Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Alumna explores film acting, philosophy and ethics in pursuit of law career

Amy Bernard, '08, took full advantage of the liberal arts undergraduate education she received at Whitworth. As a double major in philosophy and theatre, she explored a wide range of opportunities during her time in school – opportunities that have helped her pursue successful career paths after graduation.

Last November, Bernard completed her first main-character film role in Coffka, a Seattle-based independent film.

"I loved working on Coffka," says Bernard, who is originally from Kirkland, Wash. "I thoroughly enjoyed my character, and was thrilled to be involved in the Seattle independent film world. Because the film employed a lot of new techniques, including the use of an environmentally friendly lighting system, I felt like I was a part of a new art format. It was pretty exciting to be part of this project. "

After she’d spent a year in the acting profession, however, Bernard began to miss school, particularly philosophy. She applied to several philosophy programs, and chose a graduate-level program at Australia's University of Melbourne. Though she compares missing theatre to the way a body misses a limb, she hopes ultimately to integrate her love for acting and philosophy into a career -- as an attorney.

"I think that law school is the perfect blend between applied philosophy and theatrical performance," Bernard says. "While a lawyer's job is to convince, it is also to apply evidence properly, in concrete arguments. I chose my degrees expressly for that purpose. Because I plan on going into international law, an M.A. in international justice ethics will be the next step in my career pursuits."

Bernard has been accepted to Seattle University's law school, which she will attend this fall after graduating from the University of Melbourne in August.

During her years at Whitworth, Bernard was a member of Acting on AIDS, a troupe that performed at events such as a fundraiser for Amnesty International and Relay for Life. She also was involved in the Stigma Project, which was designed to spread awareness of the damage that misapplying the gospel to HIV and AIDS can inflict on a society; this program was aimed especially at American students who are unaware of the stigma attached to the diseases in many parts of the world. Bernard considers her involvement in the improvisational troupe Cool Whip to be her greatest collegiate acting achievement and the best part of her time at Whitworth.

During her student days, Bernard also wrote policy papers to help end the genocide in Darfur, an issue with which she is still very involved. In fact, Darfur is the case study of her thesis, Just War Theory and Its Demands.

"The thesis' aim is to apply the principles of Just War Theory – a classical moral theory designed by St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas – to genocide intervention, in the hopes that this will prevent further acts of genocide from taking place," Bernard says. "While the violence in Darfur is currently no longer considered tantamount to genocide, intervention should have taken place in 2003, when the violence and political intent increased to the level of genocide."

Bernard credits four professors as being most influential during her years at Whitworth.

"Forrest Baird taught me how to love study for study's sake, and he had enough faith in me to encourage me to do many things I would otherwise not have done," she says. "Keith Wyma taught me that success lies in having a Christlike attitude and love for others. He also taught me virtually every foundational thing I know about ethics, which has been incredibly helpful given my current study."

Bernard continues, "Diana Trotter taught me that discrimination is everpresent in a fallen world, but through a stern resolve, faith, and a love of the arts, human beings can find common ground. And Jerry Sittser taught me how to think critically, how to write well, how to ask a question with a specific and concise point, how not to take academic criticism personally, how to get through grad school via hobbies, how to live a life in obedience to God, how to read scripture meaningfully, how to appreciate meta-narrative, and what it means to accept the grace that Christ offers to us through his suffering, death, and resurrection."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.