A new platform for disruption: Fusion’s Mariana Santos joins FIU as Knight Innovator in Residence

technology / Article

September 1, 2015 by Mariana Santos

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Mariana Santos is the interactive and animation director at Fusion and the new Knight Innovator in Residence at Florida International University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Photo credit: Carolina Wilson on Flickr.

I recently finished a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University and returned to Miami ready to apply new skills and a startup mindset to my job as Fusion Network’s interactive and animation director. However, when the opportunity to be the new Knight Innovator in Residence at Florida International University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication came up, it was just too good to pass up. I thought, Why not do both? Since the school and Fusion are both leaders that are setting the path to innovation in Miami’s media scene, why not combine the best of the professional and academic worlds into one big innovation package?

As the new Knight Innovator at FIU, I look forward to changing the way academic journalism is taught, by bringing a multidisciplinary approach to the curriculum, organizing hackathons for teamwork, and bringing my artists, journalists, developers, designers and activists to events where journalism meets arts, design and technology. I look forward to breaking all the boundaries of digital storytelling with the fresh ideas that students bring to the conversation, pairing it with the real needs of the industry, a perspective I can provide from my newsroom at Fusion, addressing real topics on the spot. I believe this will prepare students not only with the skills they need but with the startup mindset and leadership attitude they need to transform journalism: “Just do it!”

My main motivation in applying for this position was the respect I have for the work FIU and its School of Journalism and Mass Communication have been delivering in Florida, especially within the world of journalism. The school has been creating great professionals, preparing them with insights for real-world jobs, always looking for ways to improve the system. It complements my own experience; I have worked in several countries, faced different media landscapes, and that has provided me with insights on how to serve different information needs across Europe, Latin America and now the U.S. I have the drive, passion and vision to bring a lot of innovation to journalism, helping people focus on the big picture, and I will keep opening doors and being a disruptor by delivering fresh ideas.

My Chicas Poderosas (Powerful Women)—a digital training, leadership and mentoring network that has held more than 13 events in Latin America and the U.S.—has led me to understand the importance of community. This will be the focus of my work as the Knight Innovator. Earlier in my career, I had a wonderful experience at the Guardian in London, where I was a motion and interactive designer. There, an amazing mentor helped set me on my current path, and I aim to replicate that mentorship style of empowering and helping people believe in themselves and their dreams.

I have been connected to Knight Foundation since 2013, when I became a Knight International Journalism Fellow through the International Center for Journalists. I then became a JSK Fellow at Stanford. Now as the Knight Innovator at FIU, I will work hard to help train and imbue the next generation of media leaders with a spirit of devotion and hard work. I believe this world needs more journalists who are focused on making a change in the world, who won’t quit easily, who will ignore the pessimists, and who will strive to make this world a better place.

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