When Alicia Gabrielle “Gabbie” Puzon arrived at CSUN in 2016 to pursue a bachelor’s degree on an F-1 international student visa, she wasn’t sure what direction her studies would take. Having developed exemplary English writing skills back home in the Philippines, she knew only that she wanted to use words to express herself and help others. An aunt working in public relations spoke to Gabbie about the ins and outs of her job, noting that she particularly liked working with clients who needed help expressing unique identities. Puzon was intrigued by the idea of a career where she could use her voice to help other people find their own. Four years later she graduated CSUN with honors, earning a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies.
The Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication selected Gabbie Puzon as its 2020 Dean’s Scholar. Among candidates recommended by all departments, Puzon emerged as a stellar choice. Her cumulative 3.9 GPA was just the beginning. Throughout her academic career she served as a writing tutor for Journalism and English students at the Learning Resource Center while taking on career-defining internships and a steady stream of projects benefitting communities on campus and beyond.
Though unable to participate in U.S. elections given her international status, Puzon has put considerable energy into initiatives encouraging U.S. voter participation and political literacy. Through an advanced public speaking course in Communication Studies, her project team partnered with the League of Women Voters to facilitate campus events fostering spirited civic involvement and informed political discussion. As a Service-Learning Student Scholar, Puzon helped organize CSUN’s inaugural California Voter Forum, where students helped members across the campus community to better understand ballot issues, candidates’ positions, and the nuances of persuasive campaign rhetoric in a partisan digital news landscape. She also developed materials for use at public libraries to help adult learners from all backgrounds identify and interpret bias and propaganda in campaigns for candidates and ballot initiatives.
Additional projects built on media literacy components of Puzon’s get-out-the-vote campaigns, including an interdisciplinary Journalism and Communication Studies partnership with Washington, D.C.’s NewseumED that was focused on promoting news literacy and delineating and protecting First Amendment rights. Puzon also worked with a faculty mentor to oversee National Media Literacy Week activities on campus.
Journalism professor Bobbie Eisenstock believes Puzon has optimized opportunities presented at CSUN to chart a successful and fulfilling career in media and news literacy. “Every semester there are a few students who stand out above the rest and Gabbie is one of them,” says Professor Eisenstock. “She has an uncommon and inspiring work ethic and has truly mastered the art of multitasking.”
Journalism professor Stacey Long worked with Puzon when she enrolled in Long’s public relations practicum, where students gain real-world experience working with clients through the campus-based, student-led Agency 398 public relations firm, which works pro-bono with nonprofit organizations. Puzon created and pitched content for a farm-to-school nutrition program at the San Luis Coastal Unified School District and helped their team hone communication strategies. As project leader she organized and inspired her peers to exceed client goals and objectives. Professor Long noted that Puzon performed like a pro, saying, “She was quick to mentor classmates, patient with those who tapped her for tutoring, and great at putting people at ease.”
Puzon’s experiences at CSUN have taken her a long way from the modest accommodations she shared with three generations of female family members back in the Philippines. Yet she gains inspiration from those familial origins and sees her experience with alternative cultural and political realities as a strength when highlighting features and differences in America’s electoral and media landscape. Having graduated this spring, Puzon hopes to remain in the United States to pursue her goals in the public relations field. She understands the difficulties of the road ahead, with the novel coronavirus pandemic posing monumental challenges as new grads set out to establish their careers. But Gabbie’s professors can assure you that this woman makes her own wind, and that momentum will carry her far.