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Student Documentary Focuses on Sisters' Stories

We all want to matter, to leave a mark. Longing to leave a legacy, graduating seniors tussle with the trepidation of tossing their tassels. In preparation for graduation, some seniors start joining more clubs and being more active on campus to bind their bequest.

Jamie Visser, a third-year Schmitt Scholar, an honor awarded for her academic and civic leadership, took a different approach. The scholarship stipulates that the scholars implement a service project to impact the community during the academic year. 

When she started thinking about the project last year, Visser knew that she would need to create something sustainable, something that would live on beyond her tenure as a Dominican student.

“The thing that has been most formative for me here has been my relationship with the Dominican sisters. I’ve benefited from them both personally and professionally,” Visser said reflectively. “I wanted to leave something behind here [after graduating] that would capture what my experience has been like with the sisters.”

Visser’s focus wasn’t inward. Instead, she was more concerned with how the dwindling presence of the sisters would affect the Dominican environment.

It was then, in her junior year that the compassionate theology major began working on “Made for Mission: The Stories of our Sisters,” a video project honoring the lasting legacy of the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters.

“It's important for Dominican students to know the stories of our sisters in order to know where we come from,” Visser said. “Our school's mission and vision is based on the women who began—and have continued to support—our school for more than 100 years.”

The 24-minute documentary compiles 12 interviews with 12 sisters.

“Deciding who would be in the video was the most difficult part,” Visser said. “I was sad that I couldn’t interview everyone, but the video was more about capturing the collective spirit of the community—not the sisters’ personal stories. I decided to include the sisters who have really seen Dominican change over the years, the ones who have lived and worked here the longest.”

Visser began the interview process last spring.

Watching the video, you’d be surprised that the theology major had no prior journalism or video experience.

Daniel Martin, digital media specialist in the Creative Media Lab, was a huge help.

“The mission of the Creative Media Lab is to create opportunities for people in the Dominican community to communicate ideas in creative ways—especially if that means being able to utilize different media outlets,” Martin said.

In addition to providing equipment, Martin, who has a loving relationship with many of the sisters featured in the video, trained video crewmembers on how best to shoot scenes and record audio, and coached Visser on how to conduct video interviews.

“I could see the value of this project to the institution,” Martin said. “I’ve been at Dominican for 16 years, and I’ve seen a lot of change in the culture as a result of both the growth of the university and the withering number of sisters on campus.”

“The warm, collegial spirit of the sisters is a legacy worth protecting and presenting for the benefit of future generations at this school,” he said.

Megan Graves, a pastoral ministry major and Sinsinawa Dominican associate interested in discerning membership with the community, said she thought the video was very well done.

“[Visser] has created a beautiful view for those who are not aware of how the sisters fully embody our school’s mission to create a more just and humane world,” Graves said. “Their strength and passion give me hope for a better tomorrow, and [Visser’s] video portrays that hope.”

Watch the full film below.