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Ashley Zeiger: 2011-2012 Fellow

Ashley Shook Zeiger, graduating senior, has been named the 2011 recipient of Vanderbilt University’s Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship.  She will be traveling in 2012-2013, concurrently with the 2012 Fellow, Kathleen Russell.

The goal of the fellowship is to develop future leaders through world travel and experiential learning. Graduating seniors awarded the fellowship have the opportunity to pursue an idea or an issue, about which they are impassioned, in the context of daily life in communities around the world.

Zeiger, who is from Birmingham, Ala., will graduate in May from the College of Arts and Science with a major in Film Studies and a minor in American Studies. As an Ingram Scholar, she has initiated several projects, FilmVOICE and The Mentone Collective, which use film to foster community exchange and dialogue. During her traveling fellowship, she will be making a documentary film exploring the notion of voice, narrative, and witness in a variety of regions in the world.

 “To be able to participate as a global citizen to learn from different cultures and use film to engage and exchange with others is truly a dream come true,” said Zeiger. “This project is based on the belief that every person has a story to share and that voice, as well as being heard, is essential to our human existence. In my year of travel, I plan to explore the power of voice, how different cultures communicate voice, what systems create a barrier to sharing voice, and then use film as a platform to share voice. I look forward to meeting a wide range of people and dialoguing with them about their experiences and sharing our narratives.” 

In her project, titled “Witnessing Voice in the Global Community: Personal Stories of Poverty, Struggle, and Hope,” Zeiger plans to travel to twelve countries across the globe to explore how various countries, regions, communities, and individuals define and communicate their voice. In these countries Zeiger will be comparing the variety of voices from different cultures pertaining to issues of healthcare, race, religion, hunger, climate change, sexual violence, and human trafficking. “Through this journey I hope to expand my understanding of what voice is, how it is effectively communicated, and how voice can create change,” said Zeiger.

Equal exchange is foundational to this project as Zeiger will be both filmmaker and subject and the people she dialogues with will also be both filmmaker and subject. By putting cameras in people’s hands they are empowered to communicate their story in a relevant medium. Through the film and website, Zeiger hopes that the shared stories will foster a global village of exchange. The film series will empower people to transform their personal stories of abuse and poverty into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change.  

Students must apply for the fellowship by completing an application, submitting a resume and letters of recommendation and proposing a plan of study/travel. A committee of alumni, faculty and staff selects the winner.