An Interview with Michael Ayala, Honored Graduate of UT AMS’ Undergraduate Program

This Spring, two graduating seniors majoring in American Studies were named to the Dean’s Distinguished Graduates Honorable Mention list: Michael Ayala and Natalie Fisher. Today, we bring you an interview with Mr. Ayala, an aspiring screenwriter, regarding his time at UT’s American Studies’ program, his favorite courses and projects, and his future plans. Enjoy!

MichaelAyala

Michael Ayala

When you came to UT, what did you think you would major in? 
When I came to UT, I really did not know what I wanted to major in. I was lost until my interest in both film and history led me to both American Studies and Radio-Television-Film.
What was the first American Studies course you took at UT?  Why did you decide to take the course, and what do you remember about it?
The first American Studies course I took was Introduction to American Studies with the incredible Dr. Steven Hoelscher. I took it as a requirement but looking back I feel like that class really provided me with a foundation to what I would want to do in the future. I remember engaging discussions and interesting topics that kept me involved throughout the course.
Why did you decide to major in American Studies?
My passion for film and my passion for LGBTQ+ studies really drove me to look into American Studies as a major. I found that I could use a lot of what American Studies had taught me in my own creations and further my passion for LGBTQ+ activism.
What have been some of your favorite courses in the American Studies department and why?
American Disasters taught by Cary Cordova and Rebels and Rejects: Rethinking the 1950s taught by Lauren Gutterman have been some of my favorite courses I’ve taken at UT because of their ability to push me to look deeper into topics that I have yet to discover.
What are some of the most important questions you’ve considered during your time in American Studies?
Some of the most important questions I have encountered in American studies are “Are stereotypes constructive?” and “How can we use the past to improve the present?”
How do you think American Studies might influence your career after you graduate? How has your time in American Studies influenced your career goals?
As an aspiring Screenwriter, American Studies has shown me that it is important to think about the entire picture when I am writing, showcasing different narratives that don’t often get their own light.
What advice do you have for other students considering majoring in American Studies? 
One piece of advice that I would give American Studies majors is to keep at it. Many times the instructors will ask “Why?” and “Why is this important?” causing you to doubt yourself. However, this is not something to give up on because it is a chance for you look deep inside yourself and question the things you have previously learned. To take a second look at something before making a conclusion. Instead of giving up, American Studies majors should find their weakness in those questions and develop a more informed opinion on the world.

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