Kennesaw State student documents cross-country adventure for national contest

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 27, 2021

Ally Lothman
Ally Lothman

Driven by her free spirit and love of adventure, Kennesaw State student Ally Lothman embarked on the journey of a lifetime at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic when she packed up a renovated work van and traveled the desolate roads, documenting her remarkable journey along the way.

Lothman, a senior majoring in journalism and emerging media who will graduate this month, was inspired by the Academy Award-winning film Nomadland, which follows the journey of a woman who travels the country as a van-dwelling nomad. She decided to create her own version of the film and renovate the van owned by her parents, and it earned her national recognition for her creativity.

“My boyfriend and I decided on a whim to go and travel when the pandemic hit, and I wanted to live the van life that I saw on Instagram all the time,” the 28-year-old Kennesaw native said. “It was amazing and was definitely one of the best trips that I’ve ever taken.”

Ally Lothman
Lothman and her boyfriend explored different towns, settling in campgrounds and parking lots and biking through nearly deserted cities in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, Louisiana and Florida before heading back to Georgia. Lothman worked on her summer classes online using a hotspot from her phone throughout the trip. Her documentation of her unique journey through the pandemic reignited her love of photography and video production, she said.

Combining her travel footage into a video titled “This Old Van,” she documented her two-month journey and entered it into the Adobe Creative Jam, a national competition that serves as an outlet for undergraduate college students to share their creative projects. Lothman’s specific session, presented by Adobe Systems and Home Box Office (HBO), tasked participants to share a unique project that got them through the pandemic in a 60- to 90-second video.

Creative Jam
The top 10 projects from across the country were awarded best overall, and an additional five, including Lothman’s video, earned an honorable mention. Another KSU student, Lamont Hall, also earned an honorable mention for his project titled “The Enigma Diary.”

David Cassilo, assistant professor of communication in KSU’s School of Communication and Media, had encouraged Lothman to submit a project for the contest.

“I've had Ally for three courses at KSU, and she has been a terrific student in each,” Cassilo said. “She is a curious learner who works very hard, and she also leads great conversations within the classroom. I know that she will succeed in whatever she chooses to do beyond graduation, and I can't wait to see what she does next.”

Lothman has been no stranger to travel. After beginning her freshman year at KSU in 2012, she put her academic career on hold and taught English in Spain for over a year. She returned to KSU and settled into a corporate job in the magazine industry but found the perfect opportunity to rediscover her love of adventure after she was let go from her job at the beginning of the pandemic.

Lothman’s participation in the Creative Jam rekindled her love of photography and filmmaking, which she hopes she can integrate into her career after she graduates from KSU later this month.

“Participating in the Creative Jam reignited my love of creating meaningful content to share with the world, and I know that I would be happiest if I had a camera and was making some sort of creative content with movies or photography,” Lothman said. “Any job where I’m holding and using a camera will be the best job ever.”

While she may not know where her career path will lead her after graduation, Lothman knows that her renovated van won’t stay parked at her parents’ house much longer. As a graduation gift for herself, she plans to take a month to travel with her boyfriend out West, driving through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and visiting the Grand Canyon.

“I don’t dream about working, I dream about living. I’ve always been one to take the road less traveled, and I know that it’ll be worth it in the end,” she added.

– Josh Milton

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit