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Monday, Oct 2, 2023 | Latest Print Edition

Auburn University to be featured in national documentary

<p>Auburn’s Honor College will be featured in the PBS documentary Viewpoint with Dennis Quaid.</p>

Auburn’s Honor College will be featured in the PBS documentary Viewpoint with Dennis Quaid.

Last November, Tiffany Sippial, director of the Honors College, was contacted by Cortney Moore, executive assistant to Lori Singer, the senior producer of the show Viewpoint. 

Moore told Sippial that the team at Viewpoint was working on a documentary series for Public Television, CNN and Discovery Channel about “leaders in the future of higher education and the role of the Honors College,” and Viewpoint thought the Auburn University Honors College could be a great fit. 

Soon, Singer set up an interview with Sippial to discuss details. At the same time, Singer was interviewing other deans and officials to see who the best fit for the documentary would be. 

“The interview provided a wonderful chance for me to discuss the past, present and future of our program and to speak to the key values that ground our work,” Sippial said. “I was so thrilled when, following deliberations by the production team, we were selected as the feature Honors College for this program.

“This program provides a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate the amazing work of our students, faculty and staff. It also allows us to showcase what educational excellence means at Auburn University and in the state of Alabama.”

Directly following her call with Moore, Sippial phoned Wade Berry, Honors College communications specialist. Berry, who graduated from Auburn with a degree in public relations, attended future meetings with the filmmaking crew alongside Sippial after the selection had been made. 

Berry could not help but ask how Viewpoint had found Auburn’s Honors College.

“They talked a lot about … our social media —that we were getting headlines about things that we were doing,” Berry said. He said another reason they were selected was their “attitude towards how an Honors College should run, and what our students are doing coming out of it.”

Berry was in charge of introducing the Honors College to Viewpoint — through brochures, rack cards and other promotional materials — before scripting and filming began. Scripts were written up by Honors College members and spliced into tangible segments for the show by the staff at Viewpoint. 

COVID made the waiting period to film intense and stressful for the Honors College. Berry said at one point, due to COVID restrictions, they were unsure if Viewpoint would even be able to come anymore, but by the spring, restrictions had lifted and Viewpoint came to campus. 

When filming began in early March, Berry pulled together some of Auburn’s most prized locations to be the backdrop for the segment, primarily the classrooms in Mell and portions of Samford Hall. Berry admitted that the filming crew missed campus’ blooming plants by just a week, but the crew was still able to capture Auburn’s winter landscape. 

In addition to B-roll, interview segments were filmed including the voices of Sippial, Ada Ruth Huntley, a student in the Honors College, and Sherman Pitts. Berry said that Pitts is not only a long-time donor, but also the parent of two Honors College graduates. 

“So, not only is he a donor, but he’s a parent,” Berry said. “And that’s the most important part … And he was kind of able to just show that parent perspective — the great things that your child can go through within the Honors College.”

Berry said he and others are waiting with bated breath to see what the Auburn University Honors College segment looks like in the documentary. 

This piece will be updated with more information about the airtime of the show when it is released.

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