What do you do?
I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, as well as the graduate director for our MA program in Public Media. I teach a variety of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels on topics like communication and culture, persuasion and public opinion, strategic communication, and media and the environment. As a researcher, my work investigates the role of storytelling and communication technology in promoting networked movements for social justice. Much of my scholarship focuses on local and global food systems, exploring how food can best contribute to improved neighborhood health, environmental sustainability, and the rights and welfare of animals.
Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.I took over as director of our recently launched Public Media MA program at Fordham in the fall of 2017. It is designed as a one-year intensive graduate program, a hybrid of theory and practice, and includes concentrations in Multi-Platform Journalism and Strategic Communication. Considerations of media literacy run through almost everything I do in that position, in terms of designing our schedule and course offerings, finding professional faculty to add to our existing roster of academic faculty, hosting events and conferences, and teaching my own core classes within the program. I’m really energized by questions about how we can help our students develop the intellectual and practical skills to be media literate consumers and producers, whether they are aiming to work as journalists or as advocacy professionals. What can we learn from the history of media and communication that informs our understanding of the present? What role do media and communication technology play in creating the conditions for contemporary social movements related to issues like racial justice and LGBT rights? As an example of how we put this into practice, in April of 2018 I worked with several of our graduate students to organize the Advocacy/Journalism Conference, using a mix of panel discussions and hands-on workshops to explore just these kinds of questions.
Storytelling is a fundamental part of how humans experience our lives and how society operates. Media, in its varied forms, are the source for so many of the stories that create our social world. Being media literate means being able to navigate that world with greater understanding, being able to find ways to advocate for positive social change, and being able to do so with ethics and integrity.
I’d say I’m most excited to follow along with the new developments in media that my students bring into my classes. What are the new platforms that they are using, why and in what ways? What’s the deal with YouTubers, or Fortnite, or whatever else is in vogue at the moment? From there, together we can explore what’s actually new about these new media practices, as well as examine the ways that they replicate or reinforce the types of issues and concerns that have existed with previous types of media.
I’ve followed the work of NAMLE for a long time, have attended a number of events and have used several NAMLE resources in teaching. One of the things I appreciate about NAMLE is the chance to connect with educators from a variety of educational contexts, from primary school up through the college and graduate level. It’s a great way to get a sense of what the key interests of these different groups are, figure out where we overlap and uncover where there are concerns that are unique.