Amplifying midwestern narratives

Alec Fischer

University of Minnesota alumnus Alec Fischer (BIS ’16) was recently named to the annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the "media" category for his contributions to driving and defining the world of news and content. Fischer, who is also the recipient of the 2022 College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Emerging Alumni Award, found his academic fit by pursuing a bachelor of individualized studies. Now, he amplifies midwestern stories through documentary projects in collaboration with community partners. His current documentary series highlights workers in Minnesota affected by the pandemic. 

Here, Fischer reflects on his time as a student and shares how he uses curiosity and passion to guide his professional career.
What do you do professionally?
I am a full-time documentary filmmaker and owner of a media production company based in Minneapolis. My work aims to elevate midwestern narratives to mainstream audiences.
How are you involved in the community?
I currently serve as an executive board member for the University of Minnesota’s Leadership Minor Alumni Program and mentor high school and college students each year across a diverse range of majors.
I’m also actively collaborating with community partners and cultural organizations directly for my documentary and client work. For example, in early 2022 I helped co-produce and direct a vaccination campaign with Asian Media Access and the Diversity Council. The 30-video PSA campaign brought in both local and nationally recognized community leaders representing 25 unique cultural groups and 13 spoken languages to highlight the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.

How did your time in CLA inspire you to pursue your path?
While in CLA, I changed my major four times and ultimately decided to pursue a bachelor of individualized studies degree that combined three focus areas. I never felt like a singular major fit my passions and interests; individualized studies allowed me to take courses across numerous majors.
In my post-college life, I have actively built my own professional reality from scratch using that same methodology. If I have an interest in a social issue or topic, I explore that through outreach and research. If I feel passionate about a specific area of life, I’ll build a client project or documentary pitch around it. My time within CLA showed me that I could construct my own reality in this way—using curiosity and passion to guide my journey instead of rigid structure and tradition for the sake of tradition.
What is your favorite memory from your time as a student?
One of my favorite memories while I was a student at the U of M was participating in a study abroad experience in Bali, Indonesia. Being my first trip outside of the United States, it pushed me completely out of my comfort zone and challenged me to navigate a new language, culture, and global framework that I had never experienced before.
Our cohort climbed an active volcano, toured seaweed farms, volunteered with turtle rescue shelters, and studied the impacts that globalization and ecotourism were creating within the island firsthand. In short, it shattered my previous lenses that I used to look at the world.
What advice would you give to students?
Don’t be afraid to approach folks outside of your networks and areas of study. If you want to learn more about someone or introduce yourself, the worst thing that can happen is you reach out and they say no.
I’ve made some of the best friendships and professional connections to peers I admire in the entertainment industry by sending a simple connection request or direct message on social media. If I read an incredible article, watch a documentary that makes me think, or read a book that gives me joy, I’ll reach out to the person responsible (director, author, producers, etc.) and let them know my thoughts.
Those small, authentic interactions have expanded my networks more than I could have ever imagined.

This story was adapted from the original.