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June 1, 2018

Student Receives Prestigious Opportunity Through the US-UK Fulbright Commission

By Phenia Hovsepyan

Leila Hoffpauir,  a sophomore in the Cinema and Media Studies Division, will spend three weeks in the United Kingdom this summer as part of the Fulbright Summer Institute for Film and Media. She and other participants around the country will take modules on film and media in the UK, be taught by professional academics and practitioners who are experts in their field, experience the UK higher education system, immerse themselves in British culture, and further develop intercultural understanding, all as part of one of the industry’s most prestigious and selective summer scholarship programs. 

This year marks the 70thAnniversary of the US-UK Fulbright Commission. Created through a treaty conceived by Senator J William Fulbright in the aftermath of WW2, the Commission was intended to promote leadership, learning, and empathy between nations through educational exchanges. Decades later, this unique program has achieved lasting relationships between Americans and Brits spanning generations, and is still continuing to foster future bonds. Each year, the Commission supports up to 60 US undergraduate students to undertake demanding academic and cultural summer programs at leading institutions in the UK, with this year’s participants going to the University of Birmingham.

For Hoffpauir, being among the 5 percent of applicants selected for this fully-funded opportunity is further amplified because it will be her first trip abroad. “I had never been out of the country, and knew I wanted to go. Even though Fulbright was a long shot, I thought it would be a cool way of making it happen. Initially, I didn’t think I would get chosen, even when I started getting emails about being moved up the rounds for interviews,” Hoffpauir says. In her Fulbright interviews she had talked about specifically studying the adaptation of UK comedic television shows for the US market, wanting to understand why shows like The Officewere so successful while some others were not. Her passion for the subject matter, exceptional grades, ambassadorial skills, and desire to expand study abroad programs through film, made Hoffpauir a perfect candidate. “I am thrilled to be able to experience UK culture for the first time in such a unique way. I hope this program will provide insight into how the media cultures of the UK and the US interact and give a greater sense of how media across all cultures is interconnected,” Hoffpauir said after receiving her placement.

Leila Hoffpauir grew up in rural Alabama, always knowing that she wanted to study and broaden her horizons in more cosmopolitan places. She had a passion for theater and expressive art since her first play performance at the age of 5, but was unaware that creative pursuits could be a viable career path. It was when Hoffpauir moved to New Orleans for the latter half of high school that her eyes were opened to a wide array of possibilities for the future: “I realized that art and career could combine into one! The more I was involved in media and theater in my high school, the more I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. With this realization Hoffpauir began touring college campuses, and when she came to USC for the first time, she instantaneously took to the Trojan spirit. “I looked around and knew it made no sense to go anywhere else. There was no better option for what I wanted to do, so I bought a USC shirt at the bookstore and it was a done deal!”

At USC, Hoffpauir works as a showrunner for the Breakdown, a local news parody broadcast on Trojan Vision. “It is in the style of Weekend Updateon SNL,” she explains. Hoffpauir writes anywhere from 50 to 60 topical jokes a week to compile a 30-page script: Working with her peers and gaining valuable experience, Hoffpauir says that, “It is making me a better writer and producer. I have made amazing friends and learned a lot!” Hoffpauir also works with the USC Price School of Public Policy’s video services department as an editor and production assistant. Furthermore, before embarking on her journey to Birmingham in July, Hoffpauir is spending the first half of the summer interning for the on-air planning division at the FOX Broadcasting Company. “I am doing things I didn’t even know I was interested in until I was exposed to them. I really like marketing,” she says about her internship experience thus far. 

Hoffpauir hopes to pursue a career in which TV production and comedic writing converge. She has continuously engaged her myriad of interests at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, constantly discovering new opportunities along the way. “I love the Cinema and Media Studies Division! I am able to do anything I want and change my mind a lot. I have never felt stuck or been put in a box,” Hoffpauir. “USC has far exceeded my expectations. I have met people I never thought I would meet, and have a network that is so far beyond the people I go to school with.”

As Hoffpauir prepares for her journey across the pond, her itinerary grows with every passing day. “I want to go to the BBC headquarters, to London, to the theater, and to see all the William Shakespeare relics,” she says, listing off just a few. Hoffpauir also hopes to get the courage to go on stage during an open mic at a comedy club, trying out her brand of American humor on a British audience. But what she is most looking forward to, says Hoffpauir, is meeting people from around the world who share her interests: “Being able to speak with different people about how they create films and what their perspectives are. There are going to be people from all over in this program, and I can’t wait to hear the stories of what got them to this point!”