University of Mary Washington senior Stephen McClanahan spent five weeks this summer practicing filmmaking. A psychology major, he saw the session as the next step in carving out the career he’s hoping to build.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to have access to this technology the university offers while also getting hands-on experience with filming and editing footage,” said Rob Willcox, an anthropology and theatre major who also took part in the video project.

Led by Assistant Professor of Communication and Digital Studies J.D. Swerzenski, the summer filmmaking course – packed with interviews, location scouting, lighting set-up, editing and more – was part of UMW’s Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Summer Institute (AHSSSI). The collection of immersive hands-on learning experiences, designed to give students real-world expertise they can add to their résumés, also included psychology, environmental sociology and 3-D design work, all done side-by-side with faculty mentors.

“Lots of universities offer research opportunities to students, only to have them end up doing menial work. That isn’t what happened this summer,” Tobias Conner, a senior psychology major who plans to pursue a Ph.D., said of AHSSSI, for which students receive free room and board, as well as a paycheck. “We were doing real research every step of the way, from researching our primary sources in week one, to building the study, running participants, and assessing data by the end.” Read more.