Congratulations to third year MFA student Melanie Cedeño-López and NSCM Advisor Betsy Kalin for winning first place and a $1000 scholarship at UCF’s Three-Minute Thesis Competition held at the Morgridge Reading Center! Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) features master’s and doctoral students communicating their research in just three minutes with only one PowerPoint slide.

Cedeño-López had the opportunity to discuss why this research she has achieved is important, any research findings that surprised her, and what this special moment meant to her. Cedeño-López and her Thesis Chair, Kalin, talk about their experience working together and some of their research interests.



Why is this research important?
“My research takes the form of a feature-length documentary thesis film called LA BUENA COSECHA and explores the remarkable contributions of Latino business owners in the United States. The film follows the journey of two families of entrepreneurs from Colombia and Puerto Rico as they navigate the competitive US food market, honor their heritage, and secure a legacy for their children. My documentary goes beyond the conventional narratives often associated with the Latino community, offering an authentic look at their potential to positively shape the nation.”

What research findings surprised you?
“Discovering the economic impact of Latinos in the U.S. through my film was eye-opening. They not only exhibit high entrepreneurship rates, creating new jobs, but also significantly contribute to consumption and capital formation due to their increasing wealth. According to the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, Latino-owned businesses contribute approximately $800 billion in annual sales, with one in four new businesses now being Latino-owned. To put it in perspective, “one in four new businesses is now Latino-owned”.

Additional studies cited in my film reveal that, despite being 19% of the population, Latinos played a key role in propelling the national economy, contributing $3.2 trillion to the GDP in 2021 and accounting for 39% of GDP growth in 2020-2021. The contrast between these economic contributions and persisting negative stereotypes emphasizes the urgent need to challenge misconceptions and acknowledge the diverse and dynamic contributions of Latino entrepreneurs.”

What does this moment mean to you (winning 1st place in the competition)?
“Securing 1st place in the UCF Three Minute Competition is an immense honor with deep personal meaning. It means not only recognition for my efforts but also a commitment to continue sharing positive stories about Latinos making a meaningful impact. It’s about initiating conversations, reshaping perspectives, and, in a way, setting the record straight. The award money I received will be instrumental in finalizing the film, covering some post-production costs and ensuring its completion.”


Advisor Betsy Kalin:

“I have been delighted to work with Melanie since the Fall of 2021 when she enrolled in my Documentary Production I & II course. In that course, she made her short film LA BUENA COSECHA which is a proof-of-concept for her feature-length thesis documentary of the same name. Melanie has had great success with the short film screening at festivals. Now as her Thesis Chair, I encouraged her to apply for the 3MT competition. Many people outside of the documentary field aren’t aware of the amount of research that goes into making a non-fiction film. I knew that Melanie had completed substantive research on her topic because in documentary filmmaking, we write comprehensive proposals that can be up to 50 pages in length for funding.  

Melanie’s research overlaps with my areas of interest. My films focus on community building, social justice and immigrant stories so we are a great match. Melanie is currently my GTA through the Buhr Fellowship and has been instrumental in helping me with research and editing for my documentary DREAMING IN SOMALI about Somali-American women who immigrated to the Twin Cities and are advocating for fundamental change.  

I am thrilled that Melanie won first place in the UCF Three Minute Thesis Competition. I am proud of her hard work and am glad to have helped by giving her feedback on her application and working with her to refine her pitch and presentation materials. The most exciting aspect was being there for the competition and seeing the other fantastic presenters. Melanie won in a very competitive field and I couldn’t be happier for her to have secured the title and $1,000 to go toward finishing LA BUENA COSECHA! She continues to fundraise for completion costs so anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year can do so here:”


By Majdulina Hamed.

Published to Nicholson News on December 6th, 2023.

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