Jared Peoples, a recent University of Alabama at Birmingham graduate, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Teaching Assistantship. And when the 24-year-old Odenville native gets the letter confirming his award he knows exactly what he will do with it — tape it to his forehead.
Peoples plans that as a homage to Josh Lyman, the current Chief of Staff for the White House — no, not the Obama administration, but the Santos one. Lyman, a character on the TV show The West Wing, taped his fictional Fulbright acceptance letter to his head so all the world could see. Peoples is a big fan of the show and a TV and film aficionado. During his Fulbright tenure in the East European state of Moldova, he plans to share that love in a place that has the second lowest movie attendance rate in the world.
“I am so excited about this opportunity,” says Peoples, the son and grandson of insurance salesmen and the first to attend to college.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. government, gives students the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research overseas as part of the organization’s goal to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Participants are selected based on academic merit and leadership potential and help contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Peoples is the third UAB student to receive the Fulbright this year and the 16th since 1993.
“Jared’s Fulbright appointment, along with the four other Fulbright awards UAB students have earned just in the past two years, reflects academic excellence and a dedication to local and global service to community,” says UAB President Carol Garrison. “These students aren’t merely studying abroad; they are ambassadors who will have an affect on our global society.”
Peoples enrolled at UAB in 2007 with a double major in history and political science and had planned to attend law school. But after taking a labor history course that incorporated the 1954 dramatic film On the Waterfront into the lesson, he discovered his true passion — using film to teach.
Peoples changed his career course with sights on becoming a college professor. He even began reviewing films for UAB’s student paper, Kaleidoscope.
He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree and then entered UAB’s School of Education graduate program. In May, he graduated with a perfect grade-point average.
Peoples had an early fascination with Romanian cinema and fell in love with 12:08, East of Bucharest, a movie that comically recounts the fall of the communist regime. Moldova sits between Romania and Ukraine and, “you see Moldova over there and start to wonder about it,” Peoples says.
He read about Moldova’s abysmal movie attendance rates and “immediately felt the need to rectify this situation,” he says. Peoples plans to go there and start a film club; on Sept. 4 he leaves for his nine-month assistantship with a treasure trove of films: On the Waterfront, Star Wars, a Woody Allen movie, The New World and The Godfather. He might even take the first seasons of The West Wing, he says.
Peoples hopes his Moldovan students will come to a better understanding of American culture and the beauty of its films, he says. After the assistantship, he is considering studying film in Europe and even doing some screenwriting.
Peoples is the son of Chris and Janet Peoples of Odenville, Ala. He also credits his grandparents Ottis and Marie Peoples, who helped his parents fund his education.