SJMC student wins regional award for thesis

Sergio Carvajal-Leoni in a suit

Sergio Carvajal-Leoni. Photo from http://www.italchannel.tv

As a SJMC graduate student, Venezuelan-born Sergio Carvajal-Leoni, won a campus-wide award for his thesis, the Graduate College’s Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award in Digital Scholarship.

Now he has won again, at the highest level, the regional level, where he is receiving the Digital Scholarship award from the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools. His award, a plaque and $1000 honorarium, will be presented at the CSGS Awards Luncheon at the Omni Charlotte Hotel in Charlotte, NC on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 at 11:30 a.m., and he attributes some of his success to his time at Texas State.

“The stuff I did in San Marcos, was the best decision of my life,” he told me. “I’ve decided to finish up with a PhD.”

Carvajal-Leoni called his research project the Intercultural Transmedia Approach to Learning, or ITAL.

“I’ve been working on models of community building media,” he said. “Any group of people who share an interest.”

By founding ITAL, he was able to focus on applying Communication Infrastructure Theory while creating a hyper-local documentary series called the Texan Italian Stories.

The key research concept behind the series, was how creating media could bring together the Italian niche community in Central Texas.

He attributed his success to both the freedom and guidance his thesis supervisor, Dr. Sandy Rao, provided him.

Carvajal-Leoni also thanked two Texas State University researchers on his thesis committee, Dr. Federico Subervi and Dr. Moira DiMauro.

ITAL partner, Romina Olson

Romina Olson. Photo from http://www.italchannel.tv

“Texas State played a crucial role in that journey,” Carvajal-Leoni told me. “This award is like, a validation, that this was the right journey to take.”

Despite being the lead researcher, writer, editor and director, Carvajal-Leoni was very modest about his achievement. He praised his ITAL partner, Romina Olson, as well as two USC researchers Dr. Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Dr. Henry Jenkins that played an instrumental role in the project.

If there’s one thing Carvajal-Leoni made clear, he loves Texas.

“I’ve been living in Austin since ’99,” he said. “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.”

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