For over a decade, the School of Education has provided support to the Syracuse International Film Festival, and SOE faculty have assisted in the selection and presentation films for the Douglas Biklen Imaging in Disability Film Showcase. Now in its 17th season, the annual festival will have a different feel for its 10 day run, as it will be entirely virtual and broadcast on WCNY-TV, free of charge.
Included in this year’s Imaging Disability in Film Showcase is And They Were Roommates: Navigating Inclusive Mentorship in Higher Education, a 44 minute documentary created by Kylie Walter ’20, a graduate of the inclusive elementary and special education program in the School of Education. The film was created as part of her thesis project in the Renée Crown University Honors Program. As a residential mentor for the InclusiveU program during her junior year, Kylie and her roommate Olivia, a first year InclusiveU student, engage in social activities, work on time management, navigate campus, and develop independent living skills. Through filmed interviews and video blogs (vlogs) the roommates capture the dynamics of the relationships between peer mentees and mentors in the InclusiveU program at Syracuse University. Eleven other InclusiveU students and mentors appear in the film, sharing their accounts of peer mentorship in higher education. They work on supporting each other’s academic and social higher education goals in a mutually beneficial and sustainable way, and they share their successes, failures, frustrations, and everything in between.
Christine Ashby, associate professor of inclusive education and disability studies, was Walter’s advisor on the project, and has also served as an advisor for the Imaging Disability in Film Showcase in recent years. “What’s important about this film is that it does not paint a picture of inclusion as being always rosy,” she says. “It’s complicated and messy. But you work through the challenges and that’s how everybody benefits.”
Ashby recommends the film for anybody interested in creating more inclusive communities, and especially for families and students with disabilities considering post-secondary living and learning options.
A novice filmmaker, Kylie chose the medium to tell her and Olivia’s story because it’s accessible for audiences with and without disabilities. She offered this advice to other honors students considering making a leap to a new or creative medium: “Making a multi-modal, language inclusive, or otherwise creative thesis project will double the amount of work you need to do. But your efforts mark another step towards inclusive academics in higher education. Use the privilege you have to work toward appropriate, equitable and accessible education for all people. Inclusion is worth it.”
InclusiveU is a nationally recognized program that brings students of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities to Syracuse University, to learn, live, and intern at professional jobs on campus. Matriculated students from disciplines across campus volunteer as peer mentors to help InclusiveU students manage academics, navigate social outings, and live as roommates in the dorms.
And They Were Roommates will be shown on Sat., Nov. 7 at 3:30 p.m. and Sun., Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. on WCNY Virtual. View the complete schedule of films and register on the SIFF website.