Meet SMAD's newest professor: Dr. Elim Hernandez

Media Arts and Design

By Meirra McChristian, staff writer

In a recent advertising copywriting class session, SMAD’s newest professor, Dr. Elim Hernandez, encouraged his students to go beyond their comfort zones and explore themes in international ads — and then to share their opinions.

“We do group stuff sometimes, we have done stuff in pairs and we have done stuff in bigger groups and then we will talk about it to the whole class afterwards,” said Emmi Goodman, one of Hernandez’s Creative Advertising students in the SMAD 252 class. 

elim_hernandez_200px.jpgThat collaborative approach and a wide-angle view of advertising across the globe are part of the toolkit Hernandez has brought to JMU this fall. His career has taken him on a journey from Mexico City to Chicago, then Texas, then the doctoral program at the University of Oregon before finally arriving in Harrisonburg. Hernandez was among six Latinx scholars the College of Arts and Letters hired this year. 

“In terms of why I came to Virginia, I would say to challenge myself because I’m Hispanic so I was used to the Hispanic culture in Texas,” Hernandez said. 

He started out in the advertising business in Mexico City. He earned his doctorate in communication and media studies with a concentration in language and advertising from Oregon. Specifically, his research focused on the use of Spanglish for the Hispanic audience. 

“I decided to come to James Madison University because I was offered to teach one class where I based my research on,” Hernandez said. He also found out he would be teaching the advertising copywriting class. 

“That excited me a lot,” he said.  

Harrisonburg also has a large Latino population, and that intrigued him about teaching here. 

“That’s what caught my attention to come here because I was going to see more people who look like me in the community,” Hernandez said. “At least if some folks from the community see some Latino professors like [they will] think ‘Well, maybe I can go to college because I see Latino professors just like me.’ 

As for Hernandez’s students, many said they appreciate the new approaches and enthusiastic attitude he brings to the classroom. 

“I really like his teaching style because he encourages us to participate,” said Maddie Ford, one of the students in Hernandez’s advertising copywriting course. “I feel like other teachers would say to please participate and then no one does and they just keep going.”

Because of the encouragement to participate, the class is student-centered rather than Hernandez only lecturing. 

“Knowing that my students were shy for the first couple of classes, I told them ‘I’m going to make you feel uncomfortable so just be ready,” Hernandez said. “I want to know what they think about something that I show because if I show them an ad, I have certain ideas about that ad — but I want to know how different that ad is for them.” 

Hernandez said he is eager to learn about what students, who are mostly Generation Z, think of not only American advertisements but also international ads. He said he wants students to share their ideas and perceptions they have so he can learn from students.

“The perspective that I bring as a Hispanic professor from Mexico City is going to be different,” Hernandez said. “My experience is unique and I want to share it with them because … I was really curious about learning other things. That’s what I did, and that took me to this point in my career.”

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Published: Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2024

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