Behind the scenes of the student-driven MAP Speaker Series

October 28, 2019 — by Anjali Nuggehalli

Senior Krithi Sankar felt a sense of relief that her hard work had paid off as she listened to the panel of professionals discussing their careers during MAP Speaker Series in the MAP Annex on Oct. 10. 

The event, which brought three women in the film industry to school, was the result of months of work and communication. 

Within the Media Arts Program is a student leadership team responsible for creating extracurricular events outside of the classroom. They work to further bond the MAP community as well as host speakers from all over the country through a regular Speaker Series panel. Some of the past speakers for the series include official photographer for the Olympics Jeff Cable, NBC Bay Area News anchor Scott McGrew, and Blue Sky Studios animator and storyboard artist Karen Disher. 

Sankar is in charge of overseeing the MAP Speaker Series this year along with one other student, finding speakers as well organizing logistics for the event. 

“I chose to apply for the head of the speaker series because I was really interested in storytelling,” Sankar said. “I love hearing about others’ personal experiences, especially coming from a variety of backgrounds.”

The October Speaker Series event centered around Women in Film, with three female film industry professionals discussing their journey through the primarily male-dominated field.

The three speakers were multimedia artist Rose Carr, short-form filmmaker Asuka Lin and technical artist and engineer Monika Erande. 

“We specifically chose these speakers to get a variety of experiences,” Sankar said. “Our goal was to explore how differences affect one’s experience in the workplace.”

The speakers, although coming from different racial backgrounds and places in their career, all expressed how difficult working in a male-driven field can be and the importance of supporting women.

“These speakers were often the only females in their workplace, so they cherished being able to work with other women,” Sankar said. “They had a mutual understanding of how difficult it is to break the ‘glass ceiling’ and get into the film industry in the first place.” 

Sankar was able to bring these women to the school by staying in close communication with parent boosters to discuss funding. She also actively promoted the event to students and parents through SHSTV, flyers and graphics. 

“I wanted to ensure that it was known that the speaker series was open to anyone in the community,” Sankar said. “I feel like an opportunity to hear such inspirational speakers shouldn’t be limited to just MAP students.”

Throughout the entire process, proactively communicating with everyone involved proved to be a challenge for Sankar. When one of the original speakers dropped out due to schedule conflicts, Sankar had to rush to find a replacement. 

Additionally, Sankar had to work with several students younger than her, who have not been a part of the MAP leadership team for as long as she has. Co-leading the speaker series with Sankar was junior Dylan Westman. He was grateful for Sankar’s guidance, as this was his first year as a co-head of the series. 

“At first I was really nervous to be the head of the speaker series because I initially didn’t know what to do,” Westman said. “Krithi helped me through the process by giving me tips, and I feel well-prepared for next year’s series thanks to her help.”

Sankar expressed the importance of being supportive and encouraging to her co-workers, especially being a veteran in the role. 

“When you’re working with someone who may not have as much experience, you have to help them learn,” Sankar said. “While it may seem easier to do the work by yourself, being a mentor is really important.”

This fall’s Speaker Series event had a turnout of around 40 students and parents, and two more events will be held during spring of 2020. Sankar anticipates that she will continue to grow not only as a significant contributor to the MAP Speaker Series, but as a leader as well. 

“Before becoming the head of the speaker series, I didn’t feel like I fit the stereotype of an extroverted leader,” Sankar said. “By getting the experience to work with so many types of people to accomplish my goals, I now feel like I have what it takes to be a leader.”