Graduate Studies


Faculty & Staff

Faculty in the PhD Media & Information Studies program are drawn from the departments of Advertising and Public Relations (AD+PR), Communication (COMM), Telecommunication Information Studies and Media (TISM) and the School of Journalism in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

Photo of  Swarnavel  Pillai Ph.D.

Swarnavel Pillai Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Media and Information


Dr. Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai is a graduate from the Film and Television Institute of India, at Pune, the premier Film School in Asia. He is an accomplished short filmmaker, whose award winning documentaries include Thangam, The Indian National Army, Villu (The Bow) and Quagmire. His recent documentary “Unfinished Journey : A City in Transition” (2011) was screened at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. He is currently editing his latest feature length documentary “Migrations of Islam.” He received his PhD in Film Studies from the prestigious University of Iowa, and his research areas include history, theory, and production of documentaries, short films, and experimental theater, apart from the specificity of Tamil cinema, and its complex relationship with Hollywood as well as popular Hindi films. His documentaries focus on artists and communities who are on the fringes.

Roles & Responsibilities
Currently Member of:

  • The Sandbox Committee
  • The Speakers Committee
  • The Creative Writing Committee
  • The Salary Committee
  • The Digital Humanities Learning Committee

Awards, Honors and Recognitions

  • The Chair Person of the jury of the Neyveli Short Film Competition and Festival in Neyveli, South India- July 2013. The Neyveli Short Film Competition and Festival, part of the prestigious Neyveli Book Fair and funded by Neyveli Lignite Corporation, is the longest running short film festival with the highest cash prizes in South India. This year there were 150 entries competing for awards under 6 categories.
  • “Migrations of Islam” (2013) has been invited to the 49th Chicago International Film Festival. 3. Please see my CV for the awards and honors of my earlier films, and creative work.

Project Title & Source
“Migrations of Islam”-a documentary funded by the Social Science Research Council

What are three things you want your students to know about you?

  • A documentary/short filmmaker who teaches the history, theory, and production of films.
  • A scholar invested in the area of narratives, cinema and video games.
  • Optimistic about job opportunities for students of cinema due to the rapid developments in digital technology and democratization of media.

Favorite Quotation
“Less is More”

Describe in one sentence what you hope your students learn from you, your scholarly work or teaching
To tread the middle path: to be passionate and committed about your work, but at the same time be at a distance/critical as much as you are involved with it.

Describe yourself in five words or less.
Creative, committed, caring, filmmaker and teacher.

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