Joy of Giving Something Fellowship goes to Jonathan Nguyen ’25

The Joy of Giving Something (JGS) Fellowship is a nationwide fellowship program designed for undergraduate students to promote digital media as a means of community engagement and career pathways.

Cecilia Samadani ’26 28 November 2023 Posted In:
Headshot of Jonathan Nguyen

The Joy of Giving Something (JGS) Fellowship is a nationwide fellowship program run by Imagining America (IA), designed for undergraduate students to promote the arts—specifically digital media—as a means of community engagement and career pathways. As one of this year’s JGS Fellows, Jonathan Nguyen ’25 is focusing on videography.

Nguyen had his first experience with videography in a middle school film class, which he greatly enjoyed; however, he ended up concentrating more on pre-health courses in high school, so it wasn’t until he took a production class in Carleton’s cinema and media studies (CAMS) department that he was able to reconnect with his passion for creating media. Now, as a biology and CAMS double major on the pre-health track, Nguyen is used to balancing the analytical and the creative.

CAMS department chair Laska Jimsen’s Narrative course focused Nguyen’s general passion for videography into a specific interest in documentary film as a medium for sharing the stories of real people. Jimsen was the one who sent an email about applying for the JGS Fellowship last spring and encouraged Nguyen to apply. When Nguyen first had time to look into the application, the deadline had initially passed, but it was extended.

“‘Maybe that’s a sign,’” Nguyen recalled thinking. “So I applied over the summer, and now I’m a JGS Fellow.”

In October, Nguyen joined the rest of the 2023–24 JGS Fellows for the annual IA conference, where he learned about different ways to engage with the community and promote activism.

Seven students pose and smile for the camera.
The 2023–24 JGS Fellows

“It wasn’t a typical conference,” he said. “It was an opportunity to show underrepresented students how the arts can be used for community engagement as well as opportunities for a career.”

“For me, I think the main takeaway from the gathering was just learning new perspectives,” Nguyen added. “One of the big things I got perspective on was the behind-the-scenes work that professors do. Being able to talk with faculty from across the nation and hear about their experiences was intriguing to me, especially as a student.”

For Nguyen, the main highlight of the JGS Fellowship itself is being able to create a community project.

“They gave us funding to create that project and pretty much full freedom over it,” he said. “The only real direction is creating something the community needs.”

Nguyen’s own project is a work in progress, but he is planning to work alongside the Community Action Center (CAC) in Northfield.

“It kind of amazes me how many other people across the nation see videography as a medium for community engagement,” Nguyen said. “It’s nice. I didn’t really realize that before, so when I got [to the IA conference] I thought it was really cool.”

Nguyen’s main career interests lie within medicine, specifically ophthalmology, but he says he would love to incorporate his CAMS studies into that work.

“For me, videography is a means to share stories that may otherwise go unheard,” he said.

Nguyen is especially interested in promoting underrepresented voices in medicine in addition to figuring out what the potential applications of videography could be in public health.

“Medicine is a diversifying field,” said Nguyen. “There’s always growth and expansion, of course, but whether videography fits within that, I’m not totally sure. But I do know I’m not totally limited [in my career].”

Nguyen had an internship in public health last summer, and it wasn’t until the end of the program that he told his supervisor that he was interested in videography.

“She was like, ‘What the heck?’ Apparently, there are a lot of ways to engage with videography in the nonprofit I was working at,” he said.

While unsure whether his CAMS major will actually end up intersecting with his medical career in the future, Nguyen concluded, “I don’t have to shy away from or hide that passion of mine. I’ll use it in whatever space I’m in and in whatever capacity I can.”