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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Elma Yedda Gonzalez at 1:30PM
Dr. Tanya Saunders, Assistant Provost, International Studies and Special Projects

Blog post written by Elma Gonzalez '14, FLEFF Blogger, Journalism, San Diego, CA.

The office is not very large. Its white walls serve as a frame to a plethora of posters, which urge students to participate in events discussing race and ethnicity. A colorful map of the world serves as the focal point of the room. It hangs above an L shaped desk with a computer monitor that is still on from earlier use. Several large stacks of paper shield the desk almost entirely, and a stapler and a spray bottle with blue liquid seize the last free inches. It is all an organized jumble of work.

In this office, sheltered inside a larger office for international programs, sits the most influential person of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival — and perhaps the one of the busiest women at Ithaca College —, Dr. Tanya Saunders, assistant provost and dean of international studies and special projects.

FLEFF was assigned to Dr. Saunders after the festival moved from Cornell University to Ithaca College 10 years ago. This week, I sat down with her to talk about her involvement with FLEFF and her expectations for its 10th anniversary.

EG: How did you become involved with FLEFF?

TS: I became assistant provost some years ago, and the provost at the time introduced the notion of sustainability to Ithaca College.

Cornell [University] wasn’t certain that it could continue to support FLEFF ... it was just a fortuitous circumstance that the provost at the time said, ‘Well, FLEFF is in keeping with [the] new area of interest that we’ve identified for Ithaca College. And so he asked Dr. [Patricia] Zimmermann and Dr. [Thomas] Shevory if they would take on the leadership of this project, and when I became dean of interdisciplinary and international studies, it was just a perfect fit because my idea for FLEFF was that it become a larger opportunity. We wanted FLEFF not to be just about the environment in the strict sense of that term, but to help us understand the environment in the larger context of sustainability. In other words,  we cannot talk about the environment as if people weren’t living in that environment or as if businesses weren’t acting in that environment.

EG: What does FLEFF represent to you?

TS: It represents to me the opportunity for all of us faculty, staff, students, and members of the local community or the public to come together and to talk about ideas.

I think it allows us to come out of our schools, come out of our disciplines, to come out of our majors and recognize that [there are issues] we all share regardless of our disciplinary perspectives, and so then we can have an honest conversation.

EG: What is your favorite part of FLEFF?

TS:  I love the concert. I like the opening concert because each year it’s different, and each year I’m surprised, so I am looking forward to what the concert will be this year. It sort of sets the tone for the remainder of the festival.

EG: Why should students attend the festival?

TS: Because they are going to be entering a world that is larger than themselves, larger than their immediate goals of ‘I want this GPA’ or ‘I want to succeed in a particular major’ or ‘I want to secure that first job’. Regardless of what their immediate goals are, all of them are going to become a part of the international or global conversation about how do we help our planet to survive in a way that allows us to survive as a species if you will, but to also have a quality of life that allows meaning.

FLEFF is fun as well. I am talking about it in serious terms, but we come out talking and smiling and engaging so I don’t want students to miss that either.  

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