Champlain College Welcomes New Full-time Faculty

This fall, Champlain College has four new professors to campus in various disciplines. Starting in July, the Division of Communications and Creative Media (CCM) welcomed Coberlin Brownell, assistant professor in the Graphic Design and Digital Media Program and Huizia Lu, associate professor in the Digital Filmmaking Program. Kristin Novotny is also an associate professor in the Core Division. Ciaran Buckley, an adjunct at Champlain's Dublin, Ireland campus, is staying on full-time in Burlington for the 2012-13 academic year after teaching part-time at the Burlington campus last spring.

Here's a brief introduction to our new instructors:

Coberlin Brownell, CCM

What brought you to academia?

I had been teaching as an adjunct for around four years while working at JDK Design. It was a great way to find talented interns for the summer boards project (Burton Snowboards) and keep up on the newest software. I found that I loved teaching and decided to pursue as a full-time career.

Talk a little about your scholarly interests.

I have always been interested in finding the balance of technology and art. My interests include Game Design, Coding, Physical Computing, Interactive Design, 3D and Graphics.

What research are you working on right now?

I am working on a project with augmented reality called Future Past. Involving a digital recreation of Burlington's Little Italy, a neighborhood wiped out by Urban Renewal in the 1960s. The idea is if you are physically in the neighborhood (now hotels, banks and the mall) you can point your Smartphone in any direction and see what buildings were there. Execution also incorporates stories and photography from the people who lived and worked there.

What is your experience in your field?

I have many years working in the professional design world. My concentration is on 3D Design, Technical Training, and Digital Asset Management (workflow).

What courses are you teaching this semester?

Senior Capstone Project, Web II, Digital Print Production and Design for Objects and Spaces (3D Design including Packaging, Signage and Branded Environments)

Why did you decide to come to Champlain?

I grew up in Burlington and have been closely watching the school as it developed the Graphic Design program, Game Design, Emergent Media Center and the MFA. I first got connected to the school through Ann DeMarle and the Governor Institute of Vermont (I am now program director), giving tours of the studio. I love the school's direction and just finished up my MFA in the new Emergent Media Program.

What's something about yourself that would surprise your future students?
I am an avid toy collector. G.I Joe, Jurassic Park, M.A.S.K, Super Powers, etc. My largest collection is The Simpson's - More than 150 figures including 20 Homers. Also learning Mandarin Chinese (Love the forms of the logograms).


Kristin Novotny, Core Division

What brought you to academia?

My "light-bulb" moment happened in a political science class when I was a college sophomore. My professor was young, talented, and enthusiastic. He showed me that I could open a conversation with authors and texts; he modeled the excitement and challenge of learning difficult material. Most importantly, he believed that ideas make a difference in the quality of people's lives. I was 19 and thrilled to think that I, too, might be able to do this for a living.

Talk a little about your scholarly interests.

I like facilitating "difficult conversations." Most recently I've focused on restorative practices, which are designed to open conversations between people who have caused harm and those who have been affected by the harm. I'm drawn to questions of justice and ethics, and I've always been concerned with power, voice and autonomy - who gets to speak, how decisions are made, whether and to what degree people are in control of their lives.

What is your experience in your field?

I earned a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught full-time at Saint Michael's College for 16 years. Eventually I decided to widen my scope beyond the field of political science.

What courses are you teaching this semester?

COR 110 - Concepts of the Self (2 sections)
COR 310 - Global Studies I: Globalization and Technology (2 sections)

Why did you decide to come to Champlain?

It was exactly the right job at exactly the right time. The Core Division was enticing because I love teaching in an explicitly interdisciplinary way, asking "big questions," and facilitating student conversations. The Core is inherently collaborative and speaks to the kind of teacher (and learner) I want to be.

What's something about yourself that would surprise your future students?

I'm a professional mediator and a graduate of Champlain College! I was trained in the Master of Science in Mediation & Applied Conflict Studies program here. Conflict resolution is intense, highly skilled, important work - and being a mediator has definitely made me a better teacher.


Huixia Lu, CCM Division

What is your experience in your field?

I came to the United States from the People's Republic of China with an international award-winning background in television journalism and documentaries, including the Chinese equivalent of an "Emmy" award. While pursuing my MFA at Temple University in Philadelphia, I was privileged to have my documentary Alice Liu's Adventures in America screened at the 56th Cannes International Film Festival as part of the Kodak Emerging Filmmakers Showcase. It was also the finalist for Student Oscar. Being the producer, writer, director, cinematographer, and editor for most of my projects gives me the opportunity to embrace filmmaking thoroughly, which in turn informs my teaching.

My feature documentary, Forty Miles Below Hope - An Independent's Run for Governor, a cinema verite, has screened at the 20th Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, William J. Clinton Presidential Library, Communication University of China, and other venues. Its next exhibition will be at the legendary Kartemquin Films in Chicago this year. My fiction When I Was Young won the UFVA Faculty Merit Award in 2004 and is included in the textbook Voice & Vision: A Creative Approach to Narrative Film and DV Production by Mick Hurbis-Cherrier, Focal Press / Elsevier Inc. 2011. My experimental film, Memory, has also screened on American Public Television and at national and international film festivals. For my work as a teacher and filmmaker, I was awarded the Individual Artist Fellowship by the Arkansas Arts Council in 2009.

Why did you decide to come to Champlain?

For many reasons, including: the cool people here who are supportive and competitive, friendly and frank, solid and open; the opportunity to teach both documentary and fiction, theory and practice; the beautiful campus and city; easy access to culture and media centers like Montreal, Boston and New York City; the summer film program at Champlain College Montreal; the list can go on and on - I look forward to meeting my students in the fall semester!

What's something about yourself that would surprise your future students?

Emphasizing not only the "look" but also the "soul," I encourage my students to think of film as a valuable means of self-expression and not merely as glossy entertainment. I steer them to tell genuine stories about their own backyards. On topics ranging from struggles through teenage years in a divorced family to doubts of faith in the Bible Belt, student films produced in my classes have garnered both regional and national awards. The local film and theatre communities have also consistently been a vital resource in my curriculum. I find this to be a good way of encouraging students to make rooted and personal work. Meanwhile, my classes expose students to a range of international cinemas. Filmmaking thus becomes a means for students to be better connected both to their immediate communities as well as to the broader international community.

I enjoy teaching in an integrated media environment. Loving both documentary and fiction filmmaking, I recognize the blurred boundaries between them and how they constantly influence each other. For instance, I showed students how cinematographers like Raoul Coutard started as a photojournalist, later worked on fictions like Godard's Breathless as well as documentaries like Rouch's Chronicle of a Summer. By the same token, I used the opening scenes of Woody Allen's Annie Hall to inspire my students working on their personal documentaries.

What projects are you working on right now?

Currently in postproduction, The Hanging of David O. Dodd, another feature documentary of mine, is based on Civil War folklore. Co-produced by the Weekend Theatre in Little Rock, the movie will be a mixture of a play adaptation set on real historic locations and a Ken Burns-like documentary. The intriguing interplay between truth and myth is expressed in different forms. Recently I have completed a short fiction, Hillcrest Café, which is another project involving my students. Check out my website at www.huixialufilm.com

What courses are you teaching this semester?

Film History, Documentary Filmmaking, Business of Film, and Digital Film Screenings


Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit champlain.edu.