Mark L. Brandt Public Engagement Fellows program funds eight fall projects in the College of Media

IMEDIA summer workshop
This summer, IMEDIA held a media literacy workshop for public school educators; one panel on social media content featured an ICR alum, an Urbana High School student, and a journalism major. IMEDIA is one of the funding recipients in the Mark L. Brandt Public Engagement Fellows program. 


Eight projects led by College of Media faculty and staff have been selected to receive funding as part of the Mark L. Brandt Public Engagement Fellows program, established this year to provide undergraduate Media students with professional experience in public engagement activities. It also provides opportunities for students to participate in programs that support first-generation college students, students from underrepresented groups, and/or students with significant financial need. 

“We are delighted to be honoring Mark Brandt’s legacy through opportunities for our students to work with College of Media faculty and staff on projects that make a difference in our community, our state, and the nation,” said Dean Tracy Sulkin. 

Mark L. BrandtBrandt was a 1986 alumnus of Illinois who retired early from a career in finance at General Electric. After his death in 2021, the College of Media received an estate gift of just over $1 million to create the Brandt Public Engagement Fellows program. The trustee of his estate, Mary Leyendecker, chose to ensure that his legacy makes a positive impact on students and society. The funds will provide internships for up to 40 Media students annually, with opportunities announced in both fall and spring semesters.

Below is a list of the projects, activities, and programs that received funding for Brandt Public Engagement Fellows for Fall 2022. College of Media undergraduate students who wish to apply for these opportunities should check their email inbox for the October 3 Advising Newsletter for more details.

Mis/Disinformation in Asian and Asian American Communities Research Project
Led by Rachel Kuo, Assistant Professor of Media & Cinema Studies
The Brandt Fellow will support research on a project that studies the historical and political contexts of mis/disinformation in Asian and Asian American communities through the use of community education workshops, oral histories, and focus groups. Working closely with the PI, the Brandt Fellow will support data collection and analysis; facilitate community research workshops and skills-trainings; and co-write and produce resource guides on Asian and Asian American history and ethnic media; and meet different community partners. 

Roger Ebert Center for Film Studies
Led by Julie Turnock, Associate Professor of Media & Cinema Studies
This academic year (2022-2023) is the inaugural year of the Roger Ebert Center for Film Studies. The Brandt Fellow will primarily use their skills in web design, graphic design, and public relations, to build and update a public-facing website for the Ebert Center, and work with the College of Media’s Director of Communications to publicize Ebert Center events via social media. They will also play a key role to help make the activities of the Ebert Center available to the local community.

SHIELD Illinois Research Project
Led by:
Ewa Maslowska, Assistant Professor of Advertising
Margaret Ng, Assistant Professor of Journalism
Harsh Taneja, Associate Professor of Advertising

The Brandt Fellows will help with a project with SHIELD Illinois—the community COVID-19 saliva-based testing program of the State of Illinois. Our project aims to understand public attitudes, news framing, and diffusion networks related to SHIELD COVID-19 testing through social media discourse and news coverage. The Brandt Fellows will take part in the process of data gathering and analysis and develop visualizations.

Led by:
Amanda Ciafone, Associate Professor of Media & Cinema Studies, Director of Graduate Studies for the Institute of Communications Research
CL Cole, Department Head, Professor of Media & Cinema Studies
Stephanie Craft, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Professor of Journalism
Michelle Nelson, Professor of Advertising

The Brandt Fellow will help develop the digital communications strategy of the Initiative for Media Education Inquiry and Action. IMEDIA is a collaboration between the College of Media and the College of Education to help fill high school teachers’ needs for media literacy training and curriculum development in light of new Illinois State mandates requiring a unit of “media literacy” in all public Illinois high schools.

New Voices Internship Program
Led by Daniel Almanza, Assistant Director of Media Career Services
The New Voices Internship Program provides first-generation college students with support and opportunities to grow their resume as soon as they join the College of Media. Students in the program are given opportunities for professional development through workshop-style meetings with the Assistant Director of Career Services, as well as other members of the campus community. In addition to interviews, students will participate in projects based on their interests, as they align with the content needs of the College of Media. 

Brand Hub
Led by Susan Muirhead, Visiting Associate Director, Hub for Brand Innovation and Advertising Technology
The Brandt Fellow will work with the Brand Hub on further development of their community and outreach efforts primarily through the development of Fall and Spring Brand Hub Marketing Fairs, in partnership with the Champaign Public Library. This includes support with program development, event marketing materials, and with the recruitment of student volunteers at these events. They will also be instrumental in the implementation of a pipeline system for nonprofits to work with the Brand Hub and courses in the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising. The Brandt Fellow will also assist, where possible, with the development of the second year of the Impact Marketing and Fundraising Fellowship program, which is set to launch in early June 2023.

Illinois Community Media Project
Led by Angela Aguayo, Associate Professor of Media & Cinema Studies
The Illinois Community Media Project is a grant-funded project to bring media production, curation, and documentation to underserved communities. We begin with building connections with local service organizations and through collaborative identification of social problems, design a media production outreach program. Our Illinois Community Media team works hands-on with students to connect classroom knowledge with the community. The Brandt Fellows will assist in planning public-facing speaker visits, organizing, and assisting with community-based projects, creating documentation content of events, and building website and social media presence for the organization.

News, Brews & Beatz
Led by Moss Bresnahan, Executive Director of Illinois Public Media
Illinois Public Media produces a quarterly series called News, Brews & Beatz—a space for diverse voices to engage in breakthrough conversations on community issues and realistic solutions. Each quarter, News, Brews & Beatz focuses on a different topic in a way that elevates Black voices and shares what individuals and nonprofit groups are doing to build community. The Brandt Fellow will assist with this multiplatform initiative, which includes content airing on TV, radio, and social media. They will also create short videos for TikTok and other social media as part of the News, Brews & Beatz initiative.

—Holly Rushakoff

Pictured at top: Media alumna Dora Valkanova (PhD '20, ICR), Urbana High School student Halie Thompson, and sophomore in journalism Ashley Gilbert discussed ways in which students were audiences and creators of social media content at an IMEDIA media literacy workshop this summer for public school educators.