Building partnerships across campus | Department of Media Arts
May 17, 2017

Building partnerships across campus

Media Arts undergraduate students enrolled in Dr. Jacqueline Vickery's "Digital Literacies and Social Activism" course (MRTS 4450) had the opportunity to collaborate with the Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion in ways that were mutually beneficial to the students and the university. In the course, students critically consider how they can use media as a tool to advocate for social change and justice. Each group works on an advocacy campaign of their choice. Dr. Vickery commented, "Students are able to use their media skills and creativity to communicate with the university community to make a difference. I love how excited they get when they realize people are listening to their ideas."

One campaign, Linking Leaders, focused on issues of diversity and inclusion on campus. The group - comprised of Troy Garrick, Maygun Flanagan, Catherine Thomas, and Preston Webber - created a pledge that encouraged student organizations to collaborate with each other in ways that more explicitly acknowledged students' intersectional identities. They were in frequent contact with Shani Barrax Moore, Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, who invited them to film and produce a video of this year's Equity and Diversity Conference with keynote speaker Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry. Their video is featured on the Equity & Diversity website and will be used to promote future conferences and to recruit future keynote speakers, panelists, and sponsors.

During the conference, Dr. Vickery screened another video We Aren't Satisfied that was created by The CORE campaign in fall 2015. Eva Arreguin, Micah Autry, Seth Gamaz, and Joelle Savage, produced a campaign focused on the lack of diverse faculty on campus. "We want more leaders who look like us," explained the four Media Arts students of color. The group tweeted the link to the video to President Smatresk, students, and campus organizations and used the hashtag #WeArentSatisfied. The video caught the attention of the administration who invited the students to a meeting to start an ongoing conversation about how to increase faculty diversity. Almost two years later, the video continues to influence discussions about race and ethnicity on campus. It's exemplary of how to can build advocacy into coursework and validate students' voices and experiences in ways that can make a change.

Another campaign, Do It Right, aimed to end sexual assault at UNT through sexual education. In addition to hosting a panel with representatives from resource centers on campus and around Denton, the group also worked with Inya Baiye, the Director of Equal Opportunity, Title IX and ADA coordinator at UNT. Currently, campus administrators are actively working to understand and address the nation-wide problem and they are seeking student input as well - for example, through a campus-wide survey about sexual education and assault. The Do It Right campaign included Jake Forsher, Madi Holland, Maria Lempke, and Alexander Leyva - who agreed to produce a video about students' views about UNT's approach to sexual education and assault. The Title IX office will screen the video as part of the university's strategic plans to help create a safer and more equitable campus.

The collaborations between student projects and the administration demonstrates the benefits of connecting students with institutional structures and administrators. Extending beyond the boundaries of the classroom, the projects are utilized in professional and influential ways. The students begin to view themselves as people who can make a difference. "I'd never been to the admininstration building before this, would never have thought about it. But this project helped me realize that students can have a voice," one student noted. The Office of Equity and Diversity commented, "We have been so impressed with the students' professionalism and creativity. The videos are an overdue and needed asset to our division. We hope to continue to work with students from Media Arts in mutually beneficial ways that can help us create a more inclusive campus."