Hellgate Alumna Receives MacArthur Genius Award

Luke O'Connell, Sports Editor

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     On October 4th, the winners of the MacArthur Fellow Genius Award were released. One of the winners, Lisa Parks, is a Hellgate and University of Montana alum, and is now a professor at MIT. She studied political science and history at the University of Montana and is very interested on how media influences us today.

Lisa Parks in the 1984 Halberd.

     The MacArthur Fellow Genius Award is a “no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential.” There are three requirements for winning the award. To win, one must have “exceptional creativity,” “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments,” and “potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

     The grant includes $615,000 over the course of five years, with which Parks plans on using to fund her ‘Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab’ (GMTaC) at MIT. Parks says that GMTaC is a “new space for collaborative research that explores the use of media technologies (satellites, television, the internet, social media, and mobile phones) in diverse international contexts.” Parks hopes GMTaC is going to allow people to better understand how technology is used all around the world.

     “Our projects link media usage to issues of geopolitics, surveillance, the environment, social justice, and art. Researchers in our lab use fieldwork, ethnography, community engagement, creative research, and critical analysis to investigate the usage of media technologies in urban and rural settings in different parts of the world” said Parks.

     Though most of the credit for winning the MacArthur Fellow Genius Award can be accredited to Parks’ own hard work and dedication to her field, she believes that her “teachers, family, and friends” helped her get to this point. “I also feel my strong roots and support growing up in Missoula empowered me to take risks, experiment, and follow my own path,” she said.

     Though Parks hoped to pursue a career in law while attending the U of M, she decided against it after some time working as a paralegal. “I liked it, but I also felt that I did not want to spend my life in an office all day everyday. I wanted a little more variation in my work and flexibility with my schedule. I learned a lot when I worked at the law firm, but I am very glad I chose to earn a Ph.D. and go into academic work as I love teaching and doing research, especially when it involves international travel and engagement with diverse communities.”


When asked how it feels to win the award, Parks had this to say. “It’s hard to put into words, but I’ll try: it’s absolutely amazing. I feel overjoyed, honored, and proud. It has been so wonderful to hear kind words of support from so many people I have not heard from for a very long time, including old friends from Hellgate High School! Go Knights!”