DVC Student Receives Gilman Scholarship from the U.S. State Department

Media Arts and Design

Elli Imel, a junior SMAD student, received the Gilman Scholarship from the U.S. State Department in November, 2019. Five JMU students received the scholarship this fall which aims to help students study or intern abroad.  

This summer, Imel will be attending a study abroad program to Ireland to study media, culture, and society. Her trip will be partially funded by her scholarship. 

Part of the Gilman Scholarship application is to propose what a student plans to do with the funds. Imel had to outline her plan to film a documentary while on SMAD’s Ireland: Media, Culture and Society trip. Her goal is to interview 40 to 50 Irish people about what being irish means to them. 

“We’ll also be going to Northern Ireland and the Republic, so I know it’s a very touchy subject but it’ll be interesting to hear all of the different perspectives,” Imel said.

Her documentary about irish identity, will be in addition to her course work and will be sent to the Gilman Scholarship. She plans to screen the documentary at JMU’s Docfest in the fall or through another organization. 

“Elli had chosen a program that clearly enhanced her educational goals, and she wasn’t afraid to work really hard,” Meredith Malburne-Wade, JMU’s Director of Fellowship Advising, said. “I think she may have been in my office more than many (or all!) Gilman applicants that semester, and she really wanted to craft powerful essays.” 

Imel became more interested in production work after taking the video production class with Professor Nefin Dinç. Dinç said that Imel is one of the most hardworking and talented students in her class. Dinc was impressed with Imel’s dedication to improve her work when she continued to work on a short film for her class even after the semester ended. 

There is no doubt that Elli will be successful in her future career,” said Dinç.

John Hodges, SMAD Technology Manager and Instructor, taught Imel in her foundations of audio visual storytelling class, a core class all SMAD students are required to take. 

“She’s proactive and that’s something that you always look for in an employee or a student,” Hodges said. “She seems like the kind of person who develops a plan, goes with the plan, but has the ability to adjust as things change in the plan.”

Despite the competitiveness of the scholarship, Hodges said he was not surprised Imel was selected. 

Imel was accepted into SMAD in 2018 as a freshman with little experience shooting or editing videos. Imel’s passion for movies and film led her to the program and since being accepted, she has felt supported by SMAD’s faculty. 

“I really credit the SMAD program for boosting my confidence when I thought it would do the opposite, because I’m surrounded by so many talented people who already know what they want and are really skilled,” Imel said.

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Published: Monday, February 3, 2020

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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