Professor Cristina Kotz Cornejo has been named the next chair of the Visual and Media Arts (VMA) Department, effective July 1, taking over from Professor Brooke Knight, who begins a job as Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs this summer.
“I can think of no better person than Cristina to lead VMA into its next chapter,” Knight said. “She’s a terrific filmmaker who has been an associate chair for the past several years, working on the production side of the department. She has keen insight, terrific passion, and a quiet humanity that will serve her, the faculty, and the students well.”
In addition to her time as associate chair of the department, Kotz Cornejo has served as program director of the BFA program. In 2014, she became the first Latina full professor of film/media production in the United States.
An internationally renowned writer/director of independent feature and short films, Kotz Cornejo knows the landscape of the contemporary media world and integrates that knowledge into the classroom and into her leadership roles. In 2015 and 2019, she organized the Women in Media Summit, which brought industry leaders together with students and faculty at Emerson to discuss critical issues affecting women in the film and television industries.
Her credits include Buena Fe (directing and writing, 2014), which won the Spotlight Award; her debut feature film, 3 Américas (directing and writing, 2007); Ocean Waves (directing, 2003); and Ernesto (writing, 2000), for which she won the Award of Merit from the University Film and Video Association. Her work has been screened at numerous national and international festivals, including Woodstock, Montreal, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Buenos Aires, and San Sebastian.
Kotz Cornejo holds degrees from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (MFA in Film), Antioch College (MA in Organizational Management), and the University of Southern California (BA in International Relations). She is the recipient of the 2007-2008 Mann Stearns Distinguished Faculty Award, a 2012 MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a 2013 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship, and was named a 2014 Cine Qua Non Screenwriters Fellow. Most recently, in 2019, she was awarded the American Spirit Award in Special Achievement in Educating New Filmmakers from the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors.
Kotz Cornejo said in her statement for chair consideration that the current pandemic is highlighting the injustices in our society, as well as what’s most important.
“We’re seeing that flexibility, responsibility, ethics, critical thinking, and discerning engagement with media the world over is more important than ever,” she said. “There is a great opportunity now to evolve VMA as an even stronger leader on this front. We’re seeing that being siloed by stay-at-home orders drastically limits our lives, and being siloed in our respective areas limits possibilities for our students, the department, and for our collective purpose.
“It’s not up to the chair to engineer a vision for the department, the department belongs to the faculty, and it’s up to the faculty collectively to strategize a vision …,” Kotz Cornejo continued. “The Chair’s function is to lead, to inspire, to support and advocate for that collective vision and plan.”
Knight has served as VMA chair for the past seven years, mentoring affiliated and full-time faculty in the College’s largest academic department.
“For those who know him, whether as assembly chair, department chair, or colleague, we value his equanimity, listening skills, creativity, and empathy,” Provost Michaele Whelan wrote in an email to faculty announcing Knight’s appointment.
Knight’s interactive artwork is currently centered around surveillance, webcams, and remote control, and the relationship between text and landscape, according to his bio on the College’s website. His work has been shown in more than 50 international and regional exhibitions, including Boston CyberArts, Fringe Exhibitions, The Danforth Museum, Eyebeam, Photographic Resources Center, Stuttgarter Filmwinter, Centro Cultural de la Torriente Brau, Athens Institute for Contemporary Art, Galerie fur Landschaftskunst, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, The Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Art Frankfurt, and The Amarillo Museum of Art. He has been published in Art Journal, Frauen Kunst Wissenschaft, Sandbox, and New Visualities, New Technologies: The New Ecstasy of Communication.
Knight earned his MFA in Photography from California Institute of the Arts. Prior to coming to Emerson, he taught at the University of Maine, where he was the associate director of new media, and West Texas A&M University.
“I’m thrilled to be joining Provost Whelan’s office, working closely with faculty from orientation through retirement,” Knight said. “I am looking forward to the challenges in my new position while focusing on faculty affairs.”