Alumni of the Month  |  2019-11
November 29, 2019

#ExchangeAlumni Michelle Ciulla Lipkin: Strengthening Democracy Through Media Literacy

Media literacy seems to be the buzzword these days. What does it really mean? And, why is it so important?

Our Exchange Alumni Member of the Month, Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, has given these questions a lot of thought. She and her team at the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) are leading the charge to ensure media literacy is highly valued and widely practiced around the United States and the world. As an essential skill for the 21st century, critical thinking and effective communication are the backbone to our democracy. And that is what media literacy is all about: empowering educated and active citizens in an era of mass media, popular culture, and digital technologies.

Michelle aptly described how media literacy affects us all in her recent testimony to the U.S. Congress. “To become a successful student, responsible citizen, productive worker, or competent and conscientious consumer, individuals need to develop expertise with the increasingly sophisticated, multi-sensory media world.”

As a recognized media literacy expert, Michelle is galvanizing citizens around the world to effectively engage in their democracies. She traveled to Australia in September 2018 as part of the Department of State’s U.S. Speaker Program. The U.S. Embassy Canberra set up a robust schedule for Michelle to generate an exchange of media literacy best practices between countries. During her speaking tour, Michelle forged a relationship with NAMLE’s Australian counterpart, ABC Education. As a result, NAMLE partnered with the ABC for Australia’s second annual Media Literacy Week. Based on a model that NAMLE has used for the last 5 years (originally inspired by Canada’s Media Literacy Week), Michelle is helping to make the week a global phenomenon. That’s what international exchange is all about; creating relationships and collaboration around the world!

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) was thrilled to work with Michelle for our first ever Career Connections Forum on Media Literacy. Scheduled to coincide with this year’s Media Literacy Week, October 21-25, the Forum brought together 37 established professionals from the New York City vicinity to discuss media literacy education. Participants included 30 #ExchangeAlumni, ranging from Next Level to Fulbright Scholars, and resulted in a broad swathe of business sectors being represented, including journalists, documentarians, NGO representatives, hip hop artists, academics, writers, media literacy educators, librarians, K-12 teachers, a health practitioner, communications specialists, a career counselor, and even a 4th grade student, who kept everyone focused on a primary school audience for media literacy education. Thanks to Michelle’s expertise, and NAMLE’s support, the Forum fostered an interdisciplinary cohort that will continue collaboration into the future.

Michelle has been a featured guest or commentator for CNN, PBS NewsHour Extra, NPR, The New York Times, and Al Jazeera English. PBS News Hour Extra published a story highlighting Michelle’s personal background and the experiences behind what drives her passion for reimagining the public’s relationship with media. She is also sharing her knowledge with university students as an adjunct lecturer in the TV/Radio Department at Brooklyn College.

Most recently, we had a chance to catch up with Michelle at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where NAMLE co-hosted a Media Design Workshop at the PeaceTech Lab. The workshop brought together a distinguished group of experts and practitioners to look at uses of media literacy for preventing and mitigating conflict. The discussion included country case studies from Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, South Sudan, and the United States. We weren’t surprised that Michelle is once again leading the charge on new ways media literacy can make a difference in the world!

We are proud to name Michelle Ciulla Lipkin our Exchange Alumni Member of the Month for November 2019. We look forward to seeing how Michelle’s dedication to media literacy strengthens democracies and mitigates conflict, here in the United States and around the world!