New Media Studies Club: Creating community in the SOJC’s hidden major

Philip Chan and Kiele Head
Phillip Chan and Kiele Head, media studies majors, are the co-founders the new Media Studies Club. Photo by Lauren Tokos.

On the first day of most J-school classes, the professor begins with a monologue about how each of us comes from a different major — journalism, advertising and public relations. But never has my major been included in this spiel.

Media studies is the fourth major in the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). A relatively misunderstood subject, media studies examines media’s intersection with critical theory and interdisciplinary social science. Students in the major take the same skill-building courses as the rest of the J-school but use that knowledge to inform research on media as an institution within the broader web of society.

While I’m enthralled by my individual experience in the media studies program, it has been difficult to connect with other students in the major. The large and diverse core-context classes in the SOJC, along with COVID-19 restrictions, has made it challenging for media studies majors to link up.

On one sunny night in May, these constraints became a bygone concern. I stepped into a small conference room on the second floor of Allen Hall. My body was jittery with nerves as I frantically searched the room for a sign that I was in the correct place. Sure enough, the PowerPoint slide read, “Welcome to the Media Studies Club.” With a breath of relief, I took a seat in the back.

The space was full of unfamiliar faces brought together by our shared interest in media studies. The meeting began with a game of “get-to-know-each-other” bingo. Beyond learning the birthdays, favorite TV shows and broken-limb stories of my peers in the room, I found out that many folks were friends or colleagues of the co-founders, Kiele Head and Phillip Chan. No doubt they were coaxed into attending the meeting with the promise of free food (which was a delicious spread of pasta, salad, bread and cookies).

Head and Chan introduced themselves. Both are media studies majors and members of the SOJC Honors program. The pair briefly described the major, and we proceeded to examine the concept of framing in the “Accidentally in Love” scene from the film “Shrek 2.”

That simple analysis of “Shrek 2” brought me back to my high school days, when I ran a club called Politalks. Every Friday afternoon, my classmates and I would discuss political concepts and current events. For the first time in two years, I had found a community of students who were passionate about the same subjects as me. It ignited unparalleled emotions that I’ve spent my time at UO searching for.

As our discussion died down, the group continued to chat, share SOJC anecdotes and munch on chocolate chip cookies. With a few parting words and a group photo at the front of the room, Head and Chan concluded the meeting.

That evening I took the long route home to collect my thoughts. I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for the small community I had found. In one night, my misgivings had dissipated.

The first Media Studies Club meeting remains a sharp memory and point of excitement for me. Beyond the various courses I’ll take, I look forward to reuniting with my cohort of media studies students. I fully believe that the communities we inhabit shape our individuality and strengthen our capacity for success. I am so thankful to area director Gretchen Soderlund, Kiele Head and Phillip Chan for creating our community.

If you’re interested in joining the Media Studies Club, follow us on Instagram for updates. I hope to see you at a future meeting!

—By Lauren Tokos, class of ‘24

Lauren Tokos (she/her/hers) is a third-year majoring in media studies with a minor in commerce and society. She is also a student in the Clark Honors College and member of the Wayne Morse Scholars Program.