Media and Communication professor Sam Davis-Boyd enters her office in Leavenworth Hall earlier than the rest, usually by 7:30 a.m., often earlier.
Her tidy office houses a bookshelf of film texts and three of the 15 antique cameras from her collection, along with a poster of one of her favorite films, “Born in Flames.”
Sitting down at the desk with her Mac desktop and an inviting bowl of candy for her visitors, Davis-Boyd is ready to help her students.
As her day continues, Davis-Boyd can be seen walking into class with a big smile, wishing her students good morning and asking how their day is going. She brings lots of energy to class and soon she’s got her arms waiving as she explains the day’s lesson.
You may also notice some of her tattoos, sketched by her animator friend, Angela, while she pulls students deeper into her lesson. Fishing out answers from each student, she makes sure everyone contributes to her class.
The California transplant has only been at Castleton four years, but students and colleagues say she’s having a big impact.
“Our relationship has never felt like the standard professor-student relationship. She treats me like an adult and shows a lot of respect to her students,” said student Will Smith.
Azusa, California is a small town located at a base of a mountain that brought in all walks of life. Life as a kid was happy yet complicated for David-Boyd. She has fond memories of playing volleyball, swimming, and playing the clarinet.
“I did a lot of different things and was grateful for those opportunities given during that time,” she said.
Living paycheck to paycheck, her mother and father raised three daughters; Jackie the youngest, Sam the middle child, and Courtney the oldest. Davis-Boyd admits to not having the best relationship with Courtney and Jackie, saying there was a lot of bullying growing up.
She talked about having an attitude problem with her sisters and said she once created a fake bruise with makeup claiming Jackie beat her up, which led to both of them getting in trouble.
The person she was closest to in the house was her mother, whom she said took good care of her growing up. Her mother had multiple jobs working sales for an art boutique, as a Nordstrom manager and a home health care aide, but Davis-Boyd said she always found a way to take care of her family.
Her father was a trucker and was always away traveling to almost every state. Davis-Boyd said she and her father had a tough relationship. Him always being away was tough and led to the two not always seeing eye to eye, she said.
The most difficult moment was seeing her dad get arrested for a drug-related charge when she was in junior high that changed her perspective and relationship with him.
“We worked through our relationship after he was released and it took a while to forgive him,” Davis-Boyd said.
They were able to mend the relationship and have lots of good years before he passed away two years ago, which Davis-Boyd said she is forever grateful for.
Davis-Boyd always wanted to be a professor and started applying to positions during her senior year of graduate school. She applied all over and got a call back from Castleton University, in a state she’d never been to. After the interviewing process, she fell in love with the area, the people, and the community.
“Seeing how close the community is was enticing and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.
Bringing her belongings, her wife Jenny and their dogs Willow and Jasper, they made the trip to Vermont.
Davis-Boyd attributes her relatively smooth adjustment period to Jenny being there during a huge change in her life. Jenny said she and Davis-Boyd had a deep connection instantly, which she said stems from her wife’s desire to make the world a better place.
“She’s so smart, able to solve problems, and cares about other people and social problems. When she does something, she puts her whole heart into it,” Jenny said.
hen Davis-Boyd leaves campus, you might catch her listening to Tegan and Sarah on the way home, a group she’s listened to since high school. On the couch at their home in Rutland, she’ll likely be cracking open a Dr. Pepper and ordering vegan options from her favorite Chinese or Mexican restaurant.
She will likely also be looking to find another horror series to watch or you might find her caving into watching the guilty pleasure “Love is Blind” with her wife.
And she can sometimes also be found hiking up mountains, working on photography or even knitting, saying she’s always finding different activities since she can’t keep herself fixated on one.
Davis-Boyd said the connections within the media and communication department have also made the move here much easier. Professor David Blow calls her his office buddy. He mentioned how they complement each other’s teaching styles and he said Davis-Boyd gives the department a new energy.
“I’m glad that she’s here, and I know the students respect her and feed off her energy,” Blow said. “And I love having her as my office neighbor and really enjoy team teaching with her. She’s been great for the department.”
Junior Will Smith agrees that Davis-Boyd’s teaching style is well-respected by her students, and he spoke about how she is open and honest with them. Smith believes that she has put in the most effort toward his success as a college student.
“They found a diamond and they should do everything they can to hold onto it,” Smith said.
Senior Lily Doton said she appreciates her unique perspective, speaking to the importance of a diverse department. She also mentions the engagement she has within her class keeping students ready to participate.
“All of the communication professors are engaged with their students, and I think Sam continues with that,” Doton said.
Impact on the community
In addition to her teaching duties, Davis-Boyd has found a way to give back as a member of the Rutland County Pride group that is organizing a Pride festival in Rutland this summer. She is one of the leaders of the event that will feature music and venders and that is aimed to raise awareness for LGBTQ+ issues.
On campus, she has allowed students to showcase their film work by providing an end-of-the-year student film festival attended by students, faculty and community members. She also has led an International Film Festival that allows students and residents to learn about films from other countries and earn Soundings credit.
And her most recent in-class project is leading her documentary filmmaking class to capture the protests by students and faculty on the decision to digitize the library removing all books and taking away jobs. The project has given them an opportunity to see the insides of making a documentary.
Davis-Boyd first brought this up to her class to gauge the level of interest, which she received an overwhelming amount of.
“Libraries are a third home where people can find community and is the heart of a university,” Davis-Boyd said.
She’s excited to give an opportunity to a whole class to co create a project and document a transitional time from Castleton University merging into Vermont State University.
Smith and Doton, who are in the documentary filmmaking class, have been working as co-producers for the project. The opportunity has given Smith a time to be in the moment and capture everything around him.
“I’m constantly trying to find all those little things, and put it all together to see the bigger picture. It’s frustrating at times because how do you fit all those stories in one,” Smith said.
“This is the type of project that I can put on my resume and it’s going to benefit me in the long run,” Doton added.
Davis-Boyd said the project has been a catalyst for her to want to create more work, since this is the first video project she has worked on for some time.
“Being able to be a part of this project and feeling inspired to create more projects of my own has been exciting. It has ignited a flame for other personal projects,” she said.