Philosophy and Political Science major
Producer and Writer for the Kirk Documentary Group
“Philosophy has shaped how I approach both journalism and storytelling. My goal as a long-form journalist is to do more than just recount a series of events, even if those events may be inherently compelling. I want our films to reveal the big ideas that help viewers make sense of an increasingly complicated and confusing world. I think that it is my philosophy background that has helped to keep me focused on trying to find those ideas and to make sense of the world that we live in.”
Tell us what you do.
As a producer and writer at the Kirk Documentary Group, I am involved in all aspects of making films for the PBS investigative documentary series FRONTLINE. I have worked on films about everything from politics to national security to the economy and the National Football League. Our films tell the human stories behind complicated issues—revealing something about our times and the challenges that we face. On our projects, I am involved in the initial stages of research, figuring out an outline for the film, conducting interviews, and writing the final script.
What have you done since Middlebury?
After graduating from Middlebury, I attended Harvard Law School. One summer during law school I had a chance to intern on a FRONTLINE project about the FBI’s missed warnings in the run-up to September 11th. It was a great experience that made me want to find a way to work on more projects like that. After law school I got a job at the Kirk Documentary Group as a researcher putting together timelines of research material and interview transcripts. Over the years, I expanded my role and have worked as an associate producer, a story editor, and field producer before taking on my current role as a producer and writer.
How has your major influenced your life after graduation?
Philosophy has shaped how I approach both journalism and storytelling. My goal as a long-form journalist is to do more than just recount a series of events, even if those events may be inherently compelling. I want our films to reveal the big ideas that help viewers make sense of an increasingly complicated and confusing world. I think that it is my philosophy background that has helped to keep me focused on trying to find those ideas and to make sense of the world that we live in.
I have spent much of my career trying to find the answers to big questions: Why did we go to war? Why did our economy collapse? Why are we so divided as a country? What is the threat facing American democracy? In trying to answer those questions, I have been surprised at just how relevant my philosophy background has been. It became to clear to me, for example, that it’s almost impossible to understand the decision to go to war in Iraq without understanding the philosophies that drove many of the key decision makers. My background in philosophy has also been useful raising important questions about how we tell stories and why we choose to tell the stories that we do. In training you in how to question everything, philosophy can also help you figure out how to find answers.
When did you know which major you were going to choose?
I had been interested in philosophy since I took an introductory course my freshman year at Middlebury. I continued to be drawn to philosophy courses that were offered in several departments, including Philosophy, Political Science and History. At some point, it made the most sense to do a joint major in Philosophy and Political Science. I was also drawn to Middlebury’s classics and religion courses, and I ended up adding a minor in Religion.
How did you decide what career path you wanted to pursue after graduating?
Although I had always been interested in journalism and worked in the news department at WRMC while at Middlebury, I did not think that I was headed for a career in journalism. However, once I started law school my interest in journalism only intensified. I ended up working on the law school newspaper and producing an audio documentary as part of my third-year paper. I realized it was what I really enjoyed doing. I think that being in law school on September 11th, 2001 also made me reconsider what I wanted to do with my life. It really felt like there were important stories to be told and a moment when the world was quickly changing.
Finally, what advice or suggestions do you have for current students as they consider their post-Middlebury futures?
It is important to figure out what you enjoy doing and try to do those things as much as possible while you are in college. If you leave Middlebury knowing what makes you happy, then you will already be ahead. After figuring that out, the challenge is to organize your life to be able to do those things. Ideally, you can find a job where you can do something that you truly enjoy. But if not, then a job that will let you do the things that give you joy. Looking back, I also see that there were lots of things that I did for fun—editing radio stories, taking philosophy courses, reading whatever news I could—that were preparing me for the career that I now have. In the end, having a passion for what you do will be far more important than anything else. Take the time to explore the opportunities available at Middlebury so that you can find what you are passionate about.