Lesley Willard is a lecturer and the Internship Director of the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research and teaching interests include digital platforms, media audiences, and media industries; in all of these fields, she focuses on labor and professionalization. She completed her Ph.D. in media studies here at UT Austin, where she served as a teaching assistant and assistant instructor for RTF courses. In 2017, she was recognized as UT Austin’s top teaching assistant, receiving the William S. Livingstone Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Assistant award. She has also taught at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and Salt Lake Community College (SLCC).
Her scholarly work has appeared in the journals Transformative Works and Cultures, Critical Studies in Television, The Velvet Light Trap, Flow: A Critical Forum on Television and Media, and In Media Res. She also has chapters in two recent edited collections, A Tumblr Book: Platform and Cultures (2020, University of Michigan) and Fan Studies: Methods, Research, Ethics (2021, University of Iowa Press). She is currently co-authoring a book for Routledge based on the Media Industry Conversations series, entitled Work in Progress: Navigating Work in the Contemporary Media Industries. She is also developing her dissertation, “From Hobby to Side Hustle: Fan Artist Professionalization in the Post-Network Era,” into a scholarly monograph. Along with Dr. Wenhong Chen, she is currently researching the ethical and equity concerns of internships in the media and tech industries, from the pedagogy of experiential learning with for-credit internships to the longitudinal impacts on the media labor ecosystem.
In addition to her teaching, she is the Program Director of Moody’s new Center for Entertainment and Media Industries (CEMI), where she previously served as a research fellow. She is also a co-founder of the annual Fan Studies Network-North America (FSN-NA) conference as well as a steering committee member of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS)’s Fan and Audience Studies Scholarly Interest Group. Previously, she has coordinated the Flow Conference and UT’s Women & Gender Studies Emerging Scholarship Conference. She has also served in an editorial capacity with Big Data & Society, The Velvet Light Trap, and Flow: A Critical Forum on Television and Media Culture. She has also served as the Director of UT’s Queer Graduate Student Alliance (QGSA) and an ex-officio member of UT Austin’s LGBTQ+ Access, Equity, and Inclusion (Q+AEI) Faculty Council.