Teaching Philosophy

In today’s world of specialization, the value of a college education is often challenged. But in fact, that education has never been more important. To establish a serious encounter with the world of ideas, students must be grounded in the essentials of inquiry, analysis and independent critical thinking. Helping students achieve this grounding is one of the goals of the film program’s core curriculum, as it seeks to teach a set of critical and analytical tools for the study of film and audio-visual media.

I believe my own role within this curriculum is to help students learn how to see, feel, hear, and be more open to their surroundings, to enable them to find their own language and rely on their own creativity. That is why my teaching philosophy emphasizes dialogue, questioning, and active interchange between student and teacher in the classroom. That is how real learning and critical thinking takes place, both by teacher and student.   

Personal experience has convinced me that to learn how to make films/videos, one needs to view a lot of them and discuss them afterward.  Therefore, my film/video courses focus on four main areas:

  1. Screenings + discussion = To see
  2. Historical perspective = To know
  3. Critical perspective = To broaden
  4. Production = To make

I also believe it’s essential for a teacher to meet individual student needs by being flexible and creative. I acquired my MA in Cultural Anthropology from the Sorbonne and my PhD in Ethnographic/Documentary Film Studies with Jean Rouch in Paris, France, and had additional training at the French Cinematheque. As a foreigner studying in France, where I was the only American and one of the very few women in my doctoral program, I gained an intimate experience of being a minority. This experience and the fact that all of my interactions were with people from different countries (France, South Africa, India, North Africa, Venezuela, Equator, Argentina, and Australia) enabled me to connect easily with people from different racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. Having taught at state and private colleges, community colleges, and digital centers (which are a part of larger universities), I have adapted a variety of teaching strategies to accommodate the most diverse student populations, as well as the facilities, technology, and specific goals of the department.

My research interests are interdisciplinary in nature and center on how new technologies and culture intersect with questions of identity, gender, and migration.  I am concerned with the way identity is being negotiated across cultural and political boundaries and am in pre-production on a video documentary entitled, “Dwelling in Displacement,” exploring cross-cultural representation and transnational identity.  

But my greatest satisfaction as a teacher comes not only from helping students learn the skills they need, but also from inspiring them to share my own passion and enthusiasm. The true reward is in knowing that I have been a catalyst in helping them achieve self-discovery.  T.S. Eliot said it best:

     “We shall not cease from exploration
     And the end of all our exploring
     Will be to arrive where we started
     And to know the place for the first time.”

About Wendy Smith

Wendy SmithAfter completing my MA in Television/Film/Radio at the the Newhouse School of Public Communications (Syracuse University), I went to France to feed my passion for filmmaking at the Cinematheque Francaise, and became an expert at super-8 – 16mm film techniques.

While in France, I finished my Ph.D. film and dissertation at the University of Paris X, France, where I studied ethnographic film with Mr. Jean Rouch. My 400-page thesis is filed at the Bibliotheque Nationale and my film, “Perry in his Garden”, is co-distributed by the CNRS in Paris.

Back in the United States, I taught video production as well as film production at various New York State universities.

In addition, I made several films and videos. My documentary work became more experimental, incorporating digital processing and computer graphics with video. As a result, I won awards at several national and international festivals.

I continue to teach both film and digital production, work on my projects, and freelance as an video editor and writer/producer.

Read about my Teaching Philosophy.

I also practice and teach the Chinese healing art, Qigong, and have produced a new instructional DVD.

Currently, I am producing an experimental documentary on the way identity is negotiated across cultural and political boundaries. This piece, “Dwelling in Displacement”, will be Part III of my trilogy on memory, identity, and home.

Read my Artist’s Statement.

Download PDF resume.


As an in demand teacher for documentary and video seminars, my strengths come from my extensive knowledge of film genres, in particular documentary and experimental film, and film/television history, so that I can pull up references with ease to assist students make better films and have better understanding of the issues and techniques I am teaching.

One of my strengths as a teacher is that I am flexible and have many cross-disciplinary skills, which enable me to address wide audiences. My first-hand working knowledge of all phases of film/video production helps me identify with student problems and concerns.

The combination of my European and American experience in the field, gives me a unique perspective on critical, historical, and technical production. A great deal of my satisfaction in this job is helping students learn irrespective of their background or age.

In addition, I have taught a variety of stress management, relaxation techniques, Tai Chi, and QiGong seminars and presentations, with a unique blend of different approaches, specializing in teaching people from 8 to 93 years old.