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UAlbany Unveils Documentary Studies Program
Peabody-Award winning filmmaker Judith Helfand helps UAlbany launch program with lecture and film screening

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 13, 2007) -- The University at Albany has launched its new interdisciplinary, undergraduate program in documentary studies, designed to provide a solid grounding in both the theoretical research and hands-on aspects of documentary film, writing or broadcast media while also preparing students for careers in this profession. The program's unveiling was highlighted by an inaugural lecture and film screening by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand.

The lecture, "Serious Fun: -- Using Comedy, Irony and the Bittersweet Sides of Life, Death, the Threat of Human Extinction, Chemical Exposure, Denial, Scientific Uncertainty and a Seemingly Never Ending Supply of Cynicism to Make Documentaries Very Useful and Sometimes Very Funny: A 'How To' Guide," was held at 7 p.m. March 13 in the Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center. Helfand showed and discussed excerpts of her work, including Everything's Cool, which tackles the issue of global warming in her signature comedic, entertaining style.

Helfand also led a half-day workshop in documentary filmmaking in the Standish Room of the Science Library.

"We are excited to launch the new Documentary Studies Program, which underscores our commitment to offering innovative curriculum and strengthening our students' undergraduate experience," said Provost and Officer in Charge Susan Herbst.
The program will help students meet anticipated challenges of working in multiple arenas, including academe, public radio and television, government, private enterprise and media. It combines a solid foundation in the academic and theoretical literature of documentary work with intensive local national and global research and fieldwork. Students will work on radio productions, films, photographic exhibits, Web sites, and narrative research and writing projects, as well as explore major and minor issues in history, art, music, science, environmental studies, technology, media, politics, foreign policy and health.

"The creation of an interdisciplinary major in documentary studies was identified as one of the curricular goals in the area of "communication arts" set out in the strategic plan of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2003," said Dean Joan Wick-Pelletier. "I am very pleased to see the program up and running."

Students are expected to concentrate in at least two specific areas, including film, radio, photography or writing, which allows students to combine studying documentary studies with a traditional major in the sciences, social sciences or humanities.

"I'm proud to lead a new program devoted to documenting the rich diversity of the human and natural world. The program taps the strengths of five University at Albany departments to offer our students exciting opportunities using traditional and new technologies," said program director Gerald Zahavi, professor of History. "The program will build strong bridges between teachers and students, between disciplines, and between the university and the local and global community in which it resides."

The College of Arts & Sciences is the largest academic unit at the University. It provides the general education foundation of the undergraduate curriculum and is the intellectual base for study in a wide variety of disciplines at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The College's programs promote critical thinking and reasoning, aesthetic sensibility, and intellectual development, while providing career preparation to help students meet the challenges of the future and achieve their goals.

The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in nine schools and colleges, and an honors college. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit theUniversity at Albany. Visit UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts.

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