Comm Studies accepts first student into major of distinction program

Daharis Pesantez (photo by Ethan Schwartz)

Daharis Pesantez has achieved a first among students in the Communication Studies Program.

A junior from York, Pa., she has become the first to be accepted into the interdisciplinary program’s major of distinction.

Strongly focused on academic achievement and research, the major of distinction requires students to have a 3.25 GPA across the university and a 3.5 GPA in the major’s core courses. Through the major of distinction, students will take three semesters of a foreign language and complete a two-semester thesis.

It’s through her thesis work that Pesantez wants to understand how communication skills can truly make a difference.

Planning smarter neighborhoods
A native of Queens, N.Y., who has rekindled her love of city life at Temple’s School of Media and Communication, Pesantez’s thesis will examine how urban planning can facilitate communication that works toward social change.

The importance of strategic urban planning will only grow, since “there is a new trend of people moving back into the city,” she says.

As an example, a city neighborhood might include a gathering area in which residents could gather to help plan an urban garden as a way to combat the hunger and poverty some of their neighbors may face. Or, planners might devote space to theater productions or film screenings that bring important issues to light. Pesantez says small steps like these can help solve some of the world’s largest problems.

The goal of her research is to reach an understanding of the relationship of urban planning and communication, possibly using her knowledge one day working in the creative side of an advertising agency.

“Design can have more than an aesthetic value,” she says.

Her research will be conducted in Philadelphia and in New York during the summer Study Away Program. Pesantez hopes to learn how New York has used this concept and recommend ways Philadelphia can adapt what the Big Apple has already done to its unique population and needs.

A well-rounded perspective
“What impresses me most about Daharis is her dedication to making her college experience extend beyond campus into new areas, combing a number of fields into her study,” says Associate Professor Scott Gratson, director of the Communication Studies Program. “Her thesis project is a great example of how she and students in the Communication Studies Program can apply their class lessons in new, exciting, novel ways. The major of distinction program is all about fostering connections—connections between classes, languages, the classroom and the community and, of course,  the individual student. Daharis and her work epitomizes that mission.”

As the person who is the first to forge her way into the major of distinction, Pesantez already has advice for students who follow in her footsteps.

“Find a project that you will have fun doing,” she says. “Your passion for the topic will make the project fall into place.”