This is the first in a series profiling the presidents of Northwestern’s residential colleges.

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Communications Residential College president Caroline Bates. Photo courtesy of Caroline Bates.

Communication freshman Caroline Bates didn’t miss a play from sixth grade to twelfth grade. Everyone around her thought she was a theatre kid through and through. So according to Bates, it came as a shock to her friends when she announced she was going to Northwestern University to study RTVF. Still, Bates knew film was her calling. “I always loved films,” she said. “There's such a magic about the cinema that you don’t get with theatre.”

When she was younger, Bates loved to watch movies but never thought she could make one herself. What changed it all was when she saw Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.

“It was led by a female crew and it felt so theatrical,” said Bates. “I watched it and I felt like, ‘Oh my god, so much of this is my life.’ I never before thought I could write a movie about my life.”

That moment of epiphany, made Gerwig one of Bates’ personal heroes, and Bates will soon be entering into her second year as a film student.

It’s no wonder Bates loves living in the Communications Residential College (CRC), which hosts primarily RTVF, theatre, journalism and communications majors. But Bates almost didn’t live in CRC.

“It was not my first choice,” Bates said. “This is only because I didn’t do any research and I was a bad incoming freshman. I filled it out really quickly because I was in the middle of a tech week for a show. So at 10 p.m., we’re in the middle of a tech week and my mom’s like, ‘You need to fill out that housing form.’ I’m thinking, ‘I need to rehearse!’ CRC was my fifth choice.”

Still, Bates is thankful she ended up in CRC.

“I love this community,” she said, adding, “And I love that I can leave the building at 9:59 and still make it to my 10 a.m. class in Kresge.”

Less than a year later, Bates was elected the new president of CRC. Her main goal as president is to make sure everyone feels included, especially if they’re not majoring in a communications field. She also wants to promote the various CRC traditions, such as Radiothon, a 50-hour charity event where residents host radio shows to raise money for the American Heart Association. Overall, she said, she wants to give back to the community that made her freshman experience “wonderful.”

Describing CRC, Bates said, “We don’t necessarily have the best facilities but we have the best community. We have everything to make the arts flourish.”

She notes that the building contains dedicated space for many art forms, including two film screening rooms, a practice room and a radio room.

When she’s not watching a film in a screening room, Bates often makes films herself. She spent most weekends out on student film sets until Spring Quarter going remote halted student film production.

“I love production,” Bates said. “Oh my god, I miss it.”

Bates is also a member of several student film organizations. She serves as the outreach chair for Northwestern University Women Filmmakers Alliance and does public relations for Studio 22 Productions. With Spring Quarter moved online, she’s helping Studio 22 create its first virtual premiere. Like many film students, Bates also dabbles in NSTV, the Blackout and the Deep End.

Currently, Bates is back home in Orlando, Florida, where she has been working on a screenplay loosely based on her life. “It’s not going well,” she said. “I keep trying and then I get distracted and go make food.”

Bates has also been doing photoshoots with her mother, father, little sister and herself. She shot several self-portraits in her mother’s prom dress, and did an underwater photoshoot with her little sister.

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Bates’ younger sister, Barbara, in the family’s pool. Photo courtesy Caroline Bates.

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Another shot from the underwater photoshoot. Photo courtesy Caroline Bates.

While Bates enjoys the Orlando sunshine, she’s eager to get back to campus. Her favorite CRC tradition, Radiothon, happens in the last weeks of Fall Quarter every year. Between secret CRC traditions, hilarious student shows and attempting to stay awake all 50 hours, “Radiothon was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” she said.

She hopes next year’s freshmen will be able to have the same experience she did. One of her favorite parts of CRC is hanging out and talking in the lounges after a long day. The relationships she’s formed have surprised her.

“I wasn’t even expecting to be close with the people on my floor when I first went to college, she said. “It quickly became that my best friends were the people that lived in my dorm.”

Describe CRC in 3 words:

Insomniacs. “There will always be someone awake no matter what time it is.”
Chaoticgood. “One word.”
Passionate. “It’s a dorm where people know what they want to do and that’s kind of cool.”

Favorite spot on campus:

The Cage. (Area in Louis Hall for film equipment rental.)

Favorite spot to eat:

Norbucks. “For the snacks and caffeine.”

Deering or Main?

Main. “Deering is creepy. On a side note, I once tried to film in Deering and was kicked out. It was really awkward.”

Best Class:

Introduction to Photography with Prof. Pam Bannos.

Go-to Fun Fact:

“I studied Mandarin for like seven years.”

Favorite play:

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. “What a classic! It’s about living and dying and taking life for granted and not living in the moment. I learned so much from that play.”

Favorite musical:

Fun Home.

Favorite Quote:

“You only get one chance to not know what you’re doing, don’t miss it.” - Greta Gerwig. “Doesn’t that just describe life? Like you only get one chance to truly not know what you’re doing. Don’t miss that time to ask all the questions that you can.”

Song that describes you best:

Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September.” “This is hard because I was named after Sweet Caroline... The song that describes me the most is ‘September’ by Earth, Wind and Fire. Anytime that comes on I suddenly can’t dance at all. I lose all dance training.”