Au Revoir, Shipka
A heartfelt goodbye to one of my mentors, my favorite teacher
By Keeley KristinPosted Jun 27, 2012
This week, I have one thing on my mind: teachers.
But not all teachers…one in particular. And I have them on my mind not only just because I happen to know several but also because my absolute most favorite college teacher is saying goodbye to Baton Rouge. And this makes me beyond sad, because this professor not only became my friend, but he also became like family to friends of mine whom I consider to be my extended family.
During my time at LSU, I had so many great teachers – influential teachers – teachers who made a difference in my life. Sure I had my departmental favorites, but there was one professor who stood out amongst the rest and changed part of my life forever. His name is Danny Shipka, Ph.D.
As an assistant professor in the Manship School of Mass Communication, Shipka mainly taught public relations classes, but he harbors a deep-rooted passion for deconstructing various types of films – namely European exploitation films of the 60s and 70s. And this how I got wind of him.
A student of writing and of film myself, I sought out Shipka and sat down to talk with him. At the time I was considering graduate school in the Mass Communications department – but only because Shipka was there. Why didn’t I just focus on Communication Studies for film? Well, I did. Kind of. But under Shipka, there seemed to be an opportunity to develop a film curriculum in the Manship School, which is heavily focused on political communication. Naturally, I was intrigued with Shipka’s interests and wanted to be a part of his efforts.
Now, I’m a writer, but not of politics; in fact, I much prefer deconstructing art/film/music/etc. and writing creatively. Nevertheless, I had some journalism experience under my belt and wanted badly enough to study with Shipka, so I applied and got accepted.
After one semester, I was lucky enough to be rewarded with a professorship of study under Shipka’s and that lasted for two years. During our time together, we both shared an interest in films about Louisiana. We wanted to know what common themes there were between the films, what the stereotypical representations said about our culture, how various aspects about the state and culture were portrayed, and what types of impressions about our state that these films left audiences with. So, we received our grant and began our study, and it was truly an eye-opening experience.
We explored, identified, and deconstructed a slew of films about Louisiana – from Evangeline all the way to Nic Cage’s Bad Lieutenant – and then we wrote. And then we wrote more and more and more and before I knew it, we were on our way to Boston to present our work at AEJMC, the largest Mass Communications conference in the country.
Being that I was born and raised here, I discovered that even my own perceptions about our state were jaded. In fact, it wasn’t until I met Shipka and began working with him that I realized just what type of wonder and amazement has surrounded me my entire life. Under his guidance and education, I learned to see what is before me in this great state, I learned more about myself as a writer and as a researcher, and I also discovered that my passion for film runs deeper than I could’ve ever imagined.
When asked – back when he was hired around 2006 – about what he hopes to accomplish at LSU, Shipka said, “[I hope] to continue to foster an environment in my classes that exposes students to a wide variety of diverse voices. It’s through out understanding that we all have viewpoints that we truly contribute to education.”
To this, Shipka, I would say you were successful. Even if you are a Gator fan!
But seriously, Shipka was more than a teacher to me; he was also my friend. And he became a very dear friend – one whom I will miss being around terribly.
So Shipka, thank you for being the amazing teacher, friend, and mentor that you are. I know all of your students feel this way…I mean, you did always get the highest rated student surveys! Just know you left a lasting impression on us all, and we will miss having you around. Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors, Ship. Hope to see you back in the Red Stick for a visit some time soon.