Fountain on Pitzer College campus

Faculty Spotlight: Elizabeth Affuso

Next up on the Spotlight series is Professor Elizabeth Affuso, interviewed by Kat ’18. Topics in this interview range from interdisciplinary youth culture to social media after the recession!

Elizabeth AffusoAffuso_faculty_013

Professor and Academic Director of Intercollegiate Media Studies

Field Group: Media Studies
Research Interests: Spectatorship, Fandom, Branding, Technology, Architecture, Moving image media art, and Reality television
Some Classes She’s Taught: Social/Media, Introduction to Media Studies
Little Known Fact: She graduated from NYU and worked in television advertising and film programming prior to working at Pitzer!

Kat Harhai: What makes Pitzer stand out from other institutions?

Elizabeth Affuso: Pitzer stands out in that it really is an institution that values many forms of community building and intellectual expression. Students are encouraged to pursue these practices in creative ways both in the classroom and in the larger campus environment.  For me, this practice is most visible in the murals on Mead Hall, which evolve and change in relationship to the campus community climate.


KH: How would you describe a Pitzer student?

EA: Pitzer students are intellectually curious, confident, creative, and political.

21412024022_b5b2a1a234_o“Pitzer students are intellectually curious, confident, creative, and political.”








KH: What are your relationships with students like?

EA: I have close relationships with many students, which is something that the Pitzer environment fosters.  It’s a small school, so often you have students in a variety of courses over their time here, which allows you to see them evolve.  Pitzer’s campus design also creates an intimacy between students and faculty, so that you see students not only in class, but also outside the classroom in the dining hall, at special events, and in the gym!


KH: What do you love about what you do?

EA: I feel very lucky to teach Media Studies because students have a lot of exposure to media texts outside the classroom and it’s fun to give them the tools to reframe these objects in theoretical/historical ways.  Additionally, contemporary culture is very media based and I think it’s important for everyone to have the tools of media literacy to navigate this 24/7 media environment regardless of the profession they end up working in.  

“I think it’s important for everyone to have the tools of media literacy to navigate this 24/7 media environment regardless of the profession they end up working in.”

KH: What is your favorite course to teach, or favorite course you have taught in the past?

EA: Introduction to Media Studies is my favorite course to teach because it is the first exposure many students have to field of Media Studies.


KH: One of Pitzer’s Core Values is interdisciplinary learning; how has this played into your research, academic focus, or learning objectives for your classes?

EA: I developed Youth Culture, my first year seminar, to be an interdisciplinary course. The course takes theoretical texts and objects of study from Media Studies, Literature, Music, Art, and Cultural Studies.  It was fun for me to be able to teach a course that brought in some of my areas of interest that are outside of my home discipline.


KH: What research are you doing here at Pitzer?

EA: I’m currently working on a book project that examines post-feminist consumer cultures in the digital era, especially as related to the sharing economies that developed in spaces like YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram after the recession. I think much of my interest in this topic stems from my conversations with students about how they exist in digital culture. These conversations also inspired me to develop Social/Media, a new course that I’m currently teaching.

Posted by Kat Harhai ’18, Environmental Analysis & Feminist Studies and Katie Shepherd, Admission Counselor

Harhai, Kat    10868036_10152997844937755_6688470008344748156_n


A Better Sequel

Movie sequels are notoriously disappointing. As a Media Studies course veteran, I have learned to never question the extrinsic value of releasing sequels (say no to drugs, but yes to box office success kids), but most times the intrinsic quotable magical quality, the very integrity of the original version is edited out of the sequel and becomes lost in translation as the once well-known dialogue becomes tangled up in complicated plot lines. Pitzer’s acceptance rate drops multiple percentage points each year, yet the student body is still highly accepting of all who come to campus.

This year, I returned to the prickly set of Pitzer College after spending five months in Paris, France. For one semester I experienced a full-fledged springtime in Paris with plenty of rain, but no umbrellas, chocolate-covered everything, Seine riverside chilling, and the essential ‘B’s – bottles (of water of course) and baguettes…but let’s go back to Pitzer (stay tuned for cliché memories from the city of lights in another blog post).

I did not experience the classic reentry culture shock that the Office of Study Abroad had promised, or rather warned of, but the Pitzer set had changed its aesthetic in a big, gaping way. Rolling onto campus for the first time in a long time, my eyes lingered on the hole where Holden Hall used to be. I inquired to myself in Frenglish regarding the dormitory’s whereabouts:

Where est Holden Hall?
Where est Holden Hall?














Beloved supporting characters often disappear by the end of the original version all the time, so Holden’s conspicuous absence in The Pitzer Experience: Senior Year should have come as no surprise, though my perma-raised eyebrows betrayed such rational conclusions. I observed the beginning of Holden’s end in Junior Year, and after an initial shocking “holy crap there should be a building here” type-of-feeling, a flashback to the final days of Holden Hall revealed the forgotten truth; tiny ill-lit makeshift offices of faculty and student-run clubs that became waterlogged and super depressing after severe flooding and poor drainage. In the end of its days, Holden Hall was hardly functioning, and had strayed very far from its sunnier days of decades past. So in coming to form a second opinion of the second version, or rather lack thereof, Holden’s eminent destruction was a good thing. The massive dust bowl on the side of the service road will make room for newness and improvement to come in future versions of the Experience. And while the rest of us keep dreading the unending drought, the Holden Hall lot is grateful for the little to nil chance of flooding this year.

Another plot twist ~ The Gold Student Center, new and improved as the Gold Student Health & Wellness Center
Every year a familiar story begins. We all move back in on or off-campus, are reunited with old faces, choose classes based on professors we have grown to admire, memorize the dining hall schedule, all while chasing the first time we experienced it all. A sociology professor of mine had this to ask during the first session: “what has changed, and what has remained the same”?  Whether it is an architectural face-lift, or a giant hole of possibilities, Pitzer’s colorful characters may find peace of mind knowing that both the infinite changes and permanence of the things that remain the same here create a brighter future, and ultimately, a better sequel.

Posted by Kara Powell ’15, Media Studies and Organizational Studies

Kara Powell Diversity Intern