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Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.
You know that feeling you get when you visit a place for the very first time but sense it’s going to be important for you?
That’s what filmmaker Sabrina Petroski experienced when she came to Arizona — and Arizona State University — at age 11.
“We visited the ASU Tempe campus so my older brother could tour,” said Petroski, who grew up in Farmingville, New York. “I immediately felt connected to it and it became my dream school.
“When I was doing undergrad I was afraid I wouldn't get in or wouldn't be able to afford it, so I didn't even apply,” she explained. “But when I decided to look into getting my master's degree, I thought now’s the perfect time.”
Petroski, who has just completed the Master of Liberal Studies with a concentration in film and media studies in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, earned a bachelor of arts in digital media production at the State University of New York at New Paltz — about halfway between Albany and New York City — before joining ASU.
As a freshman in college, she found she had a passion for radio production. When she transferred to SUNY New Paltz her sophomore year, Petroski looked for a program that would allow her to continue with that work and found the digital media production major.
“I fell in love with it during my first course,” she said, “and I found that I was really good at editing and writing scripts, and the passion grew from there!”
This fall, as part of her master’s applied project requirement, she’s been using her storytelling and filmmaking skills to develop a short documentary-style marketing video for the Master of Liberal Studies program.
“I’ve interviewed upwards of 15 people, have heard all of their stories about why they chose the Master of Liberal Studies and what they’re hoping to do with what they learned. It’s been an amazing experience,” she reflected, “and I’m pretty proud of the project.”
Arizona has been good to her in other ways. This fall, Petroski earned three awards at the Show Low Film Festival - White Mountains Arizona Film Festival for a documentary short she made her senior year in college.
The film, "Becoming Me," follows Milo Paz through the process of transitioning from female to male, and the emotional toll the journey has taken on them. It was honored as Most Inspirational, earned a Finalist Award for Shorts Under 10, and also won the Social Media Award, “which grants me a free submission to next year's festival and free lodging,” Petroski noted.
Her goal is to continue creating documentaries that give a voice to those who feel as though they cannot tell their stories themselves.
“I plan to continue writing and making films on my own, and I’m currently applying for production jobs in New York City and Los Angeles,” Petroski said. “Right now I'm working on my next screenplay, which will hopefully be done in time for next year's festival circuit!”
She shared some additional reflections about her ASU experience:
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
Answer: I learned that no matter how old you are or what stage of life you're in, you should always strive to continue learning. I’ve met so many people in my program who have been set in their careers for more than 20 years and decided to come back. I feel like it gave me so much hope for my future, because no matter what, there are always options to move forward and keep learning.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Megan Todd taught me that there is always a new way to explore your passions. I never in a million years thought I would want to teach, but she gave me opportunities to guest lecture and create PowerPoints for her future classes to use when examining film production and I absolutely loved doing it!
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Life is hard, things happen and education can’t always be your first priority and that's okay, but never lose your drive for learning. Take your time, choose to study things that you are passionate about, make connections with your professors and other students. It'll make the hard work feel less hard.
Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?
A: I always liked sitting on my couch while studying. I would perch myself in the corner between the two sections, prop myself up on a bunch of pillows and get to work with my cat sleeping next to me!
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would strive to fix the American prison system. I would use the money to create programs for rehabilitation and learning, as well as creative outlets. There are so many non-violent offenders who are treated so badly and they deserve a chance to grow and better themselves while serving time for whatever crime they committed.