Luckily for film and English majors, Dr. Ted Hovet extended what Western Kentucky University offers when he began teaching here in 1995. Devoted to the craft of English as well as the flair of film, Hovet’s involvement with the English department put WKU and Kentucky on the map for film students.
Dr. Hovet in front of the English Department’s movie collection. Photo by Sara Ann Alexander
When Hovet began teaching at WKU he spoke with Professor Joe Boggs, his mentor and the author of The Art of Watching Films, about beginning a film minor at WKU. At the time, a film major or minor did not exist in any college-level Kentucky school.
According to former department head Dr. Karen Schneider, she and Hovet began teaching the first two film classes in the English department. As those classes grew in popularity, more film courses were added.
The film minor became official in 2000 and focused on film studies, theory, and criticism. Meanwhile, WKU’s School of Journalism and Broadcasting continued to teach and refine more hands-on courses geared towards film production. “Over time, we realized that an interdisciplinary film major would have great appeal and, since film is the dominant narrative mode of our time, would serve our students well. … Dr. Hovet, working primarily with faculty in Broadcasting, spearheaded that effort,” Schneider said.
“So,” Hovet said, “we sent [a proposal] on through the channels and all the way up to the state Council on Postsecondary Education, and got it approved, and [we] got the film major in spring of 2010.” Hovet stressed that this accomplishment was a very cooperative effort and couldn’t have been completed without dedicated work from several people.
Hovet brings fervor and gusto to his classes making the subjects he teaches enjoyable, especially to students who share his passion for film. “He does a great job of showing up to nearly every film set that the film students have. He will even show up to some that are not class related,” said Michael Cheser, a junior and film major from Mt. Washington, Kentucky. He adds that Hovet is always willing to help students with their scripts or brainstorm solutions for projects. “Really if you have any questions you can always ask Dr. Hovet,” Cheser explained.
Hovet’s expertise not only expanded film but other aspects of the English major as well. He and Schneider developed a gateway class which became what we all know as ENG 299, “partly as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of the English major. Our experience with that, and student feedback, made us realize that some sort of introduction to the study of English as a discipline would be beneficial,” said Schneider. Hovet described ENG 299 as a way to “benefit [students] not only in the classroom, but as an encouragement to be involved in things outside of the classroom—whether it’s English Club, Study Away, Study Abroad, Sigma Tau Delta… all those opportunities students have to take their work outside of the classroom.”
Hovet himself is very involved outside of class. He was a co-advisor to the English Club for the better part of a decade, but his proudest accomplishment was developing the annual
Dr. Hovet at the 2014 Undergraduate Conference on Literature, Language, and Culture. Photo by Lizzy Davis
Undergraduate Conference on Literature, Language, and Culture in 2001. “I’m really happy that’s continued and been a big event in the department every year,” he said of the annual occasion for students to publicly share their analytic papers.
What Hovet likes about teaching is the chance to teach students who are just beginning their English journey in ENG 100 and those who are at the end of the road in Senior Seminar. “What I have enjoyed the most about working at the English department is working with students at all stages,” he said. The same is true for his film courses as well.
“A recent example of a stellar contribution to the Film major is the creation (along with Dr. Dawn Hall) of the Sundance Film Festival Winter term ‘study away’ class—an incomparable opportunity for students serious about film,” said Schneider. According to Hovet, showing students the premiere American film festival, “the real, high-level film world, has been just great!”
WKU Students at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. Photo courtesy of the WKU Sundance Blog
Besides the study away class, Hovet developed partnerships with the Louisville International Festival of Film and the Nashville Film Festival. During these nearby events, students can volunteer and meet filmmakers in order to network and become familiar with the industry.
As Schneider said, “[Dr. Hovet’s] efforts in program development have strengthened the English major and, of course, resulted in creation of the only Film major in Kentucky, one that has been lauded by film professionals. In large part because of his mentoring, our students have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in Film and to find success in both
teaching and film-making.” Thanks to his hard work and those around him who share a passion for film and arts, the English major is a multifaceted discipline here at WKU.
If you’d like more information about the Sundance Film Festival Winter term Study Away class, click here. It’s too late this year, but it’s never too late to plan for a great class and excursion next year!