For alumnus Jason Lee, pursuing his dream began in the Individual Plan of Study Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Lee created a major in Asian American film and media with Professor Mimi Nguyen from Asian American studies/gender and women's studies.
“I quickly found myself interested in two things: the way Asian Americans are represented in the media as well as film as an art/communicative medium,” he says. “So creating a major that had me focus on a combination of Asian American studies, media studies, and cinema studies classes helped me to think about the ways in which they all interact with each other.”
For Lee, creating his own major was a great way to put the ideas he was learning about and the strategies for representation he was thinking about into a tangible product.
As part of his requirements, Lee created a short film for his senior project, combining everything he had learned from his major. However, creating a short film was more work than Lee imagined. Funding it alone took tapping into every resource, favor, and friend involved in the industry, and also using Kickstarter to help fund the project.
The short is called Doughboy: Inventor. Entrepreneur. Funnel Cake Hero. It is about a young man who decides to take on his late father's American Dream of building a mobile funnel cake empire.
“I showed the short during a few presentations when I was graduating as well as a speaking engagement over the summer, but currently it lives in my computer,” says Lee. “I'd really like to re-edit it now that I have learned a lot about filmmaking since moving to LA.”
After graduating in 2011, Lee found a job in California, and now is working as an associate producer/junior editor at Go Go Luckey, the company that made Laguna Beach on MTV.
Looking back on his time spent at the University, Lee says his major and his extracurricular activities helped him understand how he identified with others.
“More so, it helped me to think about the ways in which I would have the most impact in the film world,” he says. “This is actually why I ended up going the commercial route and not the independent route. I thought I would have a greater impact on underrepresented groups if I influenced the shows and movies being shown to the broad American audience.”
The ability to create his own major gave Lee a jumpstart on the creativity his career demands.
“The individual plan of study major gave me the freedom to design and produce my own projects, which in turn also taught me how to create something from nothing,” he says. “We're often taught to do the work set out for us, write five-paragraph papers, and follow a certain route to get to our career goals, but these projects I designed with my professor taught me that there are many routes to any goal and that creativity is key to getting there.”