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Criminal justice professor ventures to Eastern Europe for filmmaking

Navigating three different languages, new political systems, plus eight college students and an English-only guide, a criminal justice professor at New Mexico State University recently ventured to post-Communist Eastern Europe on her first study abroad trip. There, she taught documentary filmmaking and visual culture.

Dulcinea Lara standing next to a bust of Vladimir Lenin
Dulcinea Lara, an assistant professor in the criminal justice department, gazes at a bust of Lenin on a recent trip to post-Communist Eastern Europe. Lara will talk about her trip during the next segment of the College of Arts and Sciences' 'Global Connections' lecture series at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6. (Courtesy photo)

"Everything I saw, felt, tasted and learned was amazing and interesting," said Dulcinea Lara, a criminal justice assistant professor at NMSU. "The mainstays, such as the Hungarian Parliament, Heroes' Square, the castle in Prague and the Charles Bridge, and of course the decadent pastries in Austria were the favorite of many on that trip."

Lara will share her experience with "Value of the Unknown: Teaching Filmmaking in Eastern Europe," during the next segment of the College of Arts and Sciences' lecture series, "Global Connections" at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, in the Creative Media Institute Theatre. During her presentation, some of her students will briefly talk about their film work as well as discuss their adventures.

In late May 2011, Lara and her students flew to Budapest where she helped them develop the concepts for their films.

From there, the group took side trips to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and Vienna, Austria, with their guide, Tammen. Lara described Tammen as an English-speaking guide who knew just a little Spanish.

"It was difficult to navigate three new countries in such a short period and part of the trip included visiting the more 'touristy' parts of the cities," Lara said. "I did, however, venture out and away from the city's centers to get lost and interact with the cities in more informal ways that included cemeteries, old Communist statuaries that were not advertised, food and clothing markets and the industrial sections of town."

For many of the students, it was their first time overseas, and the group was able to reflect on the political and economic differences between the United States and Eastern Europe.

"Budapest, as a city and a people, were embroiled in political turmoil while we were there," Lara said. "However, unlike what was happening in Greece where the political contestation was visible in the streets, we did not see much protest or public display in Budapest."

Lara said the students were able to learn more about the "under-churnings" from the locals they interviewed for their documentaries.

From a professor's perspective, Lara will speak about the different aspects of a study abroad experience such as pedagogical, political, intrapersonal-academic and cross-disciplinary.

"Hindsight reflections reveal a wealth of discoveries that enrich the academic's positionality in academe in both the U.S. and southern New Mexico contexts," Lara said. "This presentation is both narrative memoir and theoretical rumination on the mechanism of academia for both professor and students." Lara said.

With support from the College of Arts and Sciences, the "Global Connections" series features faculty members' exotic trips around the world. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for members of the campus and surrounding community to listen and ask questions about the kind of first-hand experiences most people might never otherwise encounter.

The series runs through April and will be offered on the first Tuesday of each month.

The lectures are free and open to the public. A parking permit for off-campus visitors may be obtained at https://corridor.nmsu.edu/auxadmin/ParkingForms/epermit.aspx.