Scholar Q & A: Peter Quandt '15

Alexa Salvato (a class of 2017 journalism major from North Salem, NY) spoke with Peter Quandt (a class of 2015 documentary studies and production major from Schoharie, NY) about his experiences in the Park Scholar Program.

Alexa Salvato: You’ve given back to the Ithaca community in many ways in your three years here. What have been some of your favorite service experiences?

Peter Quandt: Definitely Big Brothers Big Sisters. I’ve been with my Little since freshman year. Taysean was a 10-year-old, and now he’s 13, so I’ve seen him grow over the course of three years. I’ve really seen how he has changed. He has a very tough living situation, so I try to see him as much as possible. On April 26, we went to see Break IC, the breakdancing event, because he’s really interested in that. I try to mix it up so we don’t do the same thing every week. I love on-campus service and I love on-campus student organizations, but over my years here I’ve become more interested in service that involves the community beyond the campus and takes things past the discussions and actually results in more direct work with people where you create true, lasting relationships. A three-year relationship with someone where you see them weekly and talk to them about everything in their lives is definitely more in line with what I’m interested in.

AS: How do your current film projects combine media and advocacy?

PQ: This semester, along with [fellow Park Scholar] Crystal Kayiza, I'm working on a roughly 15-minute documentary about development, affordability, and gentrification in the South Bronx. The film tells the story of a few residents struggling to keep up with escalating rent, as well as the work of community organizers and activists trying to keep the community intact for its original residents. The film takes on subjects such as racism, gentrification, marginalization, community empowerment, and private versus public development. 

AS: Can you describe a few of your internships?

PQ: I am interning with Catholic Charities Immigrant Services for all of my junior year. It’s downtown, and it’s not just Catholic Charities; the Tompkins County Office for New Americans is really where I’ve been interning. Last semester, I worked on job development, so I would help a lot of recent immigrants work on their résumés, [specifically] figuring out how the jobs that they’ve had and things that they’ve done in their home countries can apply to the jobs here. So if someone worked in a restaurant in Malaysia, we’d try to find a job for them maybe in Ithaca [College]’s dining halls or Cornell [University]’s dining halls. So I completed a lot of work like that, along with some basic computer tutorial classes. I taught Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, just some of the basics, to new immigrants who were interested in learning. This semester, I’m producing a video for them, so that’s basically taken up all of the semester. I’m editing it now. It is about the services that Catholic Charities, Tompkins Learning Partners, and [Board of Cooperative Educational Services] provide. So it’s about citizenship training classes, citizenship exams, English training, and job development. That’s taken all of last semester.

I’ve had a few other internships. Last summer, I stayed home, near Albany, NY, and I interned with a production company. It has a few different names, but they use Videos for Change a lot. I was working on a documentary about the death penalty and racial dynamics within the justice system. … I did a lot of intern work on that, lots of transcribing. I did some editing too, so that was fun, [working on a film] about Ted Kaczynski, the Unibomber. It combines all these interviews with Dave Kaczynski, who’s Ted’s brother, and Dave’s wife, who solved that mystery, turned in their brother, and then tried to ensure that he didn’t get the death penalty, with the story of Manny Babbitt, who was a Vietnam veteran with serious mental health issues from California and committed a murder while on drugs and while clearly in a delusional state. There were all these complications with it, and he was given the death penalty. … It’s really interesting and I hope it gets finished soon. I really enjoyed working on that.

AS: How has having a community of your fellow scholars impacted your college experience?

PQ: It has been weird this year being an upperclassmen knowing that there are two classes below me that in some ways look up to me like I did to the juniors and seniors when I was a freshman. That was intimidating and first and definitely something that I’ve gotten more comfortable with. And throughout looking at how you interact with that community, whether it’s looking up and trying to emulate or trying to provide comfort for and guidance for those who might have questions, there’s a community there. Everyone’s like-minded. Everyone wants to produce awesome media and everyone wants to change things about the world and everyone has these ideas, these ideas that are evolving over the course of four years as they take different classes. It’s great to be around those people because regardless of where those people are over those four years, they are all headed on a process to refine their tastes and ideas and thoughts, and we’re doing it together.


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