“Before Scripps, I hadn’t been in environments where I felt comfortable telling my story,” says Audrey Hector ’18. Audrey recently completed a rite of passage for all Scripps seniors—the senior thesis. For some, the thesis is a written discourse on a subject that they’ve become passionate about during the course of their studies. For others, it’s a more creative endeavor—an original film, artwork, performance, or work of fiction or poetry. Audrey, a media studies major, opted to make an “autobiographical animation.” Her path to creating and sharing her work is uniquely Scripps—a process marked by rigorous research, collaborative learning, and personal discovery made possible by gifts to The Scripps Fund.
Audrey was drawn to media studies because it offered “an outlet for articulating what I can’t say with just words.” Growing up as a black woman in a predominantly white Bay Area community, she faced challenges. She felt “bounded” by her racial identity—in the position of having to choose between “speaking up and risking conflict, or pretending it didn’t bother me” whenever classmates made hurtful or insensitive remarks about race. At Scripps, Audrey began exploring curricula that gave her a new framework for understanding these experiences. She took courses that tackled issues of race and identity, participated in challenging classroom discussions, and even looked at work by her professors, many of whom had been exploring similar themes in their own projects. “By my senior year, I felt empowered by my classes and much more confident in my voice,” says Audrey.
For her senior thesis, Audrey wanted to use the technical and artistic abilities she’d developed in media studies to tell the story of her childhood struggle to speak up in situations that demeaned her racial identity. She proposed a short animation, writing the script, designing the graphics, composing the soundtrack, and recruiting her suitemates and friends to lend their vocal and musical talents. She was excited about her project, but fearful, too—was she ready to open up this part of herself to the scrutiny and analysis of her peers?
In those vulnerable moments, Audrey was bolstered by the guidance and support of her faculty mentors and classmates. She had weekly check-ins with her advisors that were candid and wide-ranging, touching on lived experiences as well as ideas drawn from art, philosophy, and cultural theory. As her “readers,” her professors also reviewed drafts of the animation, gave her critical feedback, recommended further reading, and offered technical advice. Audrey also had regular crit sessions with the other seniors in her media studies program. “Those meetings showed me how much mutual care and respect there is among students here.” she says. “My classmates raised important questions and help me think through ideas that made the animation better.”
This past December, Audrey premiered her animation to over 100 friends, family members, peers, and faculty. “It was transformative,” she says of the screening. “By sharing my story, I was able to start a bigger conversation. So many people told me, ‘I didn’t know that about you,’ and that it shifted their thinking.” Audrey is grateful to the donors who have supported academic programs through The Scripps Fund—their gifts have benefitted her academic path in myriad, often invisible ways, from supporting curriculum development to supplying the cutting-edge software that made her animation possible to funding her professors’ work. It’s this kind of support that sustains Scripps’ close-knit, collaborative, and supportive community of scholars, and that makes the College a unique learning environment. “Working with these incredible faculty and peers taught me so much about myself and this discipline,” she says. “Scripps has given me endless creative ideas to make a difference—to inspire change.”
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