Madison Tyler ’23, a junior double major in African American studies and English (film and screen studies track) in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a recipient of a 2022 Beinecke Scholarship. A Coronat Scholar and member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, Tyler is the third Beinecke Scholar in Syracuse University’s history.
The award provides graduate funding and mentorship for juniors in the arts, humanities or social sciences. The Beinecke Scholarship seeks to encourage and enable highly motivated juniors of exceptional promise to pursue graduate study in these fields. The Beinecke Scholarship works with approximately 135 participating institutions. Each school may nominate one candidate per year; the campus nomination process is highly competitive. This year, the Beinecke Scholarship Program selected 16 scholars.
Tyler is currently studying abroad in Madrid. Below, she talks about the award, her studies of her and her plans for the future.
Q: In your scholarship and research, you study Black excellence narratives, which promote Black exceptionalism as a prime indication of racial and social progress. What inspires you in this scholarship? How do you integrate film into these studies?
TO: My scholarship is really driven by my desire to understand the gap between representations of Black wealth and respectability in film and television as progress and the issues the most vulnerable in Black communities still face today, such as educational inequity, gentrification, economic precarity, voter suppression and environmental injustice. Some of these issues I’ve witnessed and experienced growing up in South Los Angeles, so it’s also very personal.
Film and television consciously or unconsciously perpetuate values. We’re in an interesting moment right now where some of my favorite scholars and critics are interrogating and questioning the equivalence of Black excellence with (individual) wealth, which misses the nuance of the dynamics of race and class, marginalizes those who are poor and Black, and moves away from collective progress. For me, film can be imaginative, liberatory and constructive. So, if it has the power to maintain the status quo, it also has the power to disrupt it and create a new one.
Q: How will the Beinecke Scholarship help you in pursuing and reaching your goals?
TO: The Beinecke Scholarship provides $34,000 to pursue graduate studies in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Many Beinecke scholars use the scholarship in addition to institutional support for living and other expenses. The scholarship will make it more affordable for me to spend a few more years in school to study cinema. Earning the scholarship will also open many other doors for me, especially during the graduate school application process and when seeking out other competitive scholarships and fellowships.
Q: You spent last summer as a fellow in the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Tell us about that experience and what you learned from it.
TO: During my fellowship, I started my research on Black excellence narratives in popular Black sitcoms. I worked closely with film scholar and UNC-Chapel Hill professor Dr. Charlene Regester to conduct my study. With her guidance from ella and the support of the writing workshop and communication skills instructors, I presented my research to faculty mentors and my student cohort and ended the program with a 25-page paper. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was the importance of sharing your work while it’s in process. The experience as a whole–and especially, a workshop with a performance scholar-artist who meshes the critical and the creative—opened my eyes to a new range of possibilities for my career in academia. My summer research was just a jumping-off point, and I hope to continue it during my senior year.
Q: You created a film series on performances by Black musicians and singers in classical noir films, and served as a script supervisor and art director assistant on two student films. What were those experiences like?
TO: I really enjoyed the film series exercise in my Film Noir class. Imagining I was a curator or programmer for a film festival, arts organization or a museum like The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles gave me a glimpse into what I could do with a Ph.D. in cinema studies beyond academia. I really hope my work has a public face to it.
I was a script supervisor for Cameron Gray’s upcoming short film, “The Bootyshort Revolution.” Cameron is a 2021 Beinecke scholar and she also provided so much moral support throughout my application process. Being on Cameron’s set was amazing because it really affirmed that I love the process of making movies as much as I love looking at them critically. The creative and the critical go hand-in-hand for me. I’ve known I’ve wanted to make films since high school, but I didn’t have much of an opportunity to collaborate with my peers while I was studying at home during the pandemic, so being on Cameron’s set was amazing. I learned so much and the script supervisor role allowed me to observe and ask lots of questions!
As the production assistant to the art director on the other set, I definitely got to flex a creative muscle I don’t often use. It was an awesome experience because the film required a lot of different props, costuming and artwork and I got to watch my talented friends do their work and collaborate with them. We even had to film in the cold rain, so I built up a bit of resilience in the face of adversity.
Q: You have been very involved on campus, as a columnist for the Daily Orange, editorial director for The Renegade Magazine and peer facilitator with First-Year Seminar. How have these experiences enriched your time at Syracuse and what lessons will you carry forward into your time after graduation?
TO: Each of these experiences has given me the opportunity to explore my passions for writing, film, popular culture and issues of diversity and inclusion. Being a film columnist for The Daily Orange has been one of the highlights of my time at Syracuse because I’ve grown so much as a critic and a writer and I’ve gained a sense of confidence in my voice even as my perspective, worldviews , and approaches to criticism are constantly evolving and expanding. The Renegade Magazine has just been an incredible space where I can prioritize Black experiences, of which there are so many. That’s a priority that I came to Syracuse with and it’s one I’ll be keeping for my entire life. It’s also a space where my identity is unquestionably affirmed, which is so necessary as a Black student attending a predominantly white institution. I really hope that as the editorial director, I’ve contributed to other young Black writers’ growth and confidence in their unique voices.
Q: What do you plan to do upon graduation from Syracuse?
TO: After graduating from Syracuse, I plan on going to a graduate school that has a strong cinema studies program, finding a community of diverse filmmakers to collaborate and grow with, and continuing my work as a freelance writer. I hope to develop my voice as a cultural critic and start to work my way toward writing for my favorite publications. At first, I was very anxious about my post-grad plans, but receiving the Beinecke Scholarship has made my plans for the next few years a lot clearer.
Tyler worked with the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) to apply for the Beinecke Scholarship. “I’m so grateful for the support I got from CFSA at each step of the application process,” she says.
CFSA offers candidates advising and assistance with applications and interview preparation for nationally competitive scholarships. The nomination process for the 2023 Beinecke application will begin in October. Interested students should contact CFSA at 315.443.2759 or by email to email@example.com for more information.