Instructor By Day, Investigator By Night
Photo: Ryan Lowry
When she's not asking students about mise-en-scene, plot points or the Kuleshov effect, CA+S adjunct faculty member Francine J. Sanders is posing tough questions to interview subjects.
she began her teaching career at Columbia College, Sanders worked as
an investigator for the Chicago Police Department's now-defunct
Office of Professional Standards. As a civilian investigator of
police brutality and other misconduct complaints, Sanders spent her
days interviewing people, and trying to figure out what was really
going on. When she started teaching at Columbia, she discovered
a lot of connections between investigative work and teaching.
work, like teaching, often involves listening to people and trying to
understand the real story. It involves looking for small clues and
details that help you figure out what people really mean by what
they’re saying, and what’s really going on,” says Sanders.
investigative project was to research and write a story based on
interviews with a group of ex-cops, a project that was done with the
support of a grant from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. The
article, The Questions I Never Asked, is featured as the cover
story in this week’s (9/19/13) issue of the Chicago
It was the result of almost two years of research and interviewing.
on a piece like this takes patience,” she said, “something I
always wish I had in greater supply. But what always gets me through
is believing in the work.” Adding that she tries to instill that
kind of passion and commitment when she teaches, “trying to get
students to believe in themselves and to fully commit to whatever
they set out to do.”
said that one of the highlights of the Questions project was
having the opportunity to collaborate with really talented people,
including the paper's editor and creative director. A bonus
collaboration was that she ended up working with a CCC
alum, Ryan Lowry (BA ’11), who was the photographer hired by the Reader
for her shoot.
doesn’t see her investigative work (she still has a hand in doing
it and not just writing about it) as a strange match with her career
as a storyteller, writer and instructor. In fact, she said, the
two parts of her life constantly intertwine and reinforce each
other. “That’s another thing that I like to encourage in
students—using their own lives to inform and inspire their creative