New Faces: Media, Communications and Journalism welcomes four new professors

New Faces MCJ

The College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State is the largest college on campus, encompassing nine departments, and the Armenian Studies Program.

Each year, new faculty are brought on to elevate the academic offerings here at Fresno State. These new faculty members bring innovative research, diverse fields of study and technical expertise to our college, inspiring new ways of thinking throughout our many disciplines.

Below is our final New Faces article for the 2018-2019 school year, highlighting four new faculty members in the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism.

Department of Media, Communications and Journalism

“MCJ is thrilled to have these talented and brilliant new faculty members join our team. They are all experts in their fields, experienced and effective educators, and — also importantly — colleagues that you want to befriend and collaborated with. We will all be energized and inspired by the newest members of our MCJ family,” said Prof. Betsy Hays, Chair, Department of Media, Communications and Journalism.


Tim Drachlis joins the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism as the new Tatarian Chair.

Drachlis is a multiplatform editor with more than three decades of experience shaping newsrooms and planning award-winning coverage. From 2012 to 2016, he served as Assistant Managing Editor at Newsday on Long Island, the eighth largest daily newspaper in the country, where he helped develop and implement a system that allowed news to be published faster online and across multiple platforms. Under his guidance, his staff of dozens of reporters and editors won nearly 100 journalism awards for countless news events, including the Boston Marathon, Hurricane Sandy and a papal visit to North America. Drachlis was part of a team at Newsday that won Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news in 1992 and 1997, and was an editor on three other Pulitzer-winning projects. He also has twice been a Pulitzer finalist. His work has been honored by the Society of Silurians, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Long Island Press Club, the New York Press Club, the New York News Publishers Association, The Associated Press and the Society of News Design.

During Drachlis’ 28-year tenure at Newsday, he guided thousands of enterprise and investigative projects, including a 22-part series on higher education construction and a yearlong look into how a local police chief walked into a precinct house, beat up a man accused of breaking into his car and then attempted to cover up his crime (that chief now is in prison). He has taught college-level courses for more than 20 years on reporting, writing, editing and news design, and is a frequent guest speaker on these topics.

Before coming to Fresno State, Drachlis was the James Clendinen Professor of Critical Thinking and Writing at the University of South Florida and also has taught at the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida, the University of Tampa, Hofstra University and Queens College. His students have gone on to successful careers at scores of media outlets including ESPN, The Associated Press, Newsday, NBC, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Bergen (N.J.) Record. Before joining Newsday, Drachlis was a reporter and editor at the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.


Question: What are you most looking forward to here at Fresno State?

Answer: Working with students and helping them become excellent communicators.

Q: Can you tell us how you became involved in your specialty area?  

A: I was what is called a “Watergate baby.” I was a preteen when the Watergate burglary happened and I was fascinated how these two journalists kept digging until they uncovered the scandal that forever changed how Americans viewed politicians. I decided then that I wanted to work for a newspaper. So, I worked for my junior high school paper, my high school paper and my college paper to gain experience. Then, I went to grad school to hone my craft and got my first reporting job upon graduation.

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the MCJ Department offerings here at Fresno State?

A: I was privileged to have been a newsroom leader at a time of tremendous change in journalism. I received a lot of training and experience at both how to have a successful paper and how to have a successful website. During that time I developed a system in which journalists can produce high-quality stories and find innovative ways to tell them online. At Fresno State, I hope to share some of that insight with students so that they can be successful in the digital world without compromising good journalistic standards.

Q: What are you reading?

A: For recreational reading, I enjoy history and historical fiction. I currently am reading the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell.

Q: When are your office hours?

A: Mondays and Wednesdays, 1-2:30 p.m.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I encourage all students to consider journalism. In my 30-plus years in the business, I loved coming to work every day — you never knew what was going to happen and you had to be prepared for anything. The job is fun and vastly rewarding — you get the honor of telling people what happened, what will happen and why it happened.

Dr. Carey Higgins-Dobney joins the MCJ Department as an Assistant Professor of Broadcast and Multi-platform Journalism. Prior to her move to Fresno, she spent over 2 decades doing local television production, most recently as a newscast director in Portland, Oregon. She also taught Broadcast Journalism classes at one of the local community colleges in the Portland area while completing her Ph.D.

Carey’s research centers around the business of local television news, its labor practices, and the impact of corporate decision-making on newsrooms, journalism, and the community.

When she’s not in the classroom or studio, you’ll find her trying to keep up with her kids,  running around Fresno, or figuring out how to care for the citrus trees in her garden.


Question: What are you most looking forward to here at Fresno State?

Answer: I am so impressed with the enthusiasm of everyone I’ve met, from faculty to staff to students. That isn’t something you find on every campus, and it makes teaching here that much more fun and exciting,  I can feel the energy in the room.

Q: Can you tell us how you became involved in your specialty area?

A: As an undergrad, I started out as a broadcasting major, which means I originally wanted to report and anchor the news. Then I landed in the mandatory “Production 101” class and fell in love with the behind-the-scenes aspects of television production. My time on the daily campus television newscast cemented my love for TV news production.

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the MCJ Department offerings here at Fresno State?

A: I’m very hands-on in all things studio and news production. If I make my students do it, I try to make sure I know how to do it myself as well. I keep surprising our engineer by doing things in the studio he isn’t used to seeing faculty do!  I also love having my students use social media as a networking tool, which in turn helps feed my Twitter habit (@DirectorCarey)!

And since I’m a total news nerd, I’m excited to be part of the Fresno State Focus, our student news broadcast.

Q: What are you reading?

A: I just wrapped up my Ph.D. while working at a tv station and teaching, so it’s been a while since I had time to pull out a book for pleasure! I’m catching up with biographies of pop culture icons with great backstories. I’m currently reading Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes.

Q: When are your office hours?

A: For Fall 2018, Mondays and Thursdays from 11am to 1pm in Speech Arts 140C. When I’m not in there, I’m probably in the studio trying out new things!

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I’m a double Bulldog, with my undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia. So Go Dogs and Go Dawgs!


Aaron Schuelke joins the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism as a narrative filmmaker whose work has screened at festivals across the country. He is a native of the Austin, Texas area. Aaron’s work frequently tells stories of characters struggling with issues around location, family, identity, and intercultural exchange. He has worked in international education and taught film at various universities in New York, Arkansas, and Michigan. Aaron has an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, where he specialized in film and media, and an MFA in Film from Columbia University.


Question: What are you most looking forward to here at Fresno State?

Answer: I am very much looking forward to getting to know the students here and working with them to find creative and compelling ways to tell their stories. From the beginning, I’ve been very impressed by the diversity of our campus community. I know that the richness of that diversity produces a variety of stories rooted deeply rooted in this place and in the life experiences of our students. As a filmmaker, I love working with students to find their own voices and create visual stories that reflect what they want to say in the world.

Q: Can you tell us how you became involved in your specialty area?

A: Being involved in making movies was a lifelong dream of mine from the time I was a kid. I think becoming a filmmaker was a natural outgrowth of all the interests that I always had, but it was actually something that I didn’t act on until after I finished undergrad.

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the MCJ Department offerings here at Fresno State?

A: Fresno State is currently in the process of developing and strengthening the media production program. I am very excited to be a part of developing the narrative, or fiction, filmmaking and film studies component of that. I’m excited to share my skills as a screenwriter/director with students here and continue building a strong media production tradition here at Fresno State.

Q: When are your office hours?

A: M/W 2-3:30pm; Tues 1-3pm

AvalosDr. Adán Ávalos joins the Department of Media, Communications & Journalism and the Department of Art and Design as an assistant professor, coming to Fresno State from the University of New Mexico.

As one of eleven children from a Mexican migrant labor family, Ávalos has focused his artistic and scholarly career on paying tribute to the lives and experiences within migrant communities.

Dr. Ávalos earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. His current academic work focuses on exploitation films of the 1970s and 1980s — so-called naco movies — reclaiming part of Mexican film history often dismissed by conventional scholarly research. His scholarly work has been published in “Latsploitation, Latin America and Exploitation Cinemas” and in “Valuing Films: Shifting Perceptions of Worth.”

Ávalos believes in exploring both theory and practice of art, directing his own documentaries and art installations. His work reflects this broad range of interests and borrows from his academic theory, encompassing film and video, ceramics, printmaking, and traditional fiber art.


Question: What are you most looking forward to here at Fresno State?

Answer: As a new member to the Fresno State family, I am amazed by the talent, energy, and creativity found in such a diverse group of students. I am honored and look forward to playing a role in teaching and mentoring the future media makers and artists of the Central Valley.

Q: Can you tell us how you became involved in your specialty area?

A: My mother’s love of arts and culture, specifically Mexican cinema and the fiber arts, is what inspired me and opened up an artistic lens through which to view the world. As migrant farm workers, we never thought about it in those terms, but I credit her and my family for giving me the gift of the arts and valuing our lived experiences.

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the MCJ and Art Department offerings here at Fresno State?

A: Growing up in the San Joaquín Valley as a border thinker — one who uses alternative knowledge traditions and alternative languages of expression — I believe uniquely positions me to reimagine our course offerings in both the MCJ and Art departments in a way that will support student achievement.

Q:What are you reading?

A: The current novel I’ve been enjoying is The Beginning and the End by the literary artist, Naguib Mahfouz. It’s a story about the trials and tribulations of an Egyptian family struggling to maintain their social standing by all means necessary. As a cinéast, what I find so fascinating about this novel is that one of the greatest auteurs of our time, Arturo Ripstein created a film adaptation of a very Middle Eastern story and places it in modern Mexico, proving to us that the Middle East is not too far from the Mexican experience.

Q: What’s one of your favorite quotes?

A: The following isn’t necessarily a quote but something that left an imprint a few years back. It comes from a book titled Cultural Residues by Nelly Richard. Here I have taken creative license and reinterpreted her theory as a poem.

We forget in order to remember,

and through the forgetting and remembering,

our culture lives on.

Q: When are your office hours?

A: My office is located in Speech Arts 140D and my office hours are 10:15am-12:15pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, and by appointment. I would encourage all students to, at least once, visit their professors during office hours.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I’d like to thank both of my departments and our students for the warm welcome. I would also like to acknowledge the good people at EOP and McNair who supported me during my early education and were key in my success.

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