Samantha Wauls, a University of New Mexico School of Law alumna (‘22), was selected for the Motion Picture Association and Entertainment Industry College Outreach Program's Entertainment Law and Policy Fellowship.
Wauls, a first-generation college graduate and descendent of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, will spend six months in Washington D.C. at the Motion Pictures Association headquarters before placement with one of six member studios in Los Angeles, including Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony Pictures or Warner Bros. She is one of two fellows selected for the highly competitive program.
“Samantha has a wide understanding of the most pertinent issues that will come before the courts related to all areas of tech and entertainment law. Her passion for New Mexico, entertainment law, and Black and tribal communities will help expand opportunities in New Mexico for all,” said Sonia Gipson Rankin, associate professor of law and faculty advisor to the UNM Intellectual Property Society. “The Motion Picture Association selecting Samantha is a testament to her brilliance and recognizing the excellent and unique legal training students are receiving at UNM Law.”
Wauls looks forward to gaining experience in entertainment and intellectual property (IP) law. During her time at UNM School of Law, she served as president of the Intellectual Property Society, where she led the organization to lobby for more course offerings in intellectual property to help support the state’s film industry.
The work paid off. The School of Law will offer more courses on the subject starting next academic year. Previously, IP courses were offered once every three semesters.
“The film industry is growing rapidly here,” Wauls said. “I know for me it was very important, as a law student, that the school is training our students to respond to industry needs and that talent was being sourced locally.”
Wauls stumbled into her interest while participating in the 2019 American Indian Law Center’s Pre-Law Summer Institute. The program gives students the opportunity to experience what their first semester of law school will be like. It was during her summer property law course that Wauls found her interest in copyright law. Still, she had other work she wanted to do before she continued her legal education.
She deferred her admission for a year to work with the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department on implementing House Bill 278 that established the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force. The job built on time she’d spent working with the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington D.C. on crime victim advocacy.
Wauls’ ultimate goal is to be in-house counsel for a media and entertainment company. She hopes to someday further connect her interests and identity by supporting indigenous voices in the development of New Mexico’s film industry.
“I want to make sure that as the state’s industry continues to grow, native voices are included and represented in that growth and that any issues that native communities are experiencing here in New Mexico’s film industry are addressed,” Wauls said. “I want to help identify how we can make the industry more inclusive for Native creatives and entrepreneurs, as well as any tribes or pueblos that want to participate in this industry.”
The highly competitive fellowship creates opportunities in the entertainment industry for high-achieving recent university and law graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions and other Minority Serving Institutions. Alberto Lugo, a 2022 UCLA School of Law alumnus, was also selected as an MPA-EICOP Entertainment Law and Policy Fellow.
Throughout the year-long fellowship, Wauls and Lugo will gain experience alongside some of the industry’s leading senior-level legal and government affairs executives. In addition to the program’s in-depth, hands-on exposure to various sectors of entertainment law and policy, fellows will go on-site to studio lots and visit top entertainment law firms. They will also interact with other industry professionals and peers at networking and industry-related functions to round out their experience.
Fellows were vetted through a comprehensive process by a selection committee representing executives and leaders from the following organizations: Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA), Japanese American Citizens League, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National Urban League, Native American Media Alliance, U.S. House of Representatives | Office on Diversity and Inclusion, White House Initiative on Advancing Education Equity for Hispanics, and White House Initiative on HBCUs.