An Inside Look

New Orleans

A home in St. Bernard’s Parish

“The owner had found all of these instruments, mannequins, and other trinkets washed up on streets after the storm hit, and he made a ‘Katrina Band’ out of them,” says Nicholas Bellos ’12 (Portland, Ore.), who participated in the environmental justice seminar.

Students in political science professor Kimberly Smith’s “Environmental Justice in New Orleans” course didn’t have to write a final paper. Instead, they shot 40 hours of video footage in New Orleans and made short films about the environmental and social ramifications of Hurricane Katrina.

“Students took a seminar on environmental justice in fall term, during which they wrote several papers and also got some instruction in video production,” says Smith. “Then I took them down to New Orleans for two weeks, gave them video cameras, and set them loose.”

During winter term five student groups used the footage to create films, each of which explored a different theme, such as New Orleans’s unique culture and the environmental impact on the city of both oil and Katrina.

The class led to a campus discussion sponsored by the Learning and Teaching Center during spring term about the benefits of learning through visual means rather than traditional essay writing. “We realized how important it was for people to actually see what’s going on,” says Elena Rosenberg-Carlson ’12 (San Francisco). “Being able to provide footage and give people an inside look, rather than just a literary look, is a powerful thing.”

Web Extra: View the student films at

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