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Imani M. Cheers

Q&A from September 30, 2020

Tell us about what you do.
I’m the Interim Senior Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education at George Washington University. I’m also an associate professor of digital storytelling, where I teach documentary filmmaking, video production, social media engagement, and international reporting. I’m also the director of academic adventures for Planet Forward, an innovative environmental storytelling initiative. I’m ALSO a social and political commentator for a variety of international news outlets.

What does your typical day look like?
My typical day during the semester consists of teaching 2 classes a day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On other days, especially now during the pandemic, I’m putting out fires ALL DAY LONG. I usually spend close to 6-8 hours in meetings, planning for the spring semester and beyond. Before the pandemic, my days were fairly routine. I have a 6-year-old son—he is my top priority. After getting him off to school, on non-teaching days I work on projects, usually in some form of production at all times. Booking and planning international trips, doing research, and preparing my next article or book.

What do you love most about what you do?
I love telling stories and helping to amplify the stories of women from underrepresented communities. I spend a lot of time in sub-Saharan Africa discussing issues of land, water rights, impacts of climate change on women and their families. I hope and pray that the stories I’m privileged to tell make an impact on the world.

What did you learn as an art student that you’d be lost without today?
I learned the value of patience. When you’re up at 2 am developing film in the darkroom, you have to be patient and prepared. Some of the best memories of undergrad were conversations in the darkroom!

Must-have desk snack?
Fruit! I always keep fresh fruit around. Almonds and cashews are also close by.

What do you do when you’re not on the clock?
Travel! But right now, I’m reading a lot.

What’s the biggest project you ever carried back from Bixby to the dorms?
We were still at the Lewis Center off the Loop in my day, but the biggest were boxes of frames. We had to buy our own frames and then AFTER printing our images we had to cut mattes and build our frames. So heavy!!

Favorite WashU memory that you can share with the general public?
I created a WashU TV show with some classmates, “B-Side,” in 2000. The show ran for 8 years—6 years after I graduated.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
Spending time with my family! Both of my parents are from STL, so when I return it’s always great to see my grandparents and spend time with cousins, aunts, and uncles.

What advice would you give to our students?
Be brave and bold when you encounter injustice. Stand up for what you believe in, and don’t be afraid to be comfortable with getting uncomfortable!

Tell us something we should know about you that we forgot to ask.
My favorite WashU faculty members/administrators were Leslie Brown and Jim McLeod. I learned so much from them, and I’m a better person today because of what they taught me.