Mary Lou Chlipala

Mary Lou Chlipala
Assistant to the Chair, Department of Screen Arts & Cultures

Author: James Burnstein, Screen Arts & Cultures
Photographer: Joel Rakowski, Screen Arts & Cultures

“I do not think anyone in the department would debate that Mary Lou was the heart of our SAC family.” — Bhanu Chundu, Class of 2011

Mary Lou Chlipala is the first person students interested in SAC meet when they come to visit the campus. Invariably, these prospective students walk away like Joey Bergren from Wisconsin: “The second I left her office, my family and I knew that Michigan is where I was meant to attend.”

Mary Lou’s office door is always open to help students navigate SAC’s unique curriculum that balances studies and production courses. Whatever questions students might have regarding the major, honors, the sub-concentration in screenwriting, the Film and Video Student Association, applying for grants for their production projects, landing summer internships, or even as senior Barbara Twist says, “life advice”, they all know that Mary Lou is the person to see.

Mary Lou’s dedication to SAC students does not end when they graduate. They know they can count on her to point them in the direction of a job opportunity or simply give them encouragement as they pursue their dreams.

Mary Lou’s commitment is no less to SAC’s faculty and staff. Since she arrived as Program Coordinator in 1998, it’s been Mary Lou’s job to post job openings, schedule the travel and itinerary for all candidate visits, and set up their job talks. Now that Mary Lou serves as Assistant to the Chair, she also handles all tenure casebooks and promotion casebooks for the faculty. It’s no wonder that Mary Lou’s colleagues find their way to her office seeking assistance and support as frequently as SAC students.

Mary Lou has a special talent for bringing SAC’s special projects and events to life. From the semester-ending student showcase, the Lightworks Festival (which she alone always volunteers to judge), to the 2006 Domitor Conference, a silent film conference featuring film scholars and graduate students from around the world, Mary Lou can be counted on to handle every detail large and small. In addition, Mary Lou has coordinated the James Gindin Visting Artist Series since its inception in 1998. Among the many screenwriters and writer-directors Mary Lou has brought to campus for lectures, screenings and master classes, are: Alexander Payne, Spike Lee, Lawrence Kasdan, Nora Ephron, Paul Schrader, John Patrick Shanley and John Sayles. The highlights for all these events can be found in the department’s newsletter that Mary Lou also edits.

Mary Lou is the only person in SAC who can say she is the mother of a rocket scientist! Her son, Justin Edmondson, is a U-M Ph.D in Applied Physics who currently works as a research fellow in the U-M Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Science. Justin will be married this summer to Laura Shpiro, a graduate of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. Mary Lou looks forward to the day when she will be posting the pictures of her grandchildren on her office wall along with the baby pictures of her extended family — the staff, faculty and alumni of SAC.

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