Volume X, Issue 1 | February 13, 2024

Going Global in Media Studies

Communication & Media Studies prof. and Stanford EPIC community college faculty fellow Lauren Movius hadn’t planned to teach at a community college. Today, this “quietly powerful educator” wouldn’t want to switch places with her researcher peers, not for a second. 

SMC In Focus


Lauren Movius hadn’t planned to teach at a community college. She’d earned her PhD in 2011 from the prestigious USC Annenberg School for Communication—nationally ranked #1 in her field by QS World University Rankings. “The expectation was that graduates from a great PhD program like mine would go on to do research,” says the global media scholar.

But when she went on the academic job market, there happened to be an opening at SMC. “My family is in Southern California, so that was appealing,” she recalls. “And to see a job specifically for global media—that really excited me.” She was living in England at the time with her husband and baby daughter, working as a research fellow at the London School of Economics and a visiting assistant professor in USC’s study abroad program.

Her job interview at SMC, which included a meeting with the president, went so well that Lauren received a phone call that same afternoon offering her the position. “It was so exciting,” she recalls. “On the flight heading back to London, I was on such a high.” That was 11 years ago, and Lauren, now an associate professor in SMC’s Communication and Media Studies Department, is still on cloud nine.

She’s in touch with peers from her doctoral program. Many are now tenured or tenure-track faculty at research universities. “A lot of them are doing amazing work, presenting all over the world at prestigious conferences,” Lauren says. “And I’m thrilled for them, but I wouldn’t want to switch places for a second.”

Her own scholarly output—including eight journal articles and two book chapters—is rooted in rigorous research around global Internet governance and health communications. Her dissertation probed the role of NGOs and civil society in international regulation of the Internet. As a graduate student, she’d closely studied how hospital drama storylines on organ donations influence real-world organ donors.

But Lauren has little time for research now, teaching five classes a semester. And that’s fine. “I find it stimulating and rewarding working with our students and serving on different committees,“ says the popular instructor, who was nominated two years in a row (2022 and 2023) for SMC’s Faculty Excellence Awards. She pours all her intellectual curiosity and creative energy into teaching differently—and better.


Lauren is a 2023-24 community college faculty fellow in the Stanford Education Partnership for Internationalizing Curriculum (EPIC) program. The fellowship brings together a multidisciplinary cohort of 10 professors whose self-designed projects aim to internationalize the core curriculum at community colleges. The program begins with three days of intensive summer workshops held in Palo Alto. Fellows then returned to their classrooms, continuing to meet online in monthly real-time seminars as they implement new content and strategies. Stanford’s EPIC fellowship culminates in a May symposium, where Lauren and her peers will present the fruits of their labor. 

Lauren has made great headway with her global media (Media 3/Global 3) course, which in theory focuses on media systems worldwide, but in practice had paid little attention to the developing world. Over the past year, she has created new modules that “de-Westernize” the class. There’s now a unit on Bhutan, where television was only introduced in 1999. It’s a perfect case study on the consequences, both positive and negative, of mass media descending on a traditional culture, Lauren says. Another unit on reality TV seen through the lens of song competition shows in China and Afghanistan, where such popular entertainment is embedded with deep political meaning. To Chinese viewers, voting for one’s favorite artist is a tantalizing taste of direct democracy, and singing, forbidden under the Taliban, is a form of dissent. Yet another unit tracks the role of Facebook and social media in the Arab Spring uprisings, and Lauren is now developing one around K-pop.


Psychology major Sacha Aschkynazo took Lauren’s course last spring to fulfill a GE requirement. She subsequently entered the 2023 Global Citizenship Symposium and won first place for her reflection on Jamaican poverty. Lauren had shown the class a documentary on IMF policy toward the island nation that had opened Sacha’s eyes.  

“The only thing I’d ever heard about Jamaica was that it’s a lovely tourist destination,” she says. “To find that there were such wildly different experiences was shocking.” Sacha was especially incensed that fast food chains like McDonalds had compounded Jamaica’s economic woes by forbidding franchisees to use local grain, forcing them to import U.S. products at far higher cost.   “I was really grateful to Professor Movius for exposing us to that, as well as other world events I’d never heard about,” says the 29-year-old Santa Monica native, who plans to transfer in the fall with a major in sociology.

Another student in Lauren’s class, Kingdawud Burgess, also entered last year’s Global Citizenship Symposium and won a prize for his poetry submission.


Lauren’s Stanford EPIC fellowship ends in May, but her work is far from over. Next up, she plans to internationalize her research methods course (Comm Studies 31). While the subject matter is technical—a deep dive into statistics, quantitative and qualitative methodologies for communication research—the examples used to illustrate them are American, because that’s what textbooks emphasize. Lauren intends to supplement these readings with case studies from around the world.

Down the road, she’ll be injecting global content into her introduction to mass media communications (Media 1) course.

Lauren’s zeal for globalizing communication studies at SMC emerged gradually and not by design. The Los Angeles native had entered UCLA on a pre-med track, but switched to communication studies because it gave her the freedom to take courses outside the jam-packed basic science curriculum. She was curious about sociology, anthropology and religious history, and found that she adored anything related to intercultural-interpersonal communication. She spent her junior year in Toulouse, France. After graduating in 2002 with a communications major and French minor, she entered a dual-degree master’s program in global communication/global media through USC Annenberg and the London School of Economics.

It was there that she met her husband, Fynnwin Prager, then a fellow LSE student. The British-born academic is now an associate professor of public administration at Cal State Dominguez Hills. They and their two children, Delilah, 13, and Callum, 3, live in Santa Monica. “We feel so lucky—like we won the lottery,” says Lauren, referring to the fact that she and her husband have full-time faculty appointments in the same region. “It’s been over 10 years, and sometimes we still pinch ourselves.”

Her commitment to SMC’s mission grows with each passing year. Students have become her top priority, especially first-gen students who suffer from imposter syndrome. “I try to be a good mentor and tell them what I see in them. To then see them blossom and say: ‘I am a scholar!’ That is incredibly rewarding,” she says.

Lauren, says Communication and Media Studies department chair Dr. Nancy Grass, is “a quietly powerful educator who consistently supports and encourages her students to excel.” Beyond her impact on individual students, Dr. Grass points out that Lauren has helped develop SMC’s Media Studies program into one of the top programs in California. “Having been chair when Lauren first started at SMC,” wrote Dr. Grass, “I have watched her further develop her sharp mind and employ her insights, creativity and passion to all that she does at SMC both inside and out of the classroom.”

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