[FOCUS ON PROFESSORS PART 1: Many of the professors at Texas Wesleyan University bring not only their academic credentials to their careers, but also hands on, real world experience that helps to enrich what they teach their students in the classroom. This article is the first in a series of three that will spotlight three such professors who bring a plethora of job experience to their roles as teachers.]
A childhood spent watching movies and plays, gave way to a lifelong passion for all forms of media for Texas Wesleyan University assistant professor of sociology, Dr. Tanni Chaudhuri.
Chaudhuri has had a very diverse career. In addition to being a professor, she has worked as a crime reporter and freelance TV producer. Chaudhuri has produced documentaries on the experience of immigrant women from South East Asia and the receptivity of transnational feminist filmmakers in America.
Chaudhuri was born and raised in India, and grew up in the busy city of Calcutta. Chaudhuri’s dad traveled a lot when she was a young child, and to keep entertained, she and her mother would watch Bollywood films and native folk plays.
“When my dad was in town, he would take me to English movies that were playing in town,” Chaudhuri said.
Chaudhuri said some of her fascination and interest in media came from the fact that her dad had been an aspiring actor at one point in his life, and her grandfather had been a film producer.
Chaudhuri said in the 90’s, an event called Transnationalization occurred in India, which changed the face of television there. Chaudhuri said a lot of foreign networks became accessible and there was tremendous growth in the native channels.
“There was a media based revolution,” Chaudhuri said.
Years later, after Chaudhuri had attended college and earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Calcutta University, she returned to school to pursue a Master’s degree in film studies from Jadavpur University. When she arrived to the United States, she pursued her second masters in mass communications and journalism from Kansas State University. Chaudhuri also earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from Texas Woman’s University.
While pursuing her masters in film studies, Chaudhuri trained with a national TV network as a crime reporter. After finishing her first masters, she worked as a freelance TV producer for a local network in Calcutta and produced a series of documentaries for them. This prompted her to come to the United States, and pursue a masters in mass communications and journalism.
“[When I got here], I got into academics,” Chaudhuri said. “I was always very academically inclined and I just loved that in the United States, academics are so applied. It’s not just about book knowledge; you get to apply what you learn.”
Chaudhuri said she had originally intended to continue her work as a producer and journalist, but her love for the academic system of the United States eventually led her to pursue her Ph.D. and becoming a professor.
Chaudhuri began at Texas Wesleyan in 2008 and said the small classroom sizes and the opportunity to work one on one with students was the right fit for her.
“I can motivate students in a very personal fashion,” Chaudhuri said. “[I enjoy] the very personal feel, the very diverse student population and also, the openness and receptivity to diversity.”
Last spring, Chaudhuri utilized her media background in her classroom when she gave the students in her minority groups class the task of producing a documentary about racial identity in America.
Kriti Sharma, a Texas Wesleyan graduate who was one of Chaudhuri’s students, said what she enjoyed most about the project was that Chaudhuri let the students make it their own and go about putting the project together in the way they thought was best.
“She gave us all the freedom to make it our own,” Sharma said.
Sharman said discussions in Chaudhuri’s class were always open, which allowed students to learn from each other.
“I was grateful that she provided us students with the opportunity to delve into different subject matters,” Sharman said.
Felicia Hernandez, a Texas Wesleyan graduate who worked with Sharma on the project last spring, said she enjoyed how Chaudhuri engaged her students to participate in class and encouraged them to be open to all be open to different opinions and viewpoints.
“One of the main things I enjoy about her teaching style is that she doesn’t just spend the whole class period lecturing,” Hernandez said. “Instead she promotes class discussions and allows us to explain the material to our classmates which can be beneficial.
Chaudhuri said she currently has a couple of projects planned that she will be working on herself and with students.
“The way I see myself is that media is my passion and I’m going to continually work towards integrating media in the curriculum and what I teach,” Chaudhuri said.