Friday, December 8, 2023

Meet a Roadrunner: Luis Hestres, UTSA Department of Communication

Meet a Roadrunner: Luis Hestres, UTSA Department of Communication

Luis Hestres researches digital communication, social media and climate change activism.

(Oct. 4, 2018) – Luis Hestres, a professor in the UTSA Department of Communication, researches digital media and communication, politics and technology, climate change advocacy, and activism in the United States.

Before earning his Ph.D. and joining UTSA in August 2014, Hestres worked as an online strategy and communications professional at various nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C.

Hestres’ research has appeared in top, peer-reviewed academic journals and he has presented at many international research conferences.

He has also offered his commentary on big news stories related to fake news, digital privacy and social media for both national and local media outlets, like Texas Public Radio and San Antonio Express-News, and Austin American-Statesman.  

We asked the assistant professor about his current research and the impact he hopes it has.

Tell us about your current research.

Right now, I'm writing a book about the social movement that is trying to get the United States to deal with climate change in a strong and decisive manner. I decided to focus on climate change advocacy, because climate change is the most important challenge our society faces today.

The groups that I’m studying are at the leading edge of that challenge, trying to mobilize the American public to become more concerned about the issue and to take action on it. It’s a fascinating political communication and mobilization puzzle that these organizations are trying to solve and I’m trying to figure out how they are solving it. 

What impact do you hope your research will have?

I hope my research will give the climate movement greater visibility within the academic community and help us understand how they are dealing with this monumental communication and mobilization challenge.

I also hope to hold up a mirror to the movement and help its members see things that they might not see themselves because they are so deeply immersed in the fight for climate action. My biggest hope is that this research will help us understand how a big and complex social movement works in this country in the 21st century.

What is one important thing going on in your field that people are not talking about as much as they could be?

A lot of communication scholars are doing great work on the role that social media platforms play in our lives right now and I think the broader conversations about this are pretty shallow.

That broader conversation has been confined to election hacking or fake news or related items, but there’s a deeper conversation that we need to have about the role that social media platforms and similar technologies now play in our lives.

Communication scholars would be a great source of information about these subjects. Those conversations would be both deeper and more wide-ranging if others took more into account what communication scholars have to say about these subjects.

What advice do you share with students who are interested in entering your field?

My best advice by far would be to become a good writer. If you want to enter the field of communication, you must be a good communicator in every sense of the word. The biggest communication deficiency I see in students today is in their writing.

There are resources here at UTSA to help students remedy those deficiencies, and I would encourage anyone who feels they need help with their writing to seek it because good writing is such a critical skill, especially if you want to be a communication professional.

What makes your department at UTSA unique?

I think one aspect of the department that makes us unique is that we’re a very eclectic department. Within one department you have expertise in public relations, digital communication, health communication, international communication, interpersonal communication, etc.

We’re also very eclectic in terms of the research methods we use. A student going through the communication program would get a very broad exposure to this field.

Kara Soria

Learn more about Luis Hestres.

Learn more about the UTSA Department of Communication.

Learn more about the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts.

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