Jenny Sawyer '02 wants to hook teenagers on books, and her 60second Recap videos—posted at 60secondrecap.com —set out get them reading, and loving, books. “The fact that I now have a job that allows me to convey this feeling of joy I have toward literature is a huge blessing," says the one-time English major. It all began at Bryn Mawr when her professors challenged her to challenge them.
What Can You Do with an English Major? Jenny hosts 60Second Recap, an online educational video series that provides summaries and analysis of classic literature. She describes them as “tour guides to the classics” that are designed to engage students with books—from Animal Farm to Wuthering Heights.
The Big Idea: An English major, Jenny was always crazy about books and after graduating was able to parlay that love of literature into a gig as a book reviewer. At a party one evening, she fell into conversation with a filmmaker friend who was interested in moving to mobile devices. “Could you do great works of literature in 60 seconds? he wondered. “It struck us as a very exciting—and very subversive—idea: using video, the language of today, to explore literature.
In the Real World: When the idea for 60Second Recap came up, Jenny heard from a lot of naysayers. Her Bryn Mawr training gave her confidence in her ideas. “I had a vision that this could be done, and coming from Bryn Mawr, I wasn’t dissuaded. And once it launched,” she adds, “a lot of people slapped themselves on the head and asked, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’”
Think Boldly: Jenny credits Bryn Mawr with teaching her how to think boldly. “So much of high school is about regurgitating knowledge, but at Bryn Mawr, the one-on-one relationships I had with professors gave me the opportunity to be wild and crazy with my ideas,” she explains.
The Ah-Ha Moment: In her freshman year, a professor took her aside and said, "You're a competent writer, but your papers just aren't that creative. In class, you speak very creatively. Do that in your written work." As Jenny puts it, “He told me, essentially, that I needed to bust out.” And that’s just what she did. Her next paper? A comparison of Tennyson’s "The Lady of Shallot" and Anne of Green Gables. The professor went wild over it.