“Today’s communicators — in public relations, advertising, journalism, or multicultural organizations — need to understand and address the interests of Latinos,” says Cristina Benitez, instructor, College of Communication, and director of the Latino Media & Communication (LM&C) program, which offers a concentration for graduate students and a minor or concentration for undergraduates.
“Our students study Latino history and culture so that in their careers they can reach Latinos with relevant, nuanced messages. In PR and journalism, what stories resonate with Latinos? In advertising, how do the values of Latino consumers affect their purchasing decisions? In the workplace, how can people from different cultures and ethnicities come together effectively in an organization or community? Our graduates understand the subtleties in those questions, and they can come up with answers that reflect a true appreciation of Latino sensibilities.”
Among the first students to sign up for LM&C classes was Nathaly Gamino (BA ’11), who credits the program with insights she’s brought to her job with Flowers Communications Group, one of the leading multicultural public relations agencies in the country: “I recognize all kinds of differences, not just between Latinos and non-Latinos, but between young and old Latinos, between those who speak English and those who speak only Spanish, and between first and second generation. Reaching each group is challenging and complicated, but also very interesting.”
While a student, Gamino also interned at a Latino agency in Chicago: “When I was looking for a job, potential employers definitely valued that experience and my LM&C minor, because everyone’s trying to reach Latinos — they’re the largest growing consumer group in the U.S. The content in the program’s courses is right for anyone who wants to understand differences between markets or audiences.”
Yesenia Duarte (BA ’13) has found that an LM&C concentration has prepared her to pursue a career in workplace diversity: “Right now, I have an internship in the human resources department of a large corporation, so LM&C was right up my alley. A lot of businesses are trying to recruit Latinos, and I hope eventually to be a ‘go between’ who brings together companies and minority candidates who might not even know how to find the right opportunities. Of course, there are all kinds of Latinos — from different countries, with different cultures — and my understanding of those various groups is a big advantage.”
Brandon Davis (BA ’14) also says the program is a perfect fit with his goals and aspirations: “Rather than just saying — ‘oh, I have a degree in advertising“— I can say ‘I have a concentration in Latino media and communication, and I know how to use theories and ideas about culture to develop campaigns.’ I think this program will enhance my ability to get a good job and, then, be good in that job! The perspective and skills gained in LM&C go beyond the surface level, and I think they’re transferable: that is, the idea of learning about any group’s culture to communication more effectively just makes sense.”
Not surprisingly, the program is growing.
“In 2010, we had five students in the program. This year, we have 25 undergrads and several graduate students,” says Benitez. “We’ve expanded the curriculum, and we used a grant from the McCormick Foundation to bring high school students to a symposium in which professors, professionals, and other students talked about Latino media and communication.
"This program is perfect for any university, but especially right for DePaul given that 18 percent of our incoming freshmen are Latino. I’m thrilled about our growth and anticipate more.  Paso á paso — step by step."