Changes Benefit Film Program

Jolliffe's second master's degree, new classroom enhance film minor

By: Becky Beddoe

Gary Wiss teaching in the new film classroom.









Since the 1970s the English department at Walla Walla College has boasted a film literature program.  The 2006-2007 school year, however, saw that program become an official minor.  The film studies program allows students to experience literature in one of its most modern and popular forms and teaches them that film is simply another style of literature.

The department has also recently added a faculty member to the film program.  Ron Jolliffe, professor of English, recently completed all requirements for a master’s degree in literature and film from Claremont Graduate University.  Nancy Cross, chair of the English department, says that this degree “reflects his strong trans-disciplinary interests, and provides a strong background in film.”

Jolliffe was an undergraduate from WWC in 1971, and has since acquired a master’s and a doctorate degree from Andrews University and Claremont Graduate School, respectively.  

“Ron’s degree brings broad, professional training that supports our film studies minor,” says Cross.  Jolliffe joins Gary Wiss, a pioneer in the film program here at WWC, and Daniel Lamberton, professor of English and chair of the humanities program, in teaching film classes next year.  “We have a wealth of film experience and expertise to offer our students,” explains Cross.

With his experience and new degree in literature and film, Jolliffe will now have a portion of his teaching load in the English department’s new minor in film studies.  Jolliffe has already begun in that area, leading a class in the study self-reflexive film during winter quarter 2007.  During the 2007-2008 school year he will be teaching a class in film review writing.  

Wiss is relieved to have someone to help him with the teaching load and who will assume responsibility for the program when he is gone.  “I laid the foundation for this minor, and Ron will build a fine structure on it,” says Wiss.  “I'm overjoyed that a major player will take over when I retire in just a few years.”

The English department is happy that it has the resources to provide a film program.  “An academic campus is always working to assist students' abilities to communicate in the contemporary world,” says Jolliffe.  “It is only natural that the campus has developed the film studies minor, which is complemented by other programs on this campus such as the communications department’s video, broadcasting, and drama programs.”

Several film classes will be held in the new film lecture classroom in the college’s new administration building.  “The classroom provides a comfortable, light- and sound-controlled environment for the study of film,” explains Cross, “including all of the technology and convenience of a ‘smart classroom.’”

A ‘smart classroom’ is education’s latest effort to teach students in the most modern and efficient way possible.  Features of a typical ‘smart classroom’ include layered white boards that raise or lower on tracks, allowing more space for demonstrations, tiered seating to allow each desk optimum viewing of the front of the classroom, motion sensor lighting to save on energy costs, outlets at each seat to allow students to plug in laptops, and of course, a computer, projector, and large screen for use in instruction.  

The film lecture classroom in the new administration building provides all of these things, but also includes theater seating (padded seats and a sloped floor).  This classroom was designed specifically for the English department’s film literature classes, and it will see good use.

“Throughout history narrative has been an important part of education and entertainment.  It is how a culture replicates itself,” reflects Jolliffe.  “Film seems to me just the latest reincarnation of the role of bard, prophet, poet, and minstrel.”

To learn more about the film classes and film studies minor offered here at Walla Walla College, contact the English department at 509-527-2862, or email  

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