Emma Benayoun & Darshana Mini

Emma Benayoun & Darshana Mini

CAMS Graduate Association '20

ZdC - Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Association, USC School of Cinematic Arts
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This story is part of a series profiling leaders of SCA's student-run organizations.

What is the Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Association and what is your role in the organization? We are PhD students, and are the outgoing co-presidents of ZdC - the Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Associations (CMSGA). At CMSGA, we aim to create a safe, diverse, and inclusive space for all graduate students to come together, air their concerns, participate in departmental proceedings and work together towards strengthening graduate participation in decision-making processes within the department as well as the university at large. We want to create a space where people can speak freely and help one another navigate the challenges of graduate student life.

We hold monthly meetings, organize professional and academic events, and actively participate in the larger graduate student community within both SCA and USC. We are committed to making CMSGA inclusive to both MA and PhD students and to fostering an open and transparent conversation around graduate student rights.

What kinds of activities does your organization sponsor or support? Our organization sponsors a number of events, including book talks by professors in the department, visiting scholars, and alumni; lectures by cinema and media scholars from institutions across the country; and a variety of social events to help foster a greater sense of community across the student body, such as an intercampus mixer with cinema and media graduate students from other universities in the region, a faculty-student picnic, and mixers for incoming and new students. Throughout the year, we put together professionalization events, including mock job talks, mock conference panels, and grant writing workshops. Each year, we sponsor our department’s annual graduate conference, First Forum, and assist in the publication of Spectator, the department journal. We also organize community outreach events aimed at reaching out to the local community outside the space of USC.

What advice do you have for prospective students looking at applying to your program? Don't be intimidated to reach out to current students with questions about the department, classes, advisement, and life at SC and in Los Angeles! We are happy to help: usc.cmsga@gmail.com

How has the School of Cinematic Arts prepared you, so far, for a career in your discipline? SCA’s strong and vast alumni network has been a valuable resource for our colleagues looking for internships, jobs, and industry experience. We are both looking for tenure-track positions once we complete our degrees, and the support we have received from our faculty and administration has been positive and helpful in learning to navigate the job market.

What have been the biggest challenges for you at USC? USC offers a lot of resources for professional development and community participation. The main challenge we faced was to identify and locate these resources and engage proactively in the many opportunities available.

What in your past has given you inspiration or a unique point of view that you bring to USC? As PhD students who are new to both USC and Los Angeles, and who completed our previous studies outside the United States, we were both excited to be part of the academic community at USC and SCA. At the same time, we faced some challenges in navigating a relatively unfamiliar system. We have also both been involved in student organizations in the past, and the lessons we have learned from these previous experiences have been useful in addressing the concerns of our fellow students. We decided to serve as co-presidents in the spirit of sharing responsibilities and fostering a sense of collaboration, transparency and collectivity. We hope that our diverse backgrounds have helped us to make positive changes in the structure and functioning of the student body.