Valerie Cook ’09, Law Student & Filmmaker
Valerie Cook ’09 graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in critical studies and is currently earning a law degree at American University, Washington College of Law, but she still considers a Webb teacher as one of the most influential she’s had.
“To this day, Sr. Valera is one of the most impactful teachers I have ever had. I knew when I signed up to take his AP Spanish Literature class that it would be difficult, and the truth is, it is one of the hardest classes I have ever taken,” explains Cook. “We read all of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote in Spanish and wrote analytical papers in Spanish as well. Sr. Valera’s expectation that his students do well was extremely high, but what made him great was that he modelled his expectations to us through his teaching. He worked so hard to make sure we understood a dense amount of material, and he succeeded. Every student deserves a teacher like him.”
Cook’s circuitous route to law school started at USC where she majored in Spanish — “largely due to the success I had in my Spanish classes at Webb,” she explains. But during her time at USC, she transferred into the film school and eventually went to work for Amazon Studios where she rose to senior post production executive of International Original Series. She also founded her own company, Happy Wanderer Productions, which advocates for solutions through investigation and exposition of underrepresented stories.
“Thinking back on the hours I spent studying in the library and the pages of papers I wrote in college, I know they were built on the foundation that I acquired at Webb,” she says. “Webb’s nightly study hours, advisory groups, small classes and accessibility to teachers all paved the way for collegiate success. Webb had so many available resources and staff, I learned how to seek help and identify tools that would be helpful to me when I needed support.”
The decision to go to law school was not one that she made lightly considering she had already begun to establish herself in Hollywood with numerous production jobs and freelance film credits, and she had just started production on a civil rights-era short film.
“I’m extremely interested in the intersectionality between creative content and human rights and am looking forward to understanding how my study of the law can contribute to these pursuits,” she says. “The way in which Webb is relevant to these experiences is that I am part of a community of incredibly intelligent, diverse, thoughtful and talented people. No matter where I go or what I pursue I know there are Webbies all over the world who I can connect with, and that is invaluable.”
Cook has returned to campus to be a speaker at Sophomore Career Evening and was impressed by the students. “They were so engaged and thoughtful, it inspired me. If they represent our next generation of leaders, we’re in good hands.”
This article is an excerpt from “Young Alumni On the Move” that appears in the Fall/Winter 2021 Webb Magazine. To read the full article, you can view or download it by clicking here.