Presenter Page

Presenters of the Storytelling in the 21st Century – Our Academic Selves – Conference, Spring 2024 

Texas A&M University Corpus Christi Media & Production

Program Presenters

Gabe Duran, Associate Professor, Texas A&M Corpus Christi 

Bio: Gabriel Duran, the president and founder of FDCLA (Festival de Cine Latino Americano), leads a nonprofit organization that stands as DFW’s largest international Latino Film Festival. FDCLA was established in 2015, and since then, it has continuously propelled exceptional films from across Latin America into the limelight.
In addition to his role at Festival De Cine Latino Americano – Texas, Gabriel is a co-founder of Vivid Vita Events LLC, which was established in 2018. This company specializes in organizing Latino-focused events, notably including Fiesta Charra. Fiesta Charra is an annual charreada and music series held in Lewisville, TX.
Furthermore, Mr. Duran serves as an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the Media Arts department. In this role, he imparts knowledge and expertise in screenwriting and film production, emphasizing narrative filmmaking. Gabriel’s passion lies in bridging the local community with Latino-based arts, fostering a connection that celebrates and showcases diverse cultural expressions.

John Darbonne, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M Corpus Christi 

Bio: John is an Adjunct Professor of Media Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. For fifteen years he worked as a freelance Writer/Director, Cinematographer, and Editor in Los Angeles for companies such as Universal, Sony, and Microsoft. He has completed thirty-three feature films and is the writer/director of COMPANION, based on his award-winning horror feature, which was acquired by Level 33 for worldwide distribution in 2019, garnering him a guaranteed distribution deal. John is heavily invested in AI Filmmaking.

Student Presenters

Sara Carlson, Undergraduate, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi

Bio: I’m Sara Carlson, an undergraduate student in my senior year at TAMU-CC pursuing a degree in media arts with an emphasis in media production. As a non-traditional transfer student, my academic journey has allowed me to meet so many amazing and talented people in the media production department here at TAMU-CC. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them! I hope to become a content creator for a non-profit organization that I have collaborated with for years and continue making everything I do into something creative and inspirational.

University of Houston Downtown, Center for Latino Studies

Program Presenters

Albert DeJesus-Rivera Ph.D., Interim Director for the Center for Latino Studies, University of Houston-Downtown  ​

Bio: Abert DeJesus-Rivera grew up in Puerto Rico where he obtained a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico. After moving to San Antonio for graduate school and a career in biomedical research, Albert was reacquainted with his passion for writing and returned to school to get a Masters and Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from the University of Houston. He is a creative writer and specialist in Latin-American short story, US Hispanic Literature and composition. Currently he is the Language Lab Coordinator, SIELE Coordinator, and teaches US Hispanic Lit., and Composition at the University of Houston–Downtown.

Dr. Anthony Ramirez, Associate for the Center for Latino Studies, University of Houston-Downtown

Bio: Dr. Anthony Ramirez is an Assistant Professor of Communication, and the Assistant Director of the Center for Latino Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown. His research focuses on Latinx representation in popular culture and media, as well as media portrayals of immigration and U.S./Mexico border issues. Ramirez’s commitment to education and community engagement has earned him recognition, including a national award in excellence in teaching and mentorship.

Student/Community Presenters

Edgar Martinez, Undergraduate, University of Houston-Downtown

Bio: My name is Edgar Martinez. My major is criminal justice. Under the Center of Latino Studies I was able to create a conjunto culture appreciation group.

Gerardo Vega Gonzalez, Undergraduate, University of Houston-Downtown

Bio: Hi, my name is Gerardo Vega. I am a junior majoring in Criminal Justice at the University of Houston-Downtown. With the help of a friend and a wonderful professor, I was able to help create the Conjunto Culture Appreciation student organization.

Indira Zaldivar, , Alumni Multimedia Journalist for Que Onda Magazine & University of Houston Downtown

Bio: Indira is a bilingual Multimedia Journalist for Que Onda Magazine with Honduran roots. Aside from being a passionate storyteller, she is a worm farmer, nature lover and reggaeton fan. Indira serves as a Board Member of the Houston Association of Hispanic Media Professionals where she helps raise scholarship funds for students aspiring careers in media. As a green plus, she also volunteers as a Texas Master Naturalist.

Edward Saenz, Alumni, University of Houston-Downtown

Bio: I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing and Technical Communication from UHD. During my time as a student at UHD, I took charge as the Editor in Chief of the school newspaper, The Dateline. In this role, I actively engaged in every facet of newspaper production, including writing, editing, photography, layout design, and leading team meetings.

In November 2023, I was offered a position at Que Onda Magazine, where I have been immersed in reporting on news throughout Houston and Southeast Texas. My focus primarily revolves around local politics and public works projects as well as video editing projects. Alongside my work I volunteer with an Austin based non-profit called Latinitas, in which I assist in video editing projects.

Jasmin Rojas – Student Assistant for the Center for Latino Studies

Beatriz Hernandez, Undergraduate, University of Houston-Downtown

Bio: “Beatriz is a resilient and determined individual who has overcome numerous challenges to achieve her dreams. Born and raised in Mexico City, she embarked on a journey of migration to the United States at the age of 14. Arriving in a new country, Beatriz faced the daunting task of adapting to a new language and culture. Despite the initial struggles, she persevered and dedicated herself to learning English, mastering reading, writing, and speaking skills.

Growing up, Beatriz encountered pervasive beliefs and fears that women were limited in what they could achieve, and obstacles seemed insurmountable. However, fueled by her inner strength and determination, Beatriz refused to be confined by societal expectations. Today, she stands as a testament to resilience and empowerment.

As a single mother and survivor of domestic abuse, Beatriz’s journey has been marked by challenges, but her spirit remains unbroken. With unwavering determination, she has set ambitious goals for herself, including becoming the first lawyer in her family. Despite the hurdles she has faced, Beatriz is a fearless “”go-getter”” who confronts her fears head-on, believing that anything is possible with perseverance and dedication.

Beatriz’s guiding philosophy centers on the importance of uplifting others and extending a helping hand to those in need. She attributes her success to the unwavering support of her loved ones, especially her children, who serve as her source of inspiration and motivation. Surrounded by a supportive network of friends and family, Beatriz remains committed to her journey of personal and professional growth, driven by the belief that together, we can achieve greatness.”

Jose Vasquez – Associate Director, Student Leadership & Involvement

Bio: “Jose Manuel Vazquez was born in Baytown, Texas, to Mexican immigrant parents and was the first person to graduate from high school in his family. He grew up in the town of La Porte, across the Houston Ship Channel from Baytown, where his father worked as a forklift operator for Exxon and his mother stayed at home to take care of him and his 3 siblings.

He is a graduate of the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston, where he was a member of the UH Honors College. As a first-generation college student, he found his support from his fellow friends and brothers of Delta Upsilon, of which he is a member.

Jose currently is a graduate student at the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University with a 4.0 GPA in the Master of Science in Management, Strategy, & Leadership. He leads the UHD Esports program at the University of Houston – Downtown, where he has helped guide UHD Esports to 3 National Championships. Wearing many hats, he also serves as key advisor to all fraternities and sororities at the University of Houston -Downtown, receiving “Greek Life Advisor of the Year” in 2024 as voted on by students.

He also formerly served as Director for Mariachi Los Caimanes from 2019-2023, and under his direction they received many accolades and honors, including playing for thousands of people at the Vanessa Guillen vigil at Houston City Hall, being the first mariachi to perform at 713 Music Hall in downtown Houston, performing the music to “Calavera Con Calavera” stage play at Miller Outdoor Theatre from 2020-2023, and winning the Battle of the Mariachis in 2022, hosted by the Houston Dynamo at the Dynamo Stadium.

Jose Manuel is passionate about student advocacy and serving the underserved. Advancing justice in the world is why he does what he does. He loves to work with culturally based organizations and has been asked to facilitate trainings for fraternities and sororities, presenting on topics such as leadership, inclusion, change management, and building better teams.”

Diana Ambrosio – Treasurer for Latinas Achieve at the University of Houston-Downtown

Bio: Diana will begin working on her thesis in the Fall on intimate partner violence in Latinx communities. She is currently working as the business manager at the student-run newspaper, The Dateline. She has interned at the Harris County Jail and worked with the Brothers-In-Arms unit which was created to help justice-involved veterans through various programs. She is the treasurer for Latinas Achieve. The organization has a mentorship program that Diana participates in as a mentor. The organization strives to provide students with learning how to network, provide networking events, and events that can provide help in their personal lives.

Community Artists and Facilitators

Ernesto Cuevas, Artist Educator

Bio: Ernesto Cuevas, Jr. is a community muralist, studio artist, and educator who utilizes art as a tool for critical expression and community empowerment. His mission is to produce art through both traditional and digital media, prompting the audience to consider the impact of farm workers in society, Mexican American history and ancestry, the value of community, the complexity of a Chicano identity, and the power of education. As a community artist, Cuevas aims to lead collaborative creative experiences that result in murals reflecting the lives, ideas, and emotions of all participants, thereby fostering connections and intersections among them. Born in Harlingen, Texas, and raised in Plant City, Florida, Cuevas pursued Studio Art at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.

Than Niles, Independent Film Maker

Bio: Than Niles studied production at the University of the Arts: London and the Wimbledon College of Art. He received a degree from the University of the Incarnate Word in Communications where he received the School of Media and Design: Monahan Media Studies Award in Convergent Media.

Than has worked in the Texas film and commercial industries for 10 years, creating award winning short films and web series while making content for brands like Alamo Drafthouse, Rackspace Technologies, the NCAA and Turner Broadcasting, Discovery Channel, and the US Air Force.

He has spear headed creative companies like Big Balloon Productions that creates and works with original narrative and music video projects, as well as Light Station Creative, a company that concentrates on visual effects and brand storytelling.

Texas A&M Communication & Journalism Graduate Program

Program Presenters

Anna Wolfe, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University Department of Communication & Journalism

Bio: My research and teaching focus on processes of constituting and contesting collective and stigmatized identities, with particular interest in how organizational structures enable and constrain coordinated action across socially-salient differences. To this end, I investigate how people negotiate in-group/out-group boundaries, how leaders craft narratives to mobilize collective action, and how processes of dialogue and deliberation facilitate deeper shared understandings and more democratic public decisions. Much of my work is conducted in collaboration with community partners, especially local governments, to use communication theory to address everyday problems of living and working in a pluralistic society.

George Villanueva, Associate Professor & Doctoral Program Coordinator, Texas A&M Department of Communication & Journalism

Bio: George Villanueva is Associate Professor & Doctoral Program Coordinator in TAMU’s Department of Communication and Journalism. He is also director of Multimodal Ethnography Flow, a research project dedicated to cultural inquiries into the way that meaning making is shaped and preformed by multimodal communication.

Student Presenters

Valentina Aduen, Doctoral Student, Texas A&M University Department of Communication & Journalism

Bio: Valentina Aduen is a communication PhD candidate at Texas A&M University, department of Communication & Journalism, a fellow at the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research and land retention specialist for The Texas Freedom Colonies Project. She studies communication processes that foster social change as it relates to capacity building for populations disproportionately affected by the racial wealth gap, environmental racism, property and land issues, and displacement. Her work theorizes interpretations of the law and community practices of resistance to coloniality at the intersections of media, culture, identity and rhetoric.

Jordan Nixon, Masters Student Texas A&M University Department of Communication & Journalism

Nate Karr, Masters Student, Texas A&M University Department of Communication & Journalism

Texas A&M University Communication & Journalism Media & Gaming Lab

Program Presenters

Rick Pulos, Doctoral Student, Texas A&M University

Bio: Rick Pulos (he/him/his) is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Communication & Journalism at Texas A&M University with a focus on Fan Studies and Popular Culture. In addition to his studies, Rick is actively involved with the BCS community through The Theatre Company of Brian College Station (TTC). He recently designed projections for Cabaret, worked as the Assistant Director on Sister Act: A Divine Musical Comedy, and launched TTC Teaches, the education arm of the theatre company. He is also known to perform as well as create fiction and non-fiction media with an investment in storytelling. For information, go to

Jonathan Guajardo, Assistant Professor of the Practice, Texas A&M University Department of Communication & Journalism

Bio: Jonathan Guajardo is an Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Department of Communication and Journalism at Texas A&M University. A native of San Antonio, Texas, Jonathan received his B.A. in Communication Arts in 2013 and his M.A. in Communication Arts in 2014 from the University of the Incarnate Word. He has 14 years of experience working in the media industry and owns three media companies: GA Media, a production company specializing in photography, videography, and live-streaming broadcasts, as well as The San Antonio Sentinel and Bryan-College Station Chronicle, two hyper-local news publications focusing on political, business, and lifestyle articles for their respective areas. His academic interests include New Media Journalism, Higher Education, and Entrepreneurial Communication methods. He also assists with running the Media and Gaming Lab at Texas A&M where he works with students to grow in the fields of new media production and journalism.

Student Presenters

Connor McCormick, Undergraduate, Texas A&M

Bio: Kaan is an undergraduate student in the Department of Communication & Journalism at Texas A&M University majoring in Telecommunication Media Studies. Kaan developed his passion for media and its different formats early in his high school career where he took courses in digital media, animation, film, video, and audio production. He also attended a summer filmmaking program at the University of Houston. Kaan served as program leader in his high school video news production and worked as the sports broadcasting crew member for live sports events. Upon graduation, Kaan intends to enter the field of digital communication and marketing as well as pursue an MBA.

Diego Valle, Undergraduate, Texas A&M

David Dockery, Doctoral Student, Texas A&M University

Zayno Rayne, Undergraduate, Texas A&M

Texas A&M University Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts

Program Presenters

William Connor Ph.D., Lecturer, School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts, Texas A&M

Bio: Will Connor is a Texas-based scholar and percussionist devoted to experimenting and composing using unconventional instruments and techniques. Rethinking how to generate percussive and acoustic sounds with a goal of reversing the aural expectations of the instruments, Connor plays drones and sustained tones along with truncated, abrupt sounds, and draws freely upon experimental approaches to aesthetics, such as Italian Futurism, Gothic Futurism, and Dadaist sensibilities to create textural soundscapes and industrial sonic explorations. Connor often performs on household objects and home-made devices, including pot lids, grill hoods, sheet metal, springs, shelf brackets, and bicycles, as well as traditional and ethnic percussion. He primarily presents solo, dark ambient composed and improvised material under the moniker Seesar, but also works in Gothic, jazz, rock, traditional-fusion, and modern classical contexts. Connor has played with a long list of sound artists, including Lol Coxhill, Damo Suzuki, Steve Beresford, John Russell, Anthony Donovan, Sandeep Mishra, P.A.S. Musique, Laetitia Sadier, immersive theatre company Dread Falls Theatre, butoh and modern dance choreographers and improvisors, and many others; and most recently playing with Shanghai sound artists Silence Wave and movement artists Dead Time Factory. He is currently a lecturer at Texas A&M University College Station or researching Lovecraftian Futurist composition, performance, and musical instrument construction.

Matthew Campbell Ph.D., Assistant Program Director, Performance Studies, School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts, Texas A&M

Bio: Matthew Campbell is a lecturer at Texas A&M University’s School of Performance, Visualization, and Fine Arts. He has a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from The Ohio State University and a B.A. in Music Composition from Whitman College.

Student Presenters