Rini Cobbey (2012)

Associate Professor of Communication Arts

Let me return briefly to India for our second recipient as well. I remember a cab ride through the hectic streets of Mumbai, or the former Bombay, squeezing our way through streets bordered with flower stands, banyan trees, and Bollywood movie posters. Just last weekend, I took a cab ride with my family down the Mall in Washington, DC, and by the West Wing of the White House.

I’ve yet to share a cab with the recipient of this year’s Junior Distinguished Faculty Award, but I have been through the West Wing with her—well, through her astute interpretation of the Aaron Sorkin television series. I’ve also been to Bollywood with her—she has been one of my guides through Indian cinema, having done extensive research on Bollywood films for her doctorate. As a teacher of film and media for a decade at Gordon, she has helped students and colleagues analyze American popular culture and discover international filmmakers. Her scholarship includes writing or presentations on topics as diverse as Jim Carrey, U2 fans, and Iranian cinema.

That intellectual diversity is matched by a willingness to shoulder a diversity of responsibilities. Widely coveted as a committee member, she does not shy away from engaging the most complex tasks or stepping in when the College has a need. I am not sure I have known a faculty member who has carried so many institutional duties while completing a doctoral dissertation. Her service includes membership on the Core Committee, which she now chairs, leading the Department of Communication Arts, and advising Gordon’s club for Third Culture Kids. In my work with her, I have found her to ask some of the most penetrating questions and to scrutinize ideas and proposals with a sharp eye, but always with the sense that her capacity to critique is matched by her willingness to share the responsibility to define the next step forward.

When I give her the award I will throw in a little extra for cab fare—or movie tickets, or for a meal at one of the many ethnic restaurants she enjoys near her home on the North Shore, where, in her own words, she can open her windows, hear six languages, and smell the ocean—all at once. I will be living on the shores of a different ocean soon, but I sure hope that Rini Cobbey, associate professor of Communication Arts and the recipient of this year’s Junior Distinguished Faculty Award, keeps those movie tips coming my way.

Rini Cobbey