By Kathryn Shenk
Elm Staff Writer
Although Dr. Alicia Kozma has always enjoyed movies, a future in media studies was not her first plan.
She entered college as an anthropology major, intending to pursue a career in archaeology.
“I wanted to be an archaeologist because I wanted to be Indiana Jones,” she said.
Disinterested by her first anthropology class, she decided to enroll in an introduction to film course “just for fun.” She was quickly intrigued by the subject and went on to receive an advanced degree in American Studies and Film from the City University of New York, where she also discovered a love for teaching.
Now, Dr. Kozma joins Washington College faculty as assistant professor of the emerging Communication and Media Studies Department. She is a native of Queens, N.Y., and attended the University of Vermont for an undergraduate degree in film.
During this time, Dr. Kozma noticed a troubling trend in her film studies classes: nearly every producer, screenwriter, and director she was learning about was male.
“It was a total drag,” she said. “I wanted to see someone like myself portrayed in the films I was watching.”
Undeterred by the lack of female representation in both films and movie staff, Dr. Kozma turned her natural curiosity about film into focused research. She discovered that the accomplishments of female directors often go unrecognized because they are not recorded or preserved by archives.
Such is the case with Stephanie Rothman, the topic of Dr. Kozma’s thesis for her doctorate in communications and media studies. In her research, Dr. Kozma uncovered little information about Rothman’s career — and what she did find was often inaccurate.
One of her ongoing missions is to challenge the way society perceives archives. Instead of relying solely on institutions to record and document the entirety of history, she said that individuals could create personal archives through a process called self-curation. According to Dr. Kozma, this will hopefully encourage the documentation of material — like Rothman’s seven award-winning films — that is deemed unimportant by society at the time.
Dr. Kozma said that part of correcting the inaccuracies regarding women’s achievements means tackling the larger issues of gender and identity representation in Hollywood. Although media outlets like the New York Times have shed light on the topic, many Hollywood women are still afraid to confront an establishment that wields such incredible influence.
The portrayal of women and other cultural minorities in movies directly relates to stereotypes that pervade the media, she said.
“If we want to see multiplicity on screen, we have to see it in the workforce,” Dr. Kozma said. “If you want more films like ‘Wonder Woman,’ you need more directors like Patty Jenkins.”
Dr. Kozma hopes to bring her passion for teaching and research to the students here at WC. Reflecting on her past position at the University of Illinois, where classes totaled nearly 500 students, Dr. Kozma is looking forward to the small class sizes and personal relationships that make the College so unique.
“This school is focused on providing its students with the best student experience possible,” she said.
More often than not, she said this student focus can benefit the professors as well.
While others might find shaping a new program intimidating, the challenge of crafting a communication and media studies degree drew Dr. Kozma to her new position. The major will simultaneously embrace the liberal arts tradition of interdisciplinary learning and emphasize practical skills like reading, writing, and arguing.
Dr. Kozma hopes to bring more film classes into the program, run free movie screenings, and possibly start a campus radio station. Whether taking a class in Entertainment Industry Studies or Contemporary Popular Film and Television, the goal is to help students better understand and analyze their own culture.