Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Sonia De La Cruz

An interview with the professor about upcoming her projects and passions.

Sonia De La Cruz, a communications professor at  UW Tacoma, was willing to share her passions and upcoming projects during her third year at the campus. She also offered advice she hopes others will be able to learn from.

“In terms of my teaching, I teach a variety of courses that have a core in communication, but I’m also one of the professors who teach production courses and that aligns with my research,” said Cruz.

An assistant professor, Cruz focuses on two different kinds of research: one on non-mainstream media and the other is on the way media can be utilized for social justice and activism. 

“The work that I do in my research is looking at ways in which diverse communities that often tend to be marginalized — particularly in the mainstream media — and how they might utilize systems of communication such as radios, film or video as a way to advance social change for their communities,” Cruz explained.

She aims for her research to include both local and global communities. She likes to understand how different cultures and communities face marginalization, discrimination and oppression in relation to how the media is being used to promote their voices. She explained that the work she does is connected to her experience with injustice in her own community. 

“Connected to what I do is the work in documentary film,” Cruz said. “The reason I decided to learn about it and pick up a camera was because I was seeing all of this injustice and oppression that I saw in my community that was not being represented in mainstream media.”

It was during her undergraduate experience where she began to look around and wonder about her environment. She spoke about her identity, growing up outside of the United States and how this shaped how she looks at herself as well as the world around her.

“I also identify as a Latina womxn who grew up outside of the United States but lives here now, so I have this perspective that is different,” Cruz explained.

When asked if she had any upcoming projects that she was working on, Cruz stated that her answer to this question pre-COVID would have been different than what it is now. She went on to say that living in this particular moment has caused her to reevaluate a lot of things. 

“I do tend to keep an ear on what is happening right now in my communities, with the elections, the fight for racial injustice, economic justice and immigration justice in those communities,” she said. “I try to be part of those conversations as much as I can.”

According to Cruz, taking care of herself is a priority and when she is not working, she is either editing videos, baking or taking her dog on walks. She offered the following advice for those who might also be stressed or anxious in such uncertain times:

“I think it’s important to be conscious that we also need to give ourselves permission to not have to operate in the mode of working 100% all of the time. Finding the time for family and friends and being around and talking is just important.” 

Last year,  Cruz conducted a project that was connected to UWT. The focus of that project was to understand student experiences around their various social identities. Students from her class were asked to interview other students across campus about their various issues and video record them. 

“The students put their recordings together and now we have this compilation of stories that live in the [UWT] Library,” Cruz said. “It was really powerful with students because they have the ability to become more aware of their own positionality and their relationship to others. Understanding that we don’t all see the world the same way and were living in it together, so how do we get from point A to point B?”

The digital project can be found in the library archives. It is entitled “Telling Your Stories.”