steps, I was on the third floor. The fourth floor seemingly did not exist. I frantically rushed around the building, and finally found an elevator that led to the hidden fourth floor in the ceiling, the home of our Film and Media Studies department.  I was very stressed about being late to class, but our professor was very understanding because all of the other students had the same issue.

Despite some stress on the first day, this class ended up being my favorite in my entire time at WashU. Our professor was the coolest woman ever; she literally had a Ph.D. in sitcoms. We had screenings every Tuesday night from 7 to 10 where we got together and watched television as homework. There were only 9 total students in the class, so I had the chance to get to know everyone really well. We celebrated our final screening by getting dinner together at Ibby’s and bringing dessert for our professor.

Throughout the semester, we explored race theory and American history through the lens of pop culture.  In high school, I never imagined learning about academic subjects through something that I loved so much. The best part of the class was the final project. We were tasked with pitching a television show that applied some of the topics we learned in class. I decided to create a sitcom about my own mixed race family. It was really fun to reimagine my family life on these terms, and ultimately my love for this course and this project inspired me to declare a Film and Media Studies minor.


For more info about first-year seminars, check out part one about my experiences in Detective Fiction from Poe to Doyle!