Class Provides Opportunity for Father, Daughter to Share Love of Movies

Theatre professor Dan Hays’ favorite movie is Amadeus.

His daughter, Nebraska Wesleyan University senior Caitlin Hays says her favorite movie is The Godfather.

They also like Crash, Driving Miss Daisy, and Platoon. Their list of favorites is actually too long to list.

So when Dan Hays decided to develop a first-year Liberal Arts Seminar titled, “Academy Award-Winning Movies and Their Reflection of American Culture,” he knew exactly who he wanted as his student assistant.

It wasn’t because she’s his daughter, although Dan admits he enjoys the opportunity to see his college senior much more regularly than most parents of college students.

“Quite honestly, she was the one I wanted because she loves movies,” said Dan.

And she has a great repertoire with other college students. On a recent Friday morning, Caitlin was helping LAS students develop research paper topics on social issues and how they are portrayed in Academy Award-winning movies.

“I’ve got your back,” Caitlin said to one frustrated first-year student who couldn’t put her finger on just one social issue to research. “We’ll figure this out.”

The father and daughter’s love of movies has a long history. Caitlin grew up in a household whose passion was theatre. In fact her dad taught her high school theatre classes. When he began teaching at NWU, she followed.

“About three years ago we put together a list of movies,” said Caitlin. “During the summer when I came home each week we would switch off picking a movie to watch. It was great bonding time and a great chance to spend time together doing something we both enjoy.”

Many of the movies on their list were added to their LAS curriculum.

At the start of the semester, both Dan and Caitlin made it clear to their students, that their relationship would not affect class.

“The students feel comfortable speaking up and stating their opinions,” said Dan. “They’ve made it an enjoyable place to have discussions.”

Although they see each other frequently on campus because of their involvement in the theater department — Dan is a theatre professor and Caitlin is a theatre major — the class has allowed this father-daughter duo more time together during the week. They have a scheduled lunch date every Monday.

“This way we always have a set date to sit down and discuss lesson plans and such,” said Caitlin.

Neither have encountered any difficulties teaching with each other, but they foresee some challenges in the coming months.

“I think the challenge will come when we’re both involved in theater productions and we have a lot of papers to read,” said Dan.

Together they hope their passion for movies can inspire their students.

“I hope the class will be as rewarding to the students as it has been for us,” said Dan. “I trust that the films they are watching in class and the discussions they have will help expand what the students want to watch in their free time.”

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NWU senior Caitlin Hays and her father, Dan, help a first-year student decide on a research topic.
Caitlin and Dan Hays (daughter & father) are sharing their love of movies through a Liberal Arts Seminar.
"Quite honestly she was the one I wanted to teach because she loves movies," said Dan Hays.