Creative Literacies, Critical Competencies

Building Pathways, Making Connections

Welcome to MACS, the concentration in Media Arts and Cultural Studies within the academic unit for Gender & Sexuality Studies at NMSU. MACS is the social practice of creative expression.

MACS courses are open for enrollment to G&SS majors, minors, graduate minors, and interested NMSU students. This inclusive approach allows students from various disciplines to explore the intersection of media arts (digital and material), film, cultural studies, and women's, gender, and sexuality studies.


Images of older technologies like a TV with an embedded VCR and VHS tape on the side. In neon colors.

G&SS MACS: Creative Literacies, Critical Competencies

The MACS concentration in Gender & Sexuality Studies offers an immersive and enriching educational journey for individuals interested in engaging with 21st-century creative worldmaking. By embracing feminist, queer, and other socially transformative perspectives, this concentration empowers learners to cultivate their artistic, creative, curatorial, research, and analytical skills within the ever-evolving realm of contemporary cultural expressions. MACS encourages critical and creative exploration by integrating foundational concepts and approaches from Gender & Sexuality Studies (G&SS) and applying them to a diverse range of mediums and forms. Areas of emphasis within MACS include graphic narrative, zines, popular culture and music, digital storytelling, film/TV, aesthetics, arts activism, and the analysis of texts and text-making.

In G&SS MACS courses and approaches, students encounter and gain a transformative understanding through feminist, queer, and transgender perspectives. These perspectives play a crucial role in amplifying the voices and experiences of historically marginalized communities. By centering these perspectives, G&SS media and cultural studies challenge dominant narratives, disrupt power structures, and provide a platform for the stories and struggles of marginalized individuals to be heard across various mediums and forms of expression. This inclusive approach fosters social justice and paves the way for more equitable representation in media and cultural discourses.


List of NMSU G&SS MACS Courses

List of G&SS MACS Courses

Within MACS (Media Arts and Cultural Studies) classes, philosophy, and teaching and learning approaches, there is a deep recognition of the importance of hope, joy, worldmaking, and the exploration of queer, feminist, and trans futures and utopias. These elements are considered integral to the study and practice of MACS, informing the way students engage with media, culture, and society. Embracing inter- and transdisciplinary practices, MACS encourages critical analysis and creative interventions that challenge dominant narratives and envision alternative possibilities.

Through the integration of research-creation and hands-on media production or D.I.Y. methods (material & digital), students actively engage with their own creativity and critical thinking, fostering personal growth and the development of essential skills for research, expression, and public scholarship.

"I don’t believe I would have made it through my MFA program without the knowledge and support I received from G&SS. The work I did there directly led to my decision to enter a PhD program in Communication with a focus on media studies, and I am currently ABD at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Gender and Sexuality Studies continue to be key components of my research."

-EJ Nielsen

G&SS Graduate Minor Alum

PhD Candidate

University of Massachusetts Amherst

The integration of interactive and project-based learning prepares MACS students to become critical thinkers, cultural producers, and agents of change who can bridge the gap between theory and practice. It equips them with the necessary tools and skills to critically analyze, create, and contribute to the ever-evolving fields of media arts and cultural studies. MACS cultivates a transformative educational experience where aesthetics, politics, theory, and practice intersect, empowering students to become active participants in shaping contemporary culture and media landscapes.

Furthermore, feminist, queer, and transgender approaches emphasize intersectionality, acknowledging the interconnected nature of social identities and experiences. By recognizing the complex interplay of gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, and more, media and cultural studies become more nuanced and reflective of diverse realities and social power dynamics. This intersectional lens promotes an engaged understanding of social issues and contributes to more inclusive and accurate representations in media.


Tiger kitty with laser beam eyes, the symbol of FBAFF, and a call for submissions

Feminist Border Arts Film Festival

MACS provides students with valuable opportunities to actively engage in their learning through initiatives like the Feminist Border Arts Film Festival. This university-based platform celebrates and showcases a diverse range of perspectives, including feminist, queer, trans, and transnational viewpoints, through various forms of media such as short films, digital storytelling, experimental video art, and performance.

The Feminist Border Arts Film Festival not only exposes students to diverse cinematic expressions but also encourages their active participation as filmmakers, organizers, and critical viewers. Students have the chance to showcase their own creative works, participate in meaningful discussions, and collaborate with fellow artists and organizers. This immersive experience enhances their understanding of media arts, cultural studies, and social justice, while nurturing their creativity and critical thinking skills. The festival serves as a catalyst for fostering dialogue, encouraging artistic expression, and promoting exploration of feminist, queer, trans, and transnational perspectives in media, contemporary culture, and performance.



SJZ: Social Justice Zine

SJZ: Social Justice Zine provides learners with a unique and empowering opportunity to apply their knowledge and concepts through diverse text-based and visual submissions. This critical and creative outlet enables students to actively contribute to a zine that addresses social justice issues, fostering a hands-on approach to activism, alternative research outputs, and creative expression.

Engaging with SJZ allows students to explore and express their ideas, perspectives, and insights regarding social justice through written pieces, artwork, photography, and other mediums. This process encourages deep analysis of societal issues and the development of compelling narratives that challenge existing power structures.

Contributing to a zine provides an alternative research output that goes beyond traditional academic formats. It encourages students to think creatively and communicate their findings and reflections in accessible and engaging ways. Through this process, learners gain valuable skills in storytelling, visual communication, and advocacy, equipping them with tools to make a meaningful impact in their communities. 

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Transformative Education in Film, Media, Culture, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


MACS in G&SS equips students with the analytical tools and conceptual frameworks necessary to critically deconstruct prevailing discourses, challenge entrenched power structures, and advance social justice agendas. Through its emphasis on creative and project-based learning, MACS empowers students to become active producers of their own discourses and media arts.

Specializing in Media Arts and Cultural Studies (MACS), particularly with a focus on feminist, queer, and trans narratives, offers a transformative academic journey that goes beyond conventional learning pathways. It represents a commitment to understanding and engaging with the complex interplay of media, culture, and society, reflecting the importance of diversity, representation, and inclusivity in today's globalized world.

MACS allows students to delve into the evolving landscape of media, exploring its effects on cultural, political, and social dimensions. This specialization fosters an ability to critically analyze and interpret media content, equipping students with the tools to understand, critique, and create media narratives. By studying MACS, students become adept in navigating the complexities of the digital world and in utilizing media as a powerful tool for social advocacy, change, and empowerment.

"As an editor for Handwoven and Easy Weaving with Little Looms, lessons from NMSU's Gender & Sexuality Studies are fundamental to my work. They deepen my understanding of cultural appropriation, guiding my project curations and maintaining cultural respect in our publications. My education also nurtured inclusivity and understanding in our diverse community of weavers, allowing me to build excellent relationships with queer, nonbinary, and trans artists. Without the insights gained from NMSU's Gender and Sexuality Studies program, I wouldn't be the editor I am today."

-Christina Garton

G&SS Graduate Alum

Editor, Easy Weaving with Little Looms

Contributing Editor, Handwoven

The integration of platforms like the Feminist Border Art Film Festival (FBAFF) and SJZ: Social Justice Zine exemplify the transformative potential of MACS. The FBAFF curates a selection of films that challenge dominant cinematic norms, amplify marginalized voices, and foster empathy and cultural transformation. SJZ, on the other hand, provides a platform for critical analyses, personal reflections, and creative expressions that confront social injustices and ignite transformative discussions. By engaging with these platforms, students gain practical experience and a deeper understanding of the power of media in promoting social justice and inclusivity.

Feminist, queer, and trans perspectives are indispensable in this exploration, offering critical viewpoints that challenge dominant narratives and amplify marginalized voices. These perspectives promote an understanding of intersectionality, revealing how different social identities interact within structures of power and privilege. By integrating these narratives into MACS, we encourage students to critically engage with diverse perspectives and contribute to an inclusive media landscape.

Moreover, MACS facilitates a nuanced understanding of cultural dynamics and identities. It encourages students to unpack cultural norms and values, challenge stereotypes, and examine how culture influences and is influenced by media. This rigorous study prepares students to contribute meaningful insights to cultural dialogues, fostering cultural sensitivity and empathy.

Ultimately, investing extra effort in a MACS specialization is not merely an academic pursuit, but a commitment to becoming a transformative member of society. Graduates from our program don't just observe the world; they actively engage in shaping it, using their media literacy and cultural understanding to drive social change and promote inclusivity.

The dedication to such a multidimensional field is indeed demanding, yet profoundly rewarding. The richness and relevance of MACS – especially when infused with feminist, queer, and trans narratives – equip students with the critical consciousness to navigate, interpret, and transform the contemporary media and cultural landscape. These skills are not only desirable in various professional domains but also essential for active and informed citizenship. By specializing in MACS, students embark on a journey of perpetual learning, personal growth, and societal impact.


MACS Learning

Forging Empowered Paths and New Futures


In Media Arts and Cultural Studies (MACS), many faculty and courses strive to invigorate both the subject matter and the learning process itself. Embracing innovative approaches to teaching, learning, and grading, G&SS MACS aims to transform the educational experience. 



Social Realities Are Textual Modalities

Integral to the Media Arts and Cultural Studies (MACS) program within Gender & Sexuality Studies (G&SS) is the employment of progressive assessments, such as labor-based grading, Ungrading, and engagement grading, in conjunction with practice-based learning, project-based learning, Universal Design Learning (UDL), and research-creation. These pedagogical approaches foster an innovative and transformative academic experience that aligns with G&SS's commitment to inter- and transdisciplinarity.

Progressive assessments, including labor-based grading, Ungrading, and engagement grading, challenge traditional evaluation methods by prioritizing students' active participation, critical thinking, and creative practice. These assessments focus on the process and quality of work produced, encouraging students to engage deeply with course content, collaborate, and take ownership of their learning journey. By embracing progressive assessments, MACS faculty foster a supportive and inclusive learning environment that values effort, growth, and the development of critical and creative skills.

Coming from MFA workshops, which could be quite contentious at times, I was surprised and relieved by the atmosphere in my first G&SS class. I felt both challenged by new ideas and accepted, safe, and respected by both my instructor and my classmates. So much of what I learned in my G&SS classes has proven useful in the decade since I graduated. First, those classes opened my eyes to exciting new ideas, texts, forms, and frameworks, which complemented and influenced my creative writing. My first major publication was an experimental text, a form introduced to me not in my MFA classes, but in a G&SS class.

-Melanie Sweeney Bowen, melaniesweeney dot com

G&SS Graduate Minor Alum

Author of the forthcoming rom-com, Take Me Home (Putnam, 2024)

Through practice-based and project-based learning, MACS students actively immerse themselves in hands-on projects that bridge theory and real-world contexts. This experiential approach cultivates critical thinking, problem-solving, and creative skills, preparing students to navigate the dynamic challenges of the media landscape. By engaging in these authentic learning experiences, students develop the practical expertise and adaptability necessary for success in media production, cultural analysis, and other professional domains.

The integration of Universal Design Learning (UDL) within MACS ensures that instructional methods and materials are accessible and inclusive to a diverse range of learners. UDL promotes equity, diversity, and inclusive practices by providing multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement. This approach accommodates different learning styles, abilities, and backgrounds, fostering an inclusive learning environment where all students can actively participate and succeed.

Research-creation serves as a cornerstone of the MACS program, encouraging students to bridge theory and practice through creative and scholarly endeavors. By generating new knowledge and insights through artistic expression, MACS students contribute to academic research and media production in innovative ways. Research-creation fosters interdisciplinary thinking, artistic expression, and critical contributions to understanding the complexities of media, culture, and gender and sexuality.

The combined use of progressive assessments, practice-based learning, project-based learning, UDL, and research-creation within MACS demonstrates the program's commitment to empowering students to become critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, and agents of social change in the ever-evolving media landscape. Through an interdisciplinary and transformative educational experience, students are encouraged to integrate critical and creative practices into their own scholarship, preparing them to navigate and shape the interconnected and transdisciplinary world they will encounter beyond the classroom.


Creative Expertise: Skills & Knowledge

MACS: Job & Creative Prospects

Amplify Your Impact. Thrive in the Fusion of Analysis and Creation 

The MACS (Media Arts and Cultural Studies) course concentration within Gender & Sexuality Studies at NMSU equips learners and creators with valuable skills and knowledge that can enhance their job and creative prospects in various fields and ways.

Here are ways in which the MACS concentration eenhances job opportunities and creative potential for learners and creators

  1. Media and Cultural Analysis: Graduates in the MACS concentration possess strong analytical skills in critically examining media and cultural texts (audio-visual, film, graphic narrative, literary, and more). This skill set is highly sought after in industries such as media production, advertising, marketing, public relations, curation, and journalism, where the ability to analyze and interpret media content is essential for creating effective campaigns, engaging audiences, and shaping public discourse.
  2. Research and Critical Thinking: The MACS concentration also emphasizes research through creation, which involves conducting original research, artistic projects, and creative writing. This experience develops skills in research methodologies, critical thinking, digital humanities, and problem-solving. These skills are valued in a range of professions, including academia, market research, policy analysis, and content creation, where the ability to gather and interpret data, think critically, and generate innovative ideas is crucial.
  3. Media Production and Creative Skills: Learners in the MACS concentration gain hands-on experience in media production, artistic projects, and creative writing. This includes skills in video production, graphic design, multimedia creation, and storytelling. These practical skills can open doors to careers in media production companies, advertising agencies, digital content creation, publishing, and entertainment industries.
  4. Cultural Competencies and Social Awareness: MACS fosters cultural competencies and an understanding of diverse perspectives and theorizing. Graduates possess the ability to navigate cultural differences and engage with diverse audiences. This skill set is highly valuable in industries that prioritize diversity and inclusion, such as non-profit organizations, social services, human resources, education, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  5. Communication and Advocacy: Effective communication and advocacy skills are emphasized in the MACS concentration. Graduates develop the ability to articulate complex ideas, engage in respectful dialogue, and advocate for social change. These skills are transferable to careers in public relations, marketing, community organizing, policy advocacy, and educational outreach, where the ability to communicate effectively and engage diverse audiences is essential.
  6. Media Literacy and Ethical Awareness: The MACS concentration equips learners with media literacy skills, enabling them to critically evaluate media content, identify biases, and navigate media landscapes responsibly. This ethical awareness is valued in professions that require responsible media consumption, such as journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital content creation.

It is important to note that specific job requirements may vary across industries and positions. However, the MACS concentration provides graduates with a diverse skill set that is applicable to careers in media production, advertising, marketing, public relations, journalism, academia, social services, non-profit organizations, and various other sectors where critical thinking, creative skills, cultural competencies, ethics, and an array of communication abilities are highly valued. 


MACS is Knowledge Aesthetic

G&SS MACS: Knowledge Aesthetic