Roy Xavier (1977)

Associate Dean, School of Film and Television, Loyola-Marymount University, Los Angeles

Like all sociologists, my occupational history has a context. It began with my entrance to Berkeley. Looking back, my acceptance as a graduate student was one of the few times I remember feeling that a world of possibilities had suddenly opened before me. Those possibilities began first and foremost with the friendships I made with fellow students and faculty during my first year on campus.

I can't help but smile when I recall the graduate student orientation in the Barrows lounge in September 1977. During the course of the evening I was welcomed as a member of the Department "family", then met my new "brothers" and "sisters" who would make up my cohort and became fellow editors on BJS. They included Jon Cruz, Theresa Cordova, Elaine Kaplan, Susan Toliver, Andrea Press, and Gary Delgado, and later Brian Rich, Margarita Decierdo, Dana Takagi, and Andrew Treno. I also remember the generosity of several veteran grad students in the Department who calmed our fears and encouraged our research interests, including Michael Kimmel, Jerry Himmelstein, Tomas Almaguer, Greg McLauchlan, Lisa Heilbronn, Jorge Chapa, Ken Tucker, Elaine Draper, and Ken Chew.

I also have fond memories of several faculty members who shared their time and infinite patience over the years, including Troy Duster, Todd Gitlin, Russell Ellis (Architecture), Arlie Hochshield, Vicky Bonnell, David Montejano, Leo Lowenthal, Ron Takaki (Ethnic Studies), Herbert Blumer, Phillip Selznick, Henry Glock, and visits by Perry Anderson and Talcott Parsons.

To each of them, and several others who entered the Department after me, I owe a debt of gratitude for opening my eyes to the possibilities of a truly public sociology.

Despite their influence, I chose a non-traditional approach to sociology in general, and communications in particular. During the research phase of my dissertation on the history of cable television in the United States, I was hired by a state funded non-profit organization in San Francisco to manage a fundraising and grants program. My charge was to invest state money in innovative educational and community groups using cable technology to improve curriculum and employment development. A few years later I began working with municipal governments as an advisor and manager (in both Northern and Southern California) developing television stations, web sites, and other technology ventures.

Most of those ventures were start-ups, during which I attempted to test theoretical models and ideas based on my studies of communications at Berkeley. I also was given the opportunity to evaluate those models empirically during operational phases over several years under varying conditions involving different populations. Looking back, I remember thinking how fortunate I was to have access to what, in effect, were social laboratories when communications and technology were having such profound effects on what was rapidly becoming a global culture.

But nothing lasts forever, especially during fiscal crises. Beginning in 2000 I founded a consulting firm to advise community colleges, local governments, and commercial clients on technology issues. More recently my career has come full circle. In 2004 I was appointed Associate Dean of the School of Film and Television at Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles. I view this new position as an opportunity to reconnect with many of my colleagues and their students who share an interest in communications, culture and technology.

I could go on, but I've already exceeded my word limit. Let me conclude by saying that it's great to be back in the academic world, and I encourage anyone who reads this meandering account of my time since graduation to contact me at exavier@lmu.edu or at exavier@socal.rr.com.

Peace and Solidarity.

Dissertation Title: 
Distant Signals: A History of Cable Television in the United States