How creating a compelling narrative helped me get to Oxford for the summer

A few weeks ago I received an acceptance to a prestigious summer institute to be held at the University of Oxford in England. Since then I have launched a gofundme page to help cover my travel expenses in between preparing a study visa application and figuring out flights. 

I wanted to share to share the text of my statement of interest for the program. In it, I tried to sum up how my personal journey connects to my academic and professional work. Hopefully it can serve as a guide for developing your narrative. You may notice I go back to the same themes I use on my "about me" page. 

"Statement of Interest

Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute

I am a proud native of El Chuco Town, otherwise known as El Paso, Texas, and a second-generation American. Like many U.S. Latinos, my family has strived to live the American Dream. My father, Héctor Soto, and my mother, Norma Vásquez, come from Ciudad Juárez in México and the south side of El Paso, respectively. My playground growing up was the borderlands between the United States and México, the globalized frontier where geography, ideology, and politics collided.

The interests that guide my research and academic work are tied to where I was born and raised, the people that surrounded me and the challenges and opportunities mi gente (my people) face. Following the completion of my time at university in 2012 I returned to El Paso to serve as the Deputy Campaign Manager for the Héctor H. López for Mayor campaign. While I had many roles, the most exhilarating moments of the campaign involved the rapid communication responses I wrote through press releases and candidate questionnaires along with managing the data and information we received.

I am interested in how the modern tools of communication are used to understand, speak to and mobilize Latinos in the United States. I am interested in what values and perceptions of minority communities like Latino are being coded into voter databases and get out the vote applications. Questions emerge such as; who is deciding what are discreet qualities of Latino voters? How are these digital technologies contributing to the racial formation of U.S. Latinos? The policy implications of these issues have also increasingly interested me. As digital technologies progress and become more integrated into our physical lives (and bodies), privacy will become an even more pressing issue. Policymakers often lack the technical knowledge of the complexity of digital media issues, which increases the urgency of my work.

Since I began my course of study at American University I have gained tremendous insight from my colleagues whose expertise and background differ greatly from my own. My colleagues from Latin America have exposed to me the differences and similarities of our communities. A colleague with with experience in Republican political campaigns has become a close friend and we share political war stories. The primary reason I am applying to the Annenberg-Oxford is to meet and learn from colleagues from around the world. My work would supremely benefit from more technical knowledge of how the issues I care about work at the infrastructure and system level. My work would also benefit from an increased comparative framework from other countries and perspectives.

Currently, I am pursuing the following research projects related to these issues.

In March of 2016 I began a study of the 2016 Presidential campaigns’ data and information collection policies. The study is a qualitative thematic analysis of the privacy and terms of use policies found on their websites. This project focuses on the question of; what are the data collection practices of the major 2016 presidential campaigns? A second related sub-question is, what are the political and economic relations between campaigns and private data collection firms?

In November of 2015 I completed an initial study of the politics surrounding the creation of Latino music playlists on streaming music services such as Spotify. In the paper I argue “the subsuming of diverse Latin musical styles – each with their own historical legacies of colonialism, folk practices and racial difference, into a Latino genre of music is a metaphor for the process of racial formation of a people becoming Latinos in the United States.” I am currently preparing the manuscript after a round of review for publication.

Finally, in September of 2015 I completed a publishable draft of a study on the rhetorical construction of Latinos by American Presidents. I explored the concept of Latino pan-ethnicism, which is the creation of a singular, racialized identity that subsumes ethnic and national difference. Results showed that (1) Latino pan-ethnic language emerged in presidential rhetoric in the early 1990’s, (2) Democratic Presidents have deployed pan-ethnic rhetoric more consistently than their Republican counterparts, and (3) Latino pan-ethnicism is the dominant discourse in presidential politics today. This paper has been submitted to conference.

I am excited to express my interest in joining the Annenberg-Oxford institute and learning from colleagues from around the world. The diverse theoretical, methodological, professional and other perspectives will help inform my research and career.

Thank you for your consideration,

Arthur D. Soto-Vásquez"