What a treat it was to walk across the stage with Yonty (Jonathan) Friesem to participate in the regal “hooding ceremony” where young scholars receive recognition for completing the degree requirement for their PhD. And what an exciting new phase of collaboration begins as Yonty moves from graduate student to colleague as Assistant Professor at Central Connecticut State University and as Associate Director of the Media Education Lab.
When Yonty first visited the Media Education Lab, it was 2010, and we were right in the middle of the Powerful Voices for Kids project the Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia. In 2012, he moved to Rhode Island to study with me and over the past five years he has demonstrated remarkable leadership and creativity in advancing media literacy locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. I have benefitted greatly from his intellectual curiosity, vitality, tenacity, great teaching and creative talents as a filmmaker. Yonty has shared his ideas, his empathy and his insights on relationships in ways that have contributed to my own growth and development, and for this I am truly grateful.
What a treasure Yonty has been to the State of Rhode Island! Working collaboratively with Sherilyn Brown of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Yonty explored strategies for documenting and measuring student learning during the Give Me Five media production workshop. Yonty developed a videography and social networks course for special populations such as foster youth and youth-at-risk. In collaboration with VSA Arts RI, and Adoption RI, Yonty Friesem and Kelsey Greene also developed a media literacy curriculum for foster youth and their parents. He also evaluated the First Star URI Academy program using quantitative and qualitative measurement to assess students’ academic performance. His paper was awarded Top Student Paper in Applied Communication at the 100th annual National Communication Association conference in Chicago in 2014. Yonty helped create the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy as the program’s Producer in 2013 and 2014 and now he spearheads the Tier2 leadership program with our colleague Charlie Coiro. This year, thanks to Yonty, we’ll be exploring how to use “flipped videos” as part of that exciting program!
What a treasure he has been in advancing the global network of international scholars with interests in media literacy! Yonty has supported the many international scholars who are (or have been) part of the Media Education Lab Community, including Zoey Wang, Sait Tuzel, Marketa Zezulkova, Joao Guimares, Carla Viana Coscarelli, and many others. In collaboration with Friends Forever, he initiated a research project on the nonviolence and conflict management skills learned by youth from diverse communities who come together to produce media.
What an exciting future awaits! Now he’s landed a tenure-track position teaching media at Central Connecticut State University and advancing his leadership in teaching online. His lovely and talented wife Elizaveta Friesem is writing a book on media literacy. Soon, the arrival of Baby Friesem will give them both unparalleled new joys and delights and give me the opportunity to practice my grandmothering skills. Congratulations, Yonty on your remarkable achievements!