By Warren Schlesinger
Founded in 2004, the Fellowship program sponsored by the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF) exemplifies Ithaca College’s commitment to sustainability and diversity. The Fellowship program also enriches FLEFF with the energized and committed perspectives of emerging scholars and artists.
FLEFF Fellowships offer competitively selected students of color in doctoral or MFA programs full travel funding to attend the festival. They take part in workshops, roundtables, screenings, lectures, discussions, and other events, interacting with Ithaca College students, faculty, and guests to explore important environmental and sustainability issues. Their experience of FLEFF is one of full immersion in the debates, conversations, and discussions that percolate throughout the festival, exploring and opening up national and international issues of pressing importance.
FLEFF fellowships are awarded to applicants who have disciplinary backgrounds ranging across a variety of academic fields and who have demonstrated interest in investigating issues surrounding sustainability. Fellowships have been awarded to students in anthropology, biochemistry, business, history, literature, media studies, race and gender studies, and other areas of study.
Since the Fellowship program was founded, more than 100 graduate students of color from over 50 universities have participated. Among the many institutions from the US and abroad that have contributed graduate students to the FLEFF Fellowship program are private universities like Cornell, Howard, and Harvard as well as great public universities like Washington, Illinois, and Georgia Tech.
While the FLEFF Fellows bring their diverse perspectives to the Festival, they also learn about environmentalism and sustainability from multiple points of view and across multiple platforms.
During the Festival, the Fellows interact with Ithaca College students, faculty and guests in exploring important environmental and sustainability issues. The FLEFF Fellows bring to the Festival alternative perspectives, enormous intellectual energy, and a focused intensity emanating from their graduate research. These add to the vibrancy of the FLEFF experience for everyone who attends.
At FLEFF, Fellows have an opportunity to present their research interests, participate in the FLEFF lab presentations by filmmakers, scholars, and other invited guests, and join in post-film discussions. Outside the formal meetings, FLEFF Fellows have found the chance to interact with students of color from other institutions invaluable. Both inside and outside of official events, the Fellows discover opportunities beyond their home institutions, learn about other disciplines and universities, and experience the vibrant intellectual and artistic milieu of a four-year undergraduate institution like Ithaca College. Their participation enriches and enlivens FLEFF and Ithaca College with the perspectives of those emerging in multiple fields, engaged in new ways of thinking and research.
FLEFF Fellows go on to become college professors and administrators, filmmakers, videographers, journalists, and professionals in other fields. According to many of the FLEFF Fellows, their fellowship contributed both to their professional development and to reinforcing their interest and commitment to themes raised at FLEFF.
Whatever career path they take, the Fellows’ participation in FLEFF and their time at Ithaca College enhance not just their own learning, but also the educational experience of the students and faculty with whom they meet and interact. Discussions are lively and democratic.
After their experience at FLEFF, many Fellows maintain their connection with Ithaca College, whether by continued participation in FLEFF or informally through ongoing, productive collegiality with other Fellows, faculty, festival guests, and students.