Gente de NAHJ: Jessica Retis becomes the first Latina journalism director at the University of Arizona

Dr. Jessica Retis, professor of journalism at University of Arizona.

Jessica Retis is the first Latina professor to be named director of the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona since it opened more than 70 years ago.

She is a globally recognized scholar in Latinx media and bilingual journalism, authoring numerous books and papers about reporting on Latinx communities. 

Her journalism journey started in Peru working for her high school newspaper. “This passion for telling stories, doing research, interviewing people,” Retis said, took her to Mexico, Spain, the the U.S. and many other countries.

Despite having extensive experience working in newspaper, magazine, television, and radio, her career path hasn’t always been easy. “Being a woman, being a woman of color, being an immigrant represents some challenges,” Retis said. 

But three years ago, Retis received an invitation to help launch and lead the Master’s Bilingual Journalism Program at the University of Arizona, a life changing moment for her. 

For Retis, investing in oneself and being patient is key to being successful in the journalism industry. “Nada viene por sorpresa o regalado,” she said. “You have to work hard, and sometimes for us, you have to work harder.” 

Retis hopes that young people will take leadership positions in newsrooms and classrooms to tell our stories, to educate our community, and to educate other communities. 

 “We need to have the faculty composition reflecting the diverse population that we have in our classroom,” she said.

Retis serves as the National Academic Officer for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She is also the academic advisor for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists student chapter at the University of Arizona.

Alexandra Mora Medina graduated from Arizona State University this year and will pursue a master’s degree in bilingual journalism next fall. She’s written about sustainability and voting issues. She’s interested in working as an audio and podcasting reporter. Reach her at mora [dot] alexandra [dot] 17 [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter @AlexMoraMedina.

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