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Kayla Williams (left) and Quinn Kirkpatrick produced a
documentary about the stories, history and people of the state of
Delaware for their senior research project in the Department of
Two University of Delaware communication
majors are learning about the state while sharing its stories through a
student research project turned documentary series called, Discovering
From capturing some of Delaware’s finest landmarks to its unique
cuisine and culture — and even a recent a historic moment for Delaware —
UD students Kayla Williams and Quinn Kirkpatrick have been hard at work
completing their undergraduate research requirement, a documentary
focused on the stories, the history and the people that make up the
Not only did the experience allow the two seniors to learn the ins
and outs of video production, but it also inspired them to continue
sharing the footage they collected to expand the project into an online
docuseries. On top of that, they even had the chance to network with UD
alumni and the press.
Williams and Kirkpatrick first proposed the idea of producing a
documentary focused on Delaware instead of the traditional final paper
for the department’s undergraduate research requirement — in the course
catalog it is called COMM 468: Undergraduate Research in Communication —
to their media production professor, Lydia Timmins. The students
credited Timmins with a shared interest in video production that
ultimately led to the project idea.
While the pitch was considered unconventional, it wasn’t unheard of.
“Although not a traditional project complete with a final paper,
Kayla and Quinn’s proposed final product, a video documentary, makes
their research on Delaware accessible and easy to share,” said Timmins,
an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and the
project’s faculty sponsor. “Ultimately, producing a documentary requires
research, interviewing subjects and statistical analysis — all of the
pieces you would expect for university-level research.”
After receiving approval from Department of Communication Chair Kami
Silk, the two worked with Timmins to prepare a storyboard and plan out
the project. With over two decades of experience working as a TV news
producer, Timmins was able to provide insight into production timelines
and capabilities that proved invaluable to the project. She also
connected them with UD alumna Bonnie Keller, a long-time broadcasting
and communications professional with specialties in scriptwriting and
voiceover work, who was able to offer the students advice, resources and
even some professional press contacts.
While Kirkpatrick and Williams originally planned for their final
project to focus on a variety of Delaware-centric topics, including
deep-dives into the cuisine, residents and landmarks of all three of its
counties, resource and time constraints led them to limit the focus of
their for-credit project.
“Even as we went along with filming, we ourselves as Delaware natives
were realizing that there’s a lot about the state we didn’t know,” said
Kirkpatrick, a native of Wilmington. “We also realized a lot of other
people didn’t know about the Underground Railroad in Delaware — and
specifically New Castle County, so we decided to focus on that.”
“The Underground Railroad in Delaware
focuses on famous Delaware abolitionists and features historic
documents, maps and locations,” said Williams. “It also touches on the
different ideologies that existed during that time across Delaware’s
With footage capturing views across the state and interviews with
long-time residents and historians, the student filmmakers have decided
to continue the project as a docuseries with more installments to come.
They even published a second video on their YouTube channel after receiving press clearance to attend the victory speech of then President-elect Joe Biden.
“We shared Joe Biden’s Victory: A Delaware Perspective
to capture the energy of that day through the lens of a local,” said
Williams. “It was an amazing opportunity to get footage of this big
moment, interview people who were there and network with the press at
the same time.”
Kirkpatrick and Williams both look forward to pursuing careers in media production.
“It was UD’s media production courses with Dr. Timmins that sparked
our interest and showed us we had the ability to be filmmakers. That and
just having someone believe in us,” said Kirkpatrick. “At the end of
the day, I guess it was UD that showed us just what we could do, which
is exactly what we came here to find out.”
Williams added that it was Timmins who also connected them with NBC10
Philadephia’s Tim Furlong. “He even shared drone footage with us for
our documentary,” she said.
Timmins encourages both current and prospective students of all
academic backgrounds to consider getting involved in the university’s
media production courses offered through the UD Department of
“It’s a small program, but it’s an effective program. While we don’t
have a college of media here at the University of Delaware, what we do
have are small classes with faculty who will help a student hoping to
pursue more work in this space,” said Timmins.
As for advice for any future Blue Hen student filmmakers?
“I think what was holding us back is that we didn’t realize that we
could just do it. We could use our phones, go out, and make a video,”
said Williams. “We just showed up. It was us, our cameras and the
The Department of Communication,
which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, adopts a social and
behavioral science approach to the study of human communication. All
majors study communication in a wide variety of contexts (technology,
face-to-face, etc.), and can concentrate in the areas of interpersonal,
media and public relations. Faculty are committed to collaborative and
interdisciplinary research that pushes the boundaries of the
communication field, turning theory into effective skills for speaking,
critical thinking, writing, campaigns and media production so that
academic knowledge and experience extend beyond the classroom into
future opportunities for our students.
Article by Chris Kelley; photos courtesy of Kayla Williams and Quinn Kirkpatrick
Published March 22, 2021
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