The 1st of 4 candidates for WKU’s new director of the School of Media kicks off the presentation process

Jody Richards Hall.

Abbey Nutter

Avi Santo introduced himself as a former aspiring soap opera writer, failed tree planter and two-time college dropout during his presentation on Tuesday for the new director of the WKU School of Media. 

Despite what he told listeners during the beginning of his “Me in a Nutshell” section of the presentation, Santo is much more than a soap opera fanboy with a dream. Through the presentation, he explained how his unique background would be beneficial to the school. 

“The thing I loved about soap operas,” Santo explained. “Is that they were really all about relationships and not plot and I think what we’re looking for in any leadership structure is someone who’s going to help build relationships, strengthen relationships that exist and build new bridges to other programs at the university and in our community.” 

After Santo entered college, he became a failed tree planter and filmmaker in his pursuit to become the next Steven Spielberg at 19 years old.

“The reason I share this with you, is because we’re ultimately training our students to enter into the sort of unknown territory of the feature film world or the shifting landscape of broadcast and photojournalism and print journalism, we also need to think about the fact that we’re training them to think critically about how they’re going to find the resources they’ll need,” Santo said.

Santo earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Studies from Concordia University and both a master’s and doctorate in Radio, Television and Film from the University of Texas. He’s held positions as an assistant professor within the Department of Communications and Theatre and director of the Institute for the Humanities at Old Dominion University. He currently serves as an associate professor and Chair for the Department of Communications and Theatre Art at the same institution. 

While Santo lacks a background in film, journalism or photojournalism, he finds that the objectivity associated with an outsider’s perspective could be a beneficial asset, though he expressed his investment concerning the future of those areas.

“I don’t have any particular proclivity for one or the other,” Santo said. “Hopefully we’re looking for leadership that is not going to choose sides but is going to emphasize the value of the program brand.”

Santo went on to say his leadership would feature a combined focus on faculty, funding and the future, making the point an investment in faculty is an investment in students. He also emphasized transparency surrounding funding and strategic investments. 

Three more candidates will present before the decision on who will fill the position as Director of WKU’s School of Media is made.

This is the third search for the director position since former director Loup Langton stepped down in October 2016. Both former searches ended with no hires.  

The second candidate, Elanie Steyn, will give her presentation on Thursday from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in JRH 166, while the other two contenders remain unannounced.

Editor’s note: The lede of this story has been updated for clarity. 

News reporter Abbey Nutter can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @abbeynutter.