Film & Media Arts' Sarah Projansky named 2018-2020 University Professor

April 10 2018

Every two years, one University of Utah faculty member is honored with the special rank of University Professor, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary skills in teaching, distinguished scholarship in their field, and an interdisciplinary approach to undergraduate instruction. The College of Fine Arts is thrilled to announce that for the sixth time in the award's history, this prestigious distinction is going to one of our own: Professor Sarah Projansky, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty & Academic Affairs for the College of Fine Arts.

The University Professorship grants the winning faculty member the opportunity to bring exciting new projects in undergraduate education to life, and Projansky plans just that. Her proposal is for a new course, speaker series, and symposium - all of which will explore the role of celebrity in contemporary social, cultural, and political life.

"I conceived of this project in the context of the current political and social climate, in which mediated celebrity plays a crucial role not only in the very top levels of both national and international political organization and decision making, but also in our everyday lives," Projasnky said. "This includes a reality TV celebrity with no prior political experience as the current U.S. president; it includes the sexual harassment behavior of high-profile media celebrities and the social media campaign #MeToo that was wide-spread enough to truncate some of those celebrities' careers; it includes the box office and industry-shaping power of celebrity actors such as Jennifer Lawrence and Dwayne Johnson; and, it includes the regular humorous postings of YouTube personalities invested in social justice, such as Ryan Higa and Anna Akana."

The course will explore how celebrity exists in a "transmedia" or "convergence" environment, across film, television, streaming video, video games, radio, print magazines, Internet sites, mobile apps, billboards, and fan fiction, to name a few. In short, this project will explore how celebrity is everywhere.

Sarah explains that, "this project, at its heart, is about media literacy - 'the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in a variety of forms.' That said, twenty-first century university students are already incredibly savvy about the transmedia environment. To generalize, they are what scholars call "prosumers"-both producers and consumers of media. This project's goal is to provide students with an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the details of their media literacy: how they engage media, what they use media for, how media structure and are shaped by transnational global economies, and how media impact all of our personal, cultural, social, and political lives."

Sarah's proposal includes plans throughout the next two years to invite celebrity studies scholars as well as YouTube and other celebrity guest speakers to campus, and includes plans for a Symposium in Spring 2020. The Celebrity Course (FILM/GNDR 2235), which carries both the Diversity (DV) and Social/Behavioral Science (BF) designations, is on track to be offered for the first time in Spring 2019.

Sarah Projansky is Senior Associate Dean for Faculty & Academic Affairs in the College of Fine Arts. She holds a joint-appointment as Professor of Film & Media Arts and of Gender Studies, and is an Adjunct Professor of Communication. She is the author of Spectacular Girls: Media Fascination and Celebrity Culture (2014) and Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture (2001), and co-editor of Enterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek (1996). Her courses include Celebrity, Media Franchises, TV: Streaming & Otherwise, Gender and Contemporary Issues, and Feminist Girls' Media Studies.