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Columbia College Chicago

Faculty Profile: Elio Leturia

November 13, 2012

By Sean McEntee ('13)

 Photo: Jacob Boll ('12)
Elio Leturia, an associate professor in the Journalism Department, came to the United States in 1990 on a Fulbright scholarship. A native of Lima, Peru, he quickly discovered many Americans made assumptions about Latinos, and that there was a lot he had not experienced.

"When I came here, I didn't know what a tortilla was," he said. "I'd never eaten a burrito before, or a taco, in my life. I had never seen it."

Leturia eventually settled into life in the states and began to pursue a master's degree in journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Due to requirements of the Fulbright, Leturia returned to Peru in January 1992 upon receiving his degree. In July 1994, he moved to Chicago to work for the Tribune company as the director of ¡Exito!, the weekly Spanish publication known today as Hoy

After a year in Chicago, Leturia moved to Detroit to take a job with the Detroit Free Press. He stayed in Detroit for 10 years until he saw an ad for a teaching position at Columbia in the Society for New Design. Leturia had prior teaching experience. In fact, he was the youngest person to receive tenure at the Universidad de Lima, his alma mater. He got the job teaching at Columbia in 2005, left the Detroit Free Press, and made his way back to Chicago.

Since then, Leturia has taught visual journalism at the college for eight years, meaning he works with the visual elements of a story and decides which elements best represent the message of that particular piece. 

"It's a little bit complicated because I am in between the writing and the art," he said. "I have to work with those two fields and make them work together. What I do is write, but I design what I write."

Although Leturia has done some freelance writing for multiple publications, a majority of his journalistic experience has been in graphic design, and it's his goal to share as much of his knowledge in the field as he can with his students.

"What I want to teach them is to build a story, to make sense of it, and to make it easier for them to be ready," he said. "If I can participate somehow into that growth, that is my satisfaction."

But Leturia notes advancements in technology can make this difficult. The tools for design are constantly changing, he says, and it's his job to keep up. The introduction of the Internet added an entirely new world of visual components for Leturia to master, including video and website design. Thankfully, he says, Columbia allows him the opportunity to stay up to date with classes and a diverse community with different specialties and interests. 

"I took a website design class here, so now I can put together a website, and it's just a never-ending story," he says. "I was joking with someone [at Columbia] that I was going to get a second bachelor's degree because I'm about to take my ninth class here."

"And that's the only way to survive as a professional," he said. "I have had a very intensive career. Since I've started working, I have never stopped."