Aguayo to lead conversations, programs about social justice as College of Media Dean’s Fellow

Angela Aguayo

This year, the College of Media will explore a social justice theme to build community and connections for students, faculty, and staff. The idea for an annual, opt-in theme emerged during the College of Media strategic planning process, and selection of an inaugural theme was voted on by faculty and staff last spring.

Angela Aguayo, associate professor in the Department of Media & Cinema Studies, recently began an appointment as Dean’s Fellow for Strategic Initiatives. In this role, she will facilitate conversations and activities around the theme. Her portfolio also includes working with departments to develop professional education programs.

“This timely and important theme resonated with the College of Media,” said Dean Tracy Sulkin. “We’re excited to implement ideas that address how advertising, journalism, and media and cinema studies can bring more attention to social justice through class projects, campus events, alumni engagement, and beyond. Through the Dean's Fellows program, we're also gratified to extend leadership opportunities that support our strategic priorities.” 

As a Dean's Fellow for 2021-2022, Aguayo join Jason P. Chambers, associate professor in the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising, who is continuing for a second year as Dean's Fellow. His portfolio is focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

At the outset, Aguayo wants to create inclusive environments while exploring the relationship between social justice and today’s media landscape.

“When you can create an environment where there's a free exchange of ideas and learning, and people feel excited about that, there's an energy there that is really intoxicating,” Aguayo said.

“We’re at this really critical historical moment where many things have come to bear in regard to the functioning of our world, how we engage in participation, and how media plays into democracy and engagement with one another,” Aguayo said. “It makes me really happy to be part of a college that is responsive to the things that are happening, and understands its role in learning and listening, and adjusting in response to those conditions.”

Aguayo will also create programs and events for students, faculty, and staff across the college to engage with one another about issues of social justice. 

For example, Aguayo would like to invite alumni who are currently media professionals to discuss with students how social justice intersects with their careers.

Aguayo said the theme of social justice is also an opportunity to evaluate current media training and education, as well as what the future of these changing industries should look like.

She wants programming to be as engaging as possible, hoping that in-person events will be more common because these conversations are best in open environments. 

“We're in a place where we need to understand each other, as well as share our perspectives in order to understand what's been missing and move forward,” she said. “And that process is often best done if we can engage with one another.”

Because social justice is “this huge basket,” Aguayo said, she hopes to ground the theme within college departments in order to have some focus and emphasize social justice’s roots in democracy.

This would involve looking at social justice through advertising, through journalism, or through media and cinema studies while also exploring democratic principles, she said.

“When we do that and then focus on the area of our fields, we get into the discussion in a way that is deeply ingrained into our training,” Aguayo said.

Aguayo has always been interested in the relationship between media and social change.  She specializes in documentary film, an area of cinema that has a strong connection to realism and is both a serious work of journalism and an artistic work of media, she said.

“Documentaries aren't made on sets; they're made from the fabric of our life,” Aguayo said. “I'm fascinated about this very serious discourse and this very artistic discourse and the degrees in which it has the ability to change the world.”

As the academic year begins, Aguayo said she’s hopeful that people will come to this theme of social justice with openness and curiosity.

“We’re living in a historical moment where things shift and there's opportunity and possibility for change,” she said. “I hope that we all can lean into that moment by connecting with one another and intentionally moving forward in a way that creates a more equitable and inclusive world.”

—Vivian La, Communications Intern