Being on the set of popular television series and learning from famous TV producers are just a few things that Dr. Ethan Thompson has accomplished in his lifetime.
Thompson, associate professor for the Department of Communication and Media, teaches courses in media and cultural studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. The Corpus Christi native attended the University of Austin for his BA in English and Plan II. Then he moved to California where he attended the University of California for his Ph.D in Critical Studies from the School of Cinematic Arts.
He first began teaching at the university in 2002 and over that time he has gone through every level of professorship including: adjunct, visiting, assistant, associate then professor. He started out by teaching just one class then managed to get a 10-year contract.
Sophomore communication studies major Savannah Spears has taken several of Thompson’s classes and has enjoyed every single one of them.
“Honestly, Dr. Thompson is one of my favorite professors I have taken so far,” Spears said. “He presents things in a concise way and his teaching style is very relaxed.”
“Sharing what I know about how media works and what I think about today’s media with the students and talking about it with them is a productive process,” Thompson said. “Not just in that the students learn about media but we all understand how media works better through that exchange.”
Thompson was never interested in one area of media. He wanted to know everything that media had to offer and sought a better understanding of the wider culture. This led him to become a professor, he said.
“I wanted to learn how particular kinds of media are meaningful and how some things are popular at one time or another,” Thompson said. “I was honestly more interested in the broader culture for example what was the ongoing job of making a TV show or making a movie. I didn’t want just a job that was limited to one specific thing; I wanted to be able to study all different aspects of our media culture and the way we live in it, therefore being a professor allowed me to do that.”
In his spare time he has managed to write several books and articles and has recently completed a full feature length documentary.
“Along the way I knew that if I wanted to write something or make a documentary I could also do that but my full-time job is solely being a professor,” Thompson said. “But I love that I get the opportunity to do other things like that when being a professor.”
Recently Thompson was chosen to participate in the Television Academy foundation 2017 Faculty Seminar Program. twenty-five faculty members from across the country were chosen by Television Academy members to be immersed in the entertainment industry for a week-long seminar in Los Angeles.
“I wanted to see firsthand from people working in television right now what its like,” Thompson said. “The people that I got to meet and talk with were working at all different stages and levels of the television industry from casting for reality TV shows, to editing or directing, writers. On one hand, it was an opportunity to interact with people who are involved with TV right now but then that helps inform what it is I already talk about in the classroom.”
The seminar helped Thompson gain more knowledge to pass onto his students. Now he has a better knowledge of different possibilities in media that students could pursue if they chose to.
“One of the most memorable moments at that seminar was being able to talk to Jonathan Murray, who is one of the original creators of the television show ‘The Real World’ which is really important in TV history because it was one of the first really successful programs which came to be called reality TV.” Thompson said. “Talking to him and all the other successful people in the industry and knowing that they wanted to share knowledge with professors not because we are professors but because we are teachers, and they want to share what they know with our students so there truly is a desire to bring talented diverse students into the TV industry.”
Thompson said it’s important to encourage his students to think beyond Texas and Corpus Christi.
“It’s so important for students to know that there are other opportunities outside of the city that they love or call home,” Thompson said.
Thompson offers his students different ways to connect with media professionals.
“We also got to video chat in class with people who are actually in the industry,” Spears said. “That was really inspiring hearing their stories and knowing that they had at one time been in the exact same position that we are.”
Thompson sees his role in the class to try to encourage students to imagine themselves as successful outside of this place.
“Look for opportunities outside of the classroom to create, whether its writing or making films,” Thompson said. People who are hiring want to see that students took every opportunity that they could in school and that they went beyond that outside of their classes to also excel in their field.”