Midnight Classes -- The Movie

Gates Foundation films our columnist and colleagues, hard at work in the wee hours.


August 13, 2010

What do we do when a columnist is in a film? Why not run the film as a column and ask the columnist to introduce it? That's what follows. The film is just three minutes, so no time for popcorn.


Unable (so far) to interest Denzel in the role, I, your intrepid columnist, play myself in the video below, as do my colleagues at Bunker Hill Community College, Kathleen O'Neill, John Reeves, and BHCC President Mary L. Fifield.

In the spring of 2009, O'Neill, an adjunct professor of behavioral sciences, brought the idea of midnight classes to her department chair, John Reeves. He had always looked for new ways to serve students. Reeves brought the idea to Fifield, who agreed at once. BHCC, built 35 years ago with 2,600 students in mind Monday through Friday, was out of classroom space, even operating evenings and weekends to serve an enrollment of more than 11,000.

Midnight classes were the logical next step. O'Neill would teach introductory psychology. I signed on to teach midnight College Writing I. O'Neill and I taught the first midnight courses in the fall semester last year. BHCC added a third course for the spring semester, when O'Neill and I taught again, and five midnight courses are scheduled for this fall.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has chosen postsecondary education -- a credential after high school -- as a focus of its U.S. programs. Gates is looking for scalable, replicable programs to help the population of six million students, like those who will attend class at midnight. To create public discussion of the plight and the potential of these students, Gates commissioned the film school at the University of California Los Angeles to produce several short films on this issue.

Historical note: Bunker Hill Community College was the site for the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who also wrote the film, and Robin Williams. John Reeves, still a professor of behavioral sciences at BHCC, was a model for the Robin Williams character, the psychologist Sean Maguire. Reeves was an adviser to Williams and film director Gus Van Sant on the issues community college students overcome every day.

Van Sant and Williams were listening to Reeves. The marketing tagline for Good Will Hunting? "Some people can never believe in themselves until someone believes in them."


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