2017 SOC Woman of the Year: Erin McGoff '17

Erin McGoff is our 2017 Woman of the Year from the School of Communications. After featuring her previously on our site for the documentary she’s making about Laos, we were thrilled to receive her nomination for this award. Erin’s unique experiences and accomplishments are an inspiration to those around her and are why we feel she is truly deserving to be named a Woman of the Year.

Her Campus American University: Can you tell us a bit about where you grew up and what brought you to AU?

Erin McGoff: I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, and went to high school in Maryland. My dad works in D.C. and I’m the youngest of six kids- I have four older brothers and an older sister. We grew up playing music, we had a recording studio, and when I went to college, I originally went to Drexel University in Philadelphia. I went there for film, because they had a really technical film program- you would get a Bachelor’s of Science and all the coursework was very technical, which was something that I was looking for in a degree. But it ended up not working out. I wasn’t meshing well, I realized I wanted to be in either New York or D.C. and not in Philly, and I felt very uninspired. I didn’t really know where else to go, so I thought “Alright, I’ll just go to Scotland”. So I went to Edinburgh University for a semester. I just thought “Why not, I’ve always wanted to study abroad, I’ll go there”. The referendum was going on, so I shot a little mini documentary about that while I was there. I was just kind of on my own, going around Europe, and it was really fun. And while I was there, I had a family friend here at American, and she encouraged me to apply. So I did, I got in, and when I got here it was a lot. I was returning from abroad, I was commuting from home, adjusting to campus, going through recruitment for my sorority…it was a lot. But now here I am, two and a half years later.

HC AU: As we saw in your nomination, you’re very involved on campus. What activities are you currently involved with?

EM: Like a typical AU student, I’m highly involved in probably too much. Right now I co-run a greek life bible study with two of my friends, one is in Sigma Kappa and one in AXD. I started out in Cru, which is a Christian bible study, and we decided why not create our own women’s bible study sponsored by Cru, where we could bring girls together and talk about the intersectionality between Christianity and our greek life. So that’s been really fun, and it’s been a blessing for sure. I’m also in my sorority, Chi Omega, which is amazing. I highly recommend greek life, it’s awesome. They’re very supportive, empowering women, and they’re all intelligent- it’s just a great experience.

I also do martial arts here on campus. I signed up for the martial arts HFIT last semester, thinking “why not”, I was always jealous of my brothers growing up who got to go to karate and all that stuff. I could have, but I just was always involved in other things. So I did it and it changed my life, so now I help teach the next class, the white belts, and I do that on the side to stay in shape and learn about self-defense. It’s very empowering. I would recommend to all women to take martial arts or self-defense because it’s very cool.

HC AU: What internship and other professional experiences have you had?

EM:  I’ve had several internships during my time at AU. I was at some production companies, I was at Discovery and Animal Planet for a little bit, and now I’m interning with two female filmmakers here in D.C. who are making an independent documentary about this high school in Maine with a high influx of immigrants and refugees. They created a program in this school where 13 girls came together for 8 weeks, and they bonded with each other and built bridges through activities such as doing hip-hop dance together, cooking with each other, and doing all of these exercises with each other, like icebreakers. I’ve been doing post-production for that, which means I’m trying to get it finished, so I’m kind of the right-hand man, and in exchange I get mentorship in the documentary I’m making about Laos. 

HC AU: You do so much! How do you balance everything?

EM: At AU there is such a high standard, and it drives me nuts. It feels like you have to be involved in 10 different things, and get a 4.0, and have like 12 internships on the hill, and it can drive you crazy. And it drove me crazy at first, so I try to just spread mindfulness and yoga and self-care into my life. I practice yoga everyday and try to meditate everyday. I use an app called HeadSpace, and it teaches you tools for how to meditate, which really helps. It teaches you how to fill up 10 minutes, so you’re not just sitting there doing nothing- you’re doing a head scan, and then assessing your senses and your general mood, and it gives you things to do.

HC AU: What is your dream job? Do you see yourself continuing to work on documentaries in the future?

EM: I’m making this documentary obviously, and that will probably take up the next year of my life. And I’m incredibly passionate about the subject, and I feel like I need to make it because if I don’t, no one else will, so I have a duty. But it’s also a great portfolio piece, so I’m using it in that sense as well, because I don’t want to settle for a mundane job. I want to have a job that I’m completely obsessed with. So I’m using the documentary to say-“Hey, look what I did.” But for the summer, I’m walking in May but I need 3 more credits for my marketing minor. So I’m interning with my brother full-time and helping him with his marketing, and then I’m a freelance editor for this production company in D.C., and I’ll be working on my documentary. So that’s what I’m doing this summer, but as for my career overall, I’d love to be a producer for a really hip TV show, like a mini-series or Anthony Bourdain type stuff. I’d like to do more on the TV side, like Netflix, HBO- I’m not so much a Hollywood movie type of person, but who knows.

HC AU: What makes you feel powerful?

EM: I think you have to feel powerful from the inside out, and you need to find things that make you feel powerful and reinforce them. So for example, I do yoga and martial arts, and those are two things that I’ve found that make me feel very powerful. I think physical exercise is something that makes me feel very powerful. And I think surrounding yourself with powerful people- people who feel very empowered can empower you. There are so many great women here at AU who can make you feel like you can do anything. And there’s so many different organizations, such as Her Campus or sororities, where you can just surround yourself with women who are out there killing it. And that just helps make me feel more empowered. I grew up in a family with a lot of guys, and they just never doubted me. So I guess it’s about feeling in control and feeling like you can do anything, and being true to yourself. I don’t like to lie to myself. I try to be as honest with myself as possible, and I’m a dreamer. When I think I want to do something, I’m very determined to do it, and I try not to let people knock me down too much.

HC AU: Who are your female role models?

EM: Who comes to mind first are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, because when I was young they were women I was able to cling to. I grew up watching 30 Rock and SNL, and even Mean Girls, and these women were funny, and not always lady-like, and they were writing really funny, creative sketches, and they were talking about politics but also were light-hearted. There’s also of course my sister and my mom, family members are obviously really powerful role models. And then there’s just so many women here on campus. All the women at AU, I just look at them and think, “Nothing is holding me back”. These women are shooting for the stars, and that’s super inspiring.

HC AU: What advice do you have for younger girls who are interested in going into the film and media industry?

EM: That’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, because being a female in the film industry is really weird. It’s an industry that is not saturated by women at all, and I didn’t really realize that until I actually started making my own films. I realized how many women’s organizations there are out there that help women make movies, because not a lot of women make movies. And we have those in place now, so definitely utilize those resources and take advantage of them, because those are there now but they weren’t there before for those women who made them. I would say never be discouraged. In film-making there are two types of sexism: there’s a guy calling you “babe” or “sweetie” on set, which will happen- brush it off, it’s not a big deal and this guy is probably just insecure that you’re better than him. And the second is sexism where a person will be like “She’s probably not a good editor. Women aren’t editors, women don’t do technical things.” I always wanted to be a score composer, which is a very technical job in the film industry- less than 1% are women. And I didn’t realize this growing up, but I ended up moving more toward a producer role because that was something I saw had more women and thought “Oh, that’s something that I can relate to and become”. But I would say go for it, be that score composer, be that cinematographer, go for those technical roles and don’t be scared. Because the film industry is cutthroat and they will be so rude to you, but just let your work speak louder.

 

All photos taken by Anthony Brunner.