New CGS Students Arrive Fresh from Gap Semester Projects

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Among pursuits before entering: filmmaking, volunteering, fashion industry work

A gap semester off campus before entering the College of General Studies gave Lane McKenna (‘22) the time to visit film festivals with her movie, Grab Him by the—.

For the eight-minute movie Lane McKenna screened on the film festival circuit last fall, “grip” means something other than the cinematic definition of stagehand. Grab Him by the— imagines an alternate universe where women are sexual initiators, a role they fulfill by grabbing the scrotum of attractive men.

McKenna’s impetus for making her film was Donald Trump’s video boast that women were so taken by his stardom that he could “grab ’em by the p—y.”

I was just really shocked that anyone could get away with saying something so vile and objectifying, especially someone with such a large amount of power,” McKenna says. “I wanted to show other people my age just how rape culture has permeated our lives.”

She says that if it hadn’t been for the fall “gap” semester the College of General Studies offers entering first-year students, she wouldn’t have had the time to get her movie into film festivals, including the All American High School Film Festival in Harriman, N.Y., where it won Best Comedy.

The gap semester originated with the development five years ago of the college’s Boston-London Program, says Natalie McKnight, dean of CGS. Under the arrangement, students participating in the program began their freshman year in January instead of the fall, wrapping up with a six-week study program in London the following summer.

The idea was a hit with the students who chose it, so starting this autumn, CGS is expanding a gap fall to include all first-year students, followed by a summer in England’s capital.

“Students seem to be more eager to start their university studies [in January] than they are in September,” McKnight says. “Since most of them have started back to school in September every year since they were five, there is a real advantage to breaking up that monotonous pattern. Students become more reflective about their education, and more eager to dive in and take advantage of all the opportunities.”

The experiences during the gap period “mature them and give them a better perspective on college,” she says.

This past fall’s gap semester produced some eye-catching student projects. One entering freshman snared a spot on the Boston Celtics dance squad. Then there’s Tess Pollins, who wound up with a new little sister.

While volunteering at an orphanage in Tanzania during last fall’s College of General Studies gap semester, Tess Pollins (‘22) met three-year-old Ramla, who her Connecticut family is now adopting. Photo courtesy of Tess Pollins

Pollins had decided to spend last fall volunteering in Tanzania—“I wasn’t too excited about jumping into four years of college right away,” she says—and while teaching English and math at a local school, she also helped out at a nearby orphanage. There she met three-year-old Ramla. “I don’t really know what about her made me know,” says Pollins, “but on my second day at the orphanage, I knew she was going to be in my life forever.”

Her mother and stepfather had already planned to foster a child once Pollins left for college, “so it wasn’t a major switch to convince them to adopt.” Ramla is expected to join the family (Pollins also has two brothers and two sisters) in Connecticut sometime this summer.

The CGS gap program was “the deciding factor in why I chose to go to BU,” she says. Without it, “I would not have been able to go to Tanzania…and no other school had a program anywhere near as accommodating.”

Fashionistas will envy Guenevere Dunstan (‘22), who interned with Oscar de la Renta in New York City last fall. She assisted on photo shoots and was a greeter at the spring 2019 preview show, where she met industry icons like Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

An aspiring advertising–art director for a fashion house or publication, Dunstan at first found the prospect of a gap fall “intimidating, especially the idea that all my friends would be going off to school while I stayed at home.” But she’s a bit of a gambler—she snared the internship, she says, because two years earlier, she had cold-emailed the company’s CEO, an alum of her boarding school, for an interview for the school newspaper.

In retrospect, she wouldn’t trade her gap experience: “I am so thankful that I had this time off from school to focus on my own personal interests.”

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