Alumni Spotlight: Michael Lachney (MCS '12)

On Choosing to Study Media and Cinema Studies at DePaul

I chose to study in the College of Communication's Media and Cinema Studies (MCS) graduate program, because I wanted to move from the grinding lens of industry media production to an open space of critique and analysis. But really it was the fact that the professors were open to my interests (media literacy and documentary studies at the time) and that I would have access to both the tools of media production (coming from a film and video background made this very important to me) and the conceptual tool for media analysis and critique.

On the Most Enjoyable Aspects of the MCS Program

As someone who was planning to move into a Ph.D. program in media and film studies, I felt like I was learning the most cutting-edge concepts and theories taking place in the field. From a course of fan studies, an amazing emerging area of study, to courses on media literacy, I was learning the lay of the land and also how to develop original ideas, some of which have been published.

The program has supportive and area-leading faculty, and it is intellectually rigorous with cutting-edge classes that have a focus on social interest of larger culture. You can be as social as you want it to be. It was not hard to "hang-out" with other students in the program and professors outside of the classroom.

On Inspirational Professors in the Program

The professors are really supportive.Kelly Kessler, Luisela Alveray, Paul Booth, and Michael DeAngelis are all on the top of their game, real leaders in their respected areas of interest. They gave me the support I needed to be successful. So, you are learning the latest material from leaders in the field!

Documentary Studies with Luisela taught me how to connect the symbolic with material and ethical realms of documentary film. I was challenged politically to think about critical intervention and the implications for filmmakers, the camera apparatus, and sound equipment in those interventions.

Media Literacy with Kelly was outstanding. I felt like we developed a rich classroom environment that fostered both creativity and critical engagement with emerging debates in the fields that surround media and education. I was working in a middle school at the time, teaching a new media literacy curriculum. I could have not asked for a better class, I was teaching what I was learning and Kelly encouraged me to bring my experiences back into our classroom. I really grew out of this exchange.

Fan and Active Audience Studies with Paul helped me ground my work within community settings. This course enabled our class to go out into the digital and non-digital world to interact with communities who really took what we study everyday to be important socially and emotionally. I learned how to balance my work as a media critic with the skills to respect those people/research participants who consider themselves fans.

On MCS's Ph.D. Prep Coursework

Through conferences and class presentations, I learned to speak in front of very smart people — many who are experts — without being too intimidated. I was so bad at public speaking until going through the MCS program, I mean I know it is something you can learn many places. But I remember Paul sitting down with me and laying it out, like "don't worry so much, people are going to listen to you while you are up there so own it." Public speaking is a must in my program now, and has helped me gain support for projects and teaching assignments during my Ph.D.

I always wanted to get a Ph.D., but when I started I was very much focused on action, getting into the schools as fast as I could and teaching media literacy. While this is my main focus still, I learned how critical theory and humanities research can help me accomplish these goals, which I viewed in terms of social justice. I guess I changed in that I now work really hard not just to implement media literacy education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education classrooms, but have to study and reflect on my own positions and the positions of my students in relationship to the media that we critique and produce.

On Learning to Be a Better Communicator

I improved my writing skill tremendously. All the professors really provided well-balanced critique of my writing and conceptual thinking. I am often complimented on my writing skills in my Ph.D. program, I know this is due to the support that the MCS faculty provided.

Advice for Students Considering Studying Media and Cinema Studies with DePaul

The MCS program in the College of Communication provides rich opportunities to study film and media at intersections of cultural studies, production, and social interest. Plus, the faculty and staff are just all around good people.

What Makes Chicago a Special City to You?

The lake shore - I love Lake Michigan.

Organizations like Beyond Media Education, the Chicago Freedom School, the American Friends Service Committee, and Digital Youth Network are out in the world helping people better their communities. Jump in, make a difference.

Finally, diverse neighborhoods, explore it up. From Bridgeport to Uptown to Humboldt Park to Rogers Park, I love them all.