Hailey Hart-Thompson

In what would become a pattern for Hailey Hart-Thompson at Boston University, her academic career took an unexpected, and rewarding, turn.

During a nine-hour bus ride in northern Uganda, part of a Study Abroad research trip with a renowned professor, she began questioning aspects of the program and why things were done in a certain way. Instead of pushing back, Prof. Muhammad Zaman challenged Hailey to propose alternatives for consideration.

“My professors really trusted me and said that if I wanted to change something, then I should do it myself. They were so willing to put their faith in me and that made me feel more capable.”

When she got back to the US, with the help of Prof. Zaman and another faculty member at the Kilachand Honors College, where Hailey was a student, she helped “develop a triage system for a local clinic in Uganda that utilized visuals rather than written language, as most of the community was not literate. We worked with master’s students at Makerere University in Kampala to pitch the idea to local NGOs and community stakeholders.”

“The only way I’ve been able to gain the confidence to keep doing what I’m doing and take on more projects is because someone has invested time, mentorship, energy, and funds into me and my ideas.”

In fact, the challenge not only led to new aspects of the Uganda program but to Hailey co-founding the Stateless Collective, a collaborative initiative that prepares Study Abroad students to work in diverse communities. Recently, the collective created a series of antiracism training modules for college students.

“We’ve been partnering with the student government and the Black Student Union, Umoja. We filmed short videos where we brought students in to film a variety of challenges where they would be pushed to examine their privilege and viewpoint. It has grown into a larger student-driven project and was accepted into Innovate@BU’s Summer Accelerator.”

Not surprisingly, Hailey pursued a dual degree. One, an independent major in the College of Arts & Sciences, focused on anthropology, English, and classics, with an anthropology thesis. And the other, a film and television degree in the College of Communication.

“I’m one of those people who likes to be involved with just about everything,” she said. “To be able to literally create my own degree pathway as well as earn multiple degrees in multiple colleges simultaneously, that was really something that captured my eye before I even stepped foot on campus.”

At the center of Hailey’s intellectual curiosity is a passion for storytelling, as evidenced by the marriage of her talents for research, global service, and social justice with filmmaking. While on campus, she produced several documentaries, with subjects ranging from the plight of Syrian and Palestinian refugees to the student experience with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyond BU, Hailey plans to pursue a PhD, an idea that, again, occurred serendipitously. The summer after her first year, she created a film about ancient Greek classics that focused on happiness. She showed the documentary at the Kilachand Honors College and moderated a panel discussion afterward. “Someone came up to me after the event and asked me what PhD program I was in. I was taken aback. I never thought I could actually pursue a PhD, that someone believed that I’m intellectual and collaborative enough to create something and present solidified ideas. It was a eureka moment, that there was so much more I could pursue moving forward.”