Emma Mathis '11

A Varied Storyteller
Emma Mathis grew up in Ridgefield, CT, thriving on her favorite books and stories -- from the classic fantasy tales of Tolkien to the romantic fiction of Jane Austen and Emily Bronte. “I’ve always been a big reader. I had a book under my arm constantly,” she said. Over time, reading stories and telling stories became a life-long pursuit. As she neared the end of high school, she decided that exploring another mode of storytelling might be worth her while.

“One day, I thought, ‘Well, let’s try film as a medium to get across a story’,” she explained. She got to work by interning with a family friend, who had worked professionally as a photographer and filmmaker with his own company, FlameTree Productions. Making short films gave Emma a chance to hone her craft on the technical side of storytelling, while she allowed her love of literature fuel the creative side.

Emma would go on to spend two years at Hampshire College in Massachusetts (the alma matter of renown documentary filmmaker Ken Burns) as a film major. Although she picked up a few useful skills, one of the things she realized at Hampshire was that she didn’t need to “learn film” to be a good filmmaker. “To be a good filmmaker, you really need to know how to tell a good story,” she said. Harkening back to her childhood nostalgia, she began to feel less convicted about the filmmaking part and more interested in pure storytelling. Wanting to weigh her options, Emma opted to take a year off and sort things out.

In the meantime, she participated in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) back home in Ridgefield. Being a part of a socio-economic model that emphasized local agriculture made Emma more conscious of the importance of sustainability. When she heard about GMC, the sustainability mission really caught her eye.

“This college seemed to be really doing things -- trying to make changes. Whereas other colleges spend a lot of time talking about solutions but never really doing anything about it,” she said. “I was fascinated that a college was really pushing for change.”

After transferring to GMC, she shifted her focus to writing. She arrived here just in time for a unique opportunity that any writer would relish. Emma studied a semester abroad at Brunnenburg, a 13th century castle in Dorf Tirol, Italy, which serves as an international study center and agricultural museum operated by the family of poet Ezra Pound. While spending three months overseas on a GMC block course led by Prof. Mitch LesCarbeau (English), Emma and 14 other students studied agriculture, food production and consumption, natural sciences and, of course, literature. Emma said that the experience was one of her greatest in life so far.

Looking ahead, Emma would like to attend a master's program in English after receiving her degree at the end of next semester. While, like most of us, Emma's future has a few "unknowns," one thing she's sure of is this: whether the medium is literature or film, she'll always be a storyteller.

By Chad Skiles ‘12

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