New professor Carmen Gonzalez hopes to bridge university, community efforts

CarmenGonzalez150Brand new to the city of Seattle and to the University of Washington, Carmen Gonzalez joined the Department of Communication in August as an Assistant Professor. Hoping to bridge university and community efforts to promote sustainable social change through engaged scholarship and teaching, Gonzalez brings a rich skillset and bank of knowledge to the classroom.

“My work has always involved partnerships with community organizations and addressing inequality through research,” she said. “When I saw this position, I knew it was a perfect fit for what I was looking for. I study difference and the social outcomes of inequality – to be able to teach that as well is a really great opportunity.”

Throughout the last 10 years, Gonzalez has investigated the communication practices of immigrant and minority populations in the contexts of health promotion and civic engagement. She has engaged in community-based research to examine questions such as: How can digital neighborhood storytelling promote political participation? How do Latino families make decisions about adopting digital technologies and how can these tools facilitate empowerment and learning?

At the Department of Communication, Gonzalez is teaching COM 289 about communication, power, and difference for her first two quarters, and will teach a seminar on community-based research methods in the spring. She is also an Associate Director for the Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity.

“I’m excited to be here, get to know the Communication Department, and connect with folks throughout the university to find out what the UW is all about,” Gonzalez said. “My personal mission in Seattle is to spend time in different neighborhoods and meet different kinds of residents in order to become more familiar with the local culture and figure out how my research can make an impact here.”

Gonzalez received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Prior to that, she earned a B.A. in Print Journalism and Chicano Studies from USC – an effort to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a journalist.

“I have always loved writing. I worked at my high school newspaper and interned for magazines in Los Angeles, but I felt like something was missing,” Gonzalez said. “I always asked the ‘So what?’ question and I wanted more opportunities to explore the answers.”

Gonzalez’s Ph.D. advisor and mentor recognized her restlessness and encouraged her to consider graduate school – an opportunity to connect writing and journalism with communication theory, research, and practice. She continued to work with the media industry by partaking in digital storytelling and engaging local media in different communities.

“I am excited to see that community-based research is becoming more institutionalized. The culture of academia is embracing the importance of community participation, public scholarship, and engaged research. As scholars and educators it is up to us to determine the implications of our work,” Gonzalez said. “That’s always been my mission, to identify ways in which research can empower individuals, families, and communities. If we open up the doors of the university and listen to voices from the community, we can strengthen relationships and collaboratively champion social change.”