School of Journalism and Media Studies
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Dr. Nathian Shae Rodriguez: Intersectionality and Representation


By Angelena Lufrano

Dr. Nathian Shae Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor of Digital Media at San Diego State University in the School of Journalism and Media Studies. His classes include ‘Principles of Media Studies,’ ‘Media and Sexuality,’ and ‘Digital Media Principles and Design.’ While his students learn about different theories and principles in media studies, they also learn about intersectionality and identity, main focuses of his research. Dr. Rodriguez’s own intersectionality as an LGBTQ, Latinx man from Texas is the driving influence for his work.

“I want to be a voice, not just for people around me, but for people who read research,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “In academia, media studies particularly, there’s not a lot of research about the LGTBQ community, for example. Both my research and class curriculums work with identity and media.”

Dr. Rodriguez received his bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, his master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a concentration in Public Relations from Kent State University, and his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Texas Tech University. Before pursuing academia, Dr. Rodriguez worked as a radio DJ for 13 years in Texas.

“What I like to highlight in my research, as well as in my teaching, is these digital spaces where people can voice their concerns and voice their culture,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “They can use media as a way to combat the symbolic annihilation of minority groups.”

Dr. Rodriguez believes students, especially those interested in working in journalism and media, need to be well-versed in representation and intersectionality because of its absence in mainstream media.

“The media has included a lot of diverse individuals, however, inclusion doesn’t equal representation,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “When you think of broadcast television and movies, we’re not doing a good job. Where we’re really seeing a great influx of representation and intersectionality is on streaming media like Netflix and Hulu. In general, I think we’re slowly moving in the right direction, but it’s not because of network television and movies, it’s because of those digital platforms.”

By recognizing his own intersectionality and positionality, Dr. Rodriguez is able to critically consume and analyze media, a main focus in his research and classes. He expects students, in order to also be successful critical consumers, to recognize their own positionality.

“In my classes, I always start with my students writing a reflective paper about their positionality,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “So often, they’re told to look out and judge other things and other people, but I think it’s so important to first look inwards to who you are. Doing this helps you realize how or why you write a certain way as a journalist or a PR practitioner, as well as figure out what kind of research or career you want to pursue.”

In addition to teaching at SDSU, Dr. Rodriguez is also a faculty in residence at Tenochca Residence Hall. He thinks being around students all the time helps gives him added insights to their lives that professors often forget.

“Living with students helps remind me that they all have real-world problems outside the classroom,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “Not only has it helped make me a better professor and researcher, but it’s rewarding because I feel like I’m a constant in their lives to provide reassurance and advice when I can.”

Most recently, Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Erica Ciznek have been recognized by Public Relations Society of America for their research on the “Texas Bathroom Bill.” They are this year’s recipients of the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Award at the PRSA Educators Academy, in conjunction with the 2018 PRSA International Conference, part of PRSA’s initiative to increase diversity and inclusion within the field of public relations.

“It’s great that they have a separate award for diversity and inclusion now,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “It sends a message to the people that are doing this type of PR research that diversity and equity is important and it’s something PRSA is specifically looking for and wanting to highlight.”

Dr. Rodriguez is currently working on the use of digital media in identity and communication in and among gay men in the borderlands along the US and Mexico border. He is also collaborating with Peggy Peattie, a professional photojournalist who also teaches at SDSU, on the use of mobile phones in San Diego’s homeless population.

You can read more about Dr. Rodriguez here: https://jms.sdsu.edu/index.php/faculty/nathian-shae-rodriguez-ph.d.