Like many of her colleagues across the College, Jennifer J. Malin ’09 was very invested in the intellectual growth of her students when she served as a teaching fellow for undergraduates. But she also went above the call of duty, taking special note of the physical comfort of those under her charge. When she taught Visual and Environmental Studies 50: “Introduction to Nonfiction Filmmaking,” Malin shared a technique of standing while using heavy cameras to help students avoid pulling their muscles.
According to professors and students, this was the type of warmth and care that characterized Malin, who passed away from injuries sustained during a car crash Saturday night in West Austin, Texas.
“She just thought of things other people didn't, and always challenged and encouraged you at the same time,” wrote Rebecca C. Maddalo ’13 in an email to The Crimson. Maddalo, who was a student of Malin’s in several classes, said she was very dedicated to her teaching.
“Jenny was one of the sweetest, brightest TFs I've ever had,” Maddalo said. “She was engaging and involved in her students' work, often staying late to help give Final Cut workshops or give feedback on the latest cut of your film.”
Malin became a TF at Harvard after her graduation from the College, but she was known for her keen eye as a filmmaker even as a student. A joint concentrator in VES and Folklore and Mythology, she produced videos about topics ranging from followers of the Hare Krishna movement in Boston to African Diaspora Dance. She was actively involved in many art forms around campus as an actress, sound designer, and photographer, and her thesis—a film about mega-churches in Texas—won both the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize and the Swapna Dev Memorial Book Prize in Folklore and Mythology.
“The film was remarkable in the clarity and acceptance of the world she was filming,” wrote.
Malin’s thesis advisor, VES professor of practice Ross McElwee, in an email to The Crimson. “It was a world which was not really hers, but one which she explored with sensitivity, curiosity, humor, and respect.”
“We’ll miss her tremendously,” McElwee added. “Her radiant smile and cheerful greeting come back to me now.”
Deborah D. Foster, a senior lecturer in folklore and mythology who worked closely with Malin, said that the same approachability that made Malin a good teacher helped her create her own thoughtful work.
“She found a way of making these huge institutions close and personal,” said Foster. “She made people have empathy for mega-churches no matter what your views on them were. People trusted her and opened up to her—they told her their stories.”
Malin interned at a number of mental health hotlines after graduating from Harvard. She hoped to pursue a career in psychology.
“The entire department is devastated by her passing away,” said Foster. “She was warm, kind, and had a spirit of openness and non-judgment.”