Fulbright Scholar (Again!)

Jennifer Gauthier journeys to Canada to conduct First Nations film research

Jennifer GauthierJennifer Gauthier can trace her love of film back to her junior year in high school when she saw Breaker Morant, an Australian film about the Boer War. The movie was not exactly the stuff dreams were made of, but for Gauthier, it was the start of a lifetime fascination.

“It wasn’t the topic that got my attention,” the Randolph communication studies professor said. “It was the cinematography, the power of film to move people and to send messages, that really caught my interest.”

That interest eventually developed into a passion that has now been recognized twice by the competitive Fulbright Scholar Program, an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Gauthier received her second Fulbright grant in 2011 and spent the fall at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. While there, she served as the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in North American Society and Culture and conducted research examining films made by and about the First Nations people of Canada through Canada’s National Film Board.

Gauthier grew up about 50 miles from the Canadian border and received her undergraduate degree from Vassar College. She developed an interest in Canadian popular culture during graduate school at George Mason University.

Her first Fulbright grant 10 years ago allowed her to spend time in Ottawa, Canada, working on her dissertation on Canadian film policy. “Most people think of Canada as just like the United States,” she said. “What I realized then was that you have to embed yourself into the culture to realize the differences that aren’t evident on the surface.”

The 2011 Fulbright allowed Gauthier to spend a semester researching documentaries produced by the National Film Board about the indigenous people of Canada. She spent hours each day viewing films and comparing the ones made by natives and non-natives. “I’m interested to see how the films made by white people telling the stories of native people compare to the stories told by the native people themselves,” she said.

In addition to her research at the National Film Board in Canada, Gauthier spent time meeting with film makers and others related to the film industry.

“It has made me look at my object of study in a different way,” Gauthier said. “I now have different perspectives on the government’s role in the film industry.”

She plans to share her experiences in the classroom at Randolph. “I missed my students,” Gauthier said. “But when you are teaching full time and doing committee work, your brain is split in all of these different places. This gave me the chance to immerse myself in my own passions. It was exciting and rejuvenating, and I know I will bring things I’ve learned back to my classroom.”