Student Production "Women Who Dare"


West Windsor, N.J. - Tyann Sells, a Digital Film student at Mercer County Community College from Cranbury, N.J., has created a documentary featuring eight New Jersey women who have successfully made their mark in challenging careers. "Women Who Dare" will premiere during Women's History Month in March on MCCC's cable network (Comcast and Cablevision Channel 26 and FiOS Channel 20).

Part one of the documentary airs Friday, Mar. 19 at 5 p.m. and is repeated Mar. 26; part two airs Saturday, March 20 at 5 p.m. and is repeated March 27. Each show runs 20 minutes.

According to Sells, who began her studies at Mercer in fall 2008, her goal to be a screenwriter took on a new dimension when she stood behind the camera in her first television class and realized the value of filming what is written. "The word on the page is transformed," she explains.

Beginning work on the "Women Who Dare" project last August, Sells took on the roles of writer, director, editor and videographer. While she lost count of the number of hours she spent on the video, she credits MCCC Teaching Assistant Valarie Daniels and Multimedia Project Manager Jennifer Joyce with invaluable support. "They were extremely helpful. They went with me on every shoot."

"Women Who Dare" creator Tyann Sells, center, with MCCC staff members Jennifer Joyce, left, and Valarie Daniels.
Sells in the MCCC studio

The eight featured "Women Who Dare" include fungal geneticist Dr. Joan Bennett, associate vice president at Rutgers University who leads the Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences; Elizabeth Bondurant, former Plainsboro police chief and current MCCC Criminal Justice faculty member; MCCC Associate Director of Athletics Elisa Camillone, an athletic trainer who was the first female president of the Athletic Trainers Society of New Jersey; award-winning journalist Kathy Barrett Carter, the first woman and first African-American to cover the New Jersey Supreme Court for the Star Ledger; Virginia Cavella, coordinator of the Mercer County Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy, which serves and promotes the rights of crime victims; Terri Petry, publisher of The Mercer County Woman newspaper, and founder of Women Interested in Networking (W.I.N.); Rose San Pedro, an architectural designer and project manager at LWDMR & Associates, PC; and jazz vocalist Doris Spears, a host for WWFM's Jazz on 2 who has toured the world with some of the most noted names in jazz and blues.

Sells explains that as she conducted her interviews, she heard similar themes emerging that gradually became the focus of the video: the importance of education; balancing family and career; planning and long-term goals; time management; the value of networking, and setting boundaries. "All of these women had unique stories and challenges, but some common themes, especially breaking down stereotypes and balancing work and family, were central," Sells observes.

"I saw a need for this discussion. I believe it represents something important," she maintains. Sells said architect Rose San Pedro made a particularly strong impression when she described how she learned to be assertive, but not be perceived as offensive. "There are still different standards for men and women," Sells discovered.

Sells may have also been attracted to the project because she herself is one of only a handful of female TV majors currently studying at MCCC. "It can be challenge to not have many female peers," she notes.

Sells has clearly taken the message of these inspirational women to heart - especially about education and setting long-term goals. Home schooled until 11th grade, she is a graduate of SciCore Academy and is an NJStars student at Mercer. She plans to transfer to Montclair State University in part because of its close proximity to New York City. "That's where I want to be," Sells says. In addition to learning volumes about filmmaking and enhancing her people skills through the project, she hopes it will be a worthwhile addition to her portfolio.

She praises the faculty, curriculum and facilities at Mercer. "The program is so hands-on. The professors take a personal interest in students' progress. They are open to questions and they take the time to help. If I ever teach, I will model my teaching after them," Sells says.

Even as she looks ahead, Sells knows she will not forget her roots at Mercer. "I'm going to miss Mercer, the relationships I've formed and the great atmosphere for learning. I am heading for a bigger pool. MCCC laid a good foundation."

Observes instructor Valarie Daniels, "Tyann has an unusual amount of drive and follow-through. She learned a lot about every aspect that goes into working on a large project like this." Daniels said it was an honor to watch Sells herself develop into a "Woman Who Dares" during the project.

In addition to initial airings in March, "Women Who Dare" will be rebroadcast during openings in the MCTV schedule as time allows. Student programming runs from daily 8 p.m. to midnight.

A trailer for "Women Who Dare" is available on Facebook here.

More about the MCCC Television Program is available on the program website here.

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