Oklahoma Baptist University

Student Continues Research on Code Talkers, Begins OETA Career

For senior Christi Mitchell, her last semester at Oklahoma Baptist University has been hectic: Mitchell has been handling a full-time academic schedule while adapting to a full-time assistant producer position at Oklahoma Educational Television Authority.

Originally from Blair, Okla., Mitchell is a telecommunications major and will graduate on May 23. During her time at OBU, she has been recognized for various awards and scholarships related to her telecommunications endeavors.

Her latest project, a documentary about the Comanche Code Talkers, will be completed this spring. Mitchell hopes to submit her work for the Bison Film Festival, an annual film festival conducted at the end of the spring semester. The Comanche documentary currently is 50 minutes long. Mitchell hopes to cut it down to about 30 minutes before the festival.

"Code Talkers" describes Native Americans who served in the United State military whose primary job was the transmission of tactical messages in codes built formally or informally on their Native American languages. For the past year, Mitchell researched the Comanche Tribe and collected footage from World War II. She interviewed four families representing the Code Talkers and interviewed U.S. Congressman Dan Boren, who authored a bill to recognize the Comanche.

Mitchell's work helped Boren to submit The Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008 (HB4454), a federal bill proposed to recognize the Comanche and other tribes' Code Talkers who served on the front lines during World War II. The bill passed in September 2008, after being submitted for the third time, and was signed into law by the President in October.

The project originated with a research paper Mitchell completed in spring 2008. Her paper, titled "Pursuing congressional recognition for the Comanche Code Talkers," was completed for her communication research class with Dr. Vickie Ellis, OBU associate professor of communication arts.

"I wanted to bring awareness to this group that needed to be respected and acknowledged," said Mitchell. "The thing I am most proud of is that it is all original research," said Mitchell. "I almost had to become a historian for it."

Mitchell received help from Mike Bruce, OBU assistant professor of communication arts. He helped her with the editing and production aspect of the project.

"Christi is organized, self-motivated, and energetic," said Bruce. "She had a vision for the documentary she wanted to create. I find it intensely rewarding to work one-on-one with students to help see their vision realized.

"My best memory will be the tenacity with which she pursued interviews, old photographs and film footage for the project," he added. "Because she would not give up the first time someone told her no, she will have a completed project that has been produced at a very high level."

For the past year, Mitchell sought expert interviews for her piece. She traveled around Oklahoma and surrounding states to learn more about the Comanche.

"What an academic adventure!" said Ellis. "The most difficult part for Christi was limiting the scope of her thesis; she was intensely interested in every aspect - a curious researcher."

Mitchell has finished an eight-minute video segment about the Code Talkers that is on display at the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center in Lawton, Okla.

"The Comanche museum helped me out a lot," said Mitchell. "It is nice to know that student work is recognized."

While Mitchell puts the final touches on her Comanche documentary, she is also working full time for OETA. Since January, Mitchell has been working as an assistant producer in the documentary department. She helps produce the T.V. show "State of Creativity," which documents innovation within Oklahoma. This season of "State of Creativity" has six parts; the fourth will air May 5 on OETA.

Mitchell works with Emmy award-winning producer and OBU alum Derek Watson on the show. Watson won an Emmy for rookie of the year in 2008.

"It is great because I get to have fun at work, and I get to talk to experts about things that they are passionate about," said Mitchell. "I have always enjoyed telling people's cool stories."

Mitchell credits OBU and the telecommunication department for her ability to adapt quickly to new experiences.

"I am always going to be learning new things and applying them to my career," said Mitchell. "I will need to quickly adapt to new situations and use my media abilities there."