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Fulbright Filmmaker: SOC Grad to Study Disability Advocacy in the UK

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Meredith Bartley stands in front of a white background wearing a pink sweater

Meredith Bartley, who graduated from American University School of Communication (AU SOC) in 2018, is the latest of many AU students to be selected for the prestigious Fulbright Scholar program. It will fund her studies at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, where she will be working on a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies. Bartley wants to combine her film experience with the latest research on disability advocacy and film, hoping to one day create impactful documentaries that improve the lives of disabled individuals. “Film has the most incredible ability to actually make change - just look at [the documentary] Blackfish…” says Bartley. “There are so many conversations around disability in academia and activism that aren't reaching people outside of that space, even though 1 in 5 people has a disability and that number goes up as people age.”

The University of Leeds is the perfect place for Bartley to try to implement that goal. It is seen as the premier center in the world for disability studies. Bartley says she is excited about learning from their academic infrastructure. “I'm most looking forward to tapping into the conversations happening there, not only about disability but also about film! The faculty are incredible and there's a huge base of knowledge,” she says. Despite the distance between the UK and her family in Kansas and friends in DC, she hopes to make the most of her year of studies.

Bartley’s involvement at SOC and throughout AU during her time as an undergraduate was extensive and she credits it for giving her experience, along with the professors who acted as mentors. “Some of my best learning happened outside of the classroom at the student-run television station, ATV,” she says. She served as the Productions Director, Producer, and General Manager at ATV. Bartley attained several honors during her time at AU, including working in the documentary department of the Voice of America as a Dean’s Intern, and researching the portrayal of autistic people in media as AU Summer Scholars and Artists Fellow.

For current students applying to competitive scholarship programs like Fulbright, Bartley argues that students should push through self-doubt brought upon by rejections. “Go for it! Even if you don't think you're the Fulbright "type," your story and goal will shine through.”