SRPD Enables Master’s Student To Produce Documentary

© Western New Mexico University

Katherine Nelson, who teaches English at Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso, is a WNMU alumna who graduated with Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies English and Writing. She became interested in the Gila River while researching a paper on it for her environmental writing course, and she was inspired by the way the local community came together to protect it. “I was overwhelmed by how many young people got involved,” she said.

As an eastern New Mexican, she was less aware of the river and its complicated history and disputed future than residents of the western side of the state. So she concluded that she needed to make a film that could provide information about the Gila River and the proposed diversion project. She proceeded to take screenwriting courses and jumped into the realm of film-making. And, in order to carry out the project, the obtained a summer research grant from the WNMU Student Research and Professional Development fund.

Without any previous experience, she wrote the screenplay for her movie herself and took full control of the creative direction of her film. With the help of a non-profit film office named “Carrizozo Works” and the WNMU grant and technology available to her through the university, she was able to make her project come to life.

After filming on the river and conducting interviews, Katherine is working with the footage in post-production and hopes to complete the film and eventually hold a screening at WNMU. “We got some beautiful footage,” she said.

Katherine testified to how much she loved her time at WNMU and all the connections she’s made. “The head of the English department, Dr. Kate Oubre, has been amazing. And I’m so grateful to John Gist, the professor who’s guided me in my writing and served as a mentor. It has just been a fabulous experience!”

She was asked to teach a film course at her campus in Ruidoso. “It’s going to be such a wonderful step in the direction I seem to be going in my career,” Katherine said.

This is a WNMU Mustang Scholar profile. If you are interested in pursuing research at WNMU, contact Joe Doyle at 575-538-6658 or

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