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Scott Diffrient named to William E. Morgan Endowed Chair of Liberal Arts

October 2, 2013

Funding will allow Film and Media Studies professor to bring Human Rights Film Festival to campus.

Scott Diffrient, associate professor of Film and Media Studies in the Department of Communication Studies, was recently named the William E. Morgan Endowed Chair of Liberal Arts for his continued research on human rights films and film festivals. The William E. Morgan Endowed Chair serves a three-year term and receives $50,000 in funding each year.

Diffrient has been at Colorado State University for 7 years and teaches courses in film and television. His undergraduate courses focus on topics such as evaluating contemporary film, genres in television and film, directors, and historical periods. He teaches graduate courses in media audiences and industries.

Film as Social Change and Morgan Chair funding

One of Diffrient’s research interests is film and social change, leading him to establish a new course at CSU.

“When I started working at CSU I noticed that there wasn’t a class that explored film and social change, so I wanted to get that class in the books,” Diffrientsaid .

He began teaching the class as a human rights course, analyzing how motion pictures fit into the discourse of human rights issues around the world, ranging from the plight of political refugees to genocidal events in Rwanda and other countries.

“The Morgan Chair will give me the opportunity to write a book on human rights films that will fill a significant gap in film studies. There hasn’t yet been a book written about human rights in film,” he said.

Though he has wanted to write a study of this subject for some time, this project was just a “pie-in-the-sky dream” before he received the funding from the Morgan Chair.

Diffrient will use some of the funding to travel internationally to human rights-themed film festivals to research his book. In September he will travel to Johannesburg, South Africa, for the TriContinental Film Festival. A month later he will travel to Nuremberg, Germany; Budapest, Hungary; and Toronto, Canada, for other film festivals.

“You can’t write about human rights film festivals from a distance because it gives you a detached point of view,” said Diffrient. “In order for me to write the kind of book that I envision, I have to make journeys of my own to see how human rights are viewed through different cultural lenses and from non-American perspectives.”

Human Rights Film Festival at Colorado State University

The culmination of this project will be a human rights film festival at CSU, which will feature nine to 12 local and international human rights films over the course of a week during spring 2016. “I wanted to do something fairly ambitious with this funding that would attract international filmmakers, scholars, and representatives from NGOs to Fort Collins,” Diffrient said.

“Human rights films are an emergent trend in cinema studies, of interest to scholars and students alike. By bringing this festival to campus students can be a part of a global conversation,” he said.

Diffrient hopes that the festival will not be just about the films, but that it will create a community-based conversation about human rights issues that will inspire social and political change at CSU and in Fort Collins.

 Mark Feige, associate professor in History, was the previous Morgan Chair. Feige used his funding  to complete a book, The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States, and establish the Public Lands History Center at CSU.

The William E. Morgan Endowed Chair

The William E. Morgan Endowed Chair was created by friends and family of the late president of Colorado State University, Bill Morgan, who served from 1949-1969. Contributors to the Morgan fund specified that the endowed chair be in the College of Liberal Arts to honor the commitment of Morgan and his wife to support the arts and cultural viability at CSU and in the Fort Collins Community.

Faculty members are nominated by College of Liberal Arts department chairs and a committee in the College of Liberal Arts selects the recipient. Recipients of the Morgan chair must have an excellent teaching record, a strong commitment to and record of research and/or artistry, and a commitment to service and outreach.

Contact: Lindsey Middendorf
Phone: 491-2374