Chapman alumnus and journalist returns to campus for panel

Gustavo Arellano has spent his career covering Latin culture and the U.S. – Mexico border in multiple ways, including food and music. He graduated from Chapman in 2001. Photo courtesy of Gustavo Arellano

Journalists who have spent their careers covering immigration and border politics are set to speak on campus Sept. 19. Gustavo Arellano, a Chapman alumnus and journalist for the Los Angeles Times, is one of them.

“Gustavo Arellano is one of the most successful students in the history of Chapman University,” said Paul Apodaca, a sociology professor who had Arellano as a student. “He is absolutely the most accomplished alumni that has come out of the school in the last 20 years.”

Arellano has covered the U.S. and Mexico border and has covered topics throughout his journalism career, ranging from food, music and Latin culture to immigration. He will be speaking at the “Documenting the Border” panel alongside journalists Joe Matthews, A.C. Thompson and Maytha Alhassen, to inform Chapman students of issues surrounding border coverage. The panel session is part of the La Frontera event series.

Arellano graduated from Chapman in 2001 with a degree in film studies. During his time as a student, Arellano was involved with MEChA de Chapman, a student organization that promotes higher education, community engagement, political participation and the preservation of culture. He also worked a full-time job in Fullerton.

“I had a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and would go to school at night from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. I did summer and intersession. I packed it in as much as possible,” Arellano said. “I was working and going to school while some of my friends were studying abroad or on vacation.”

As a child of Mexican immigrants, a first-generation student and now a features reporter for the Los Angeles Times, the border between the U.S. and Mexico has been of great importance to Gustavo Arellano.

“My dad came to this country illegally in the trunk of a Chevy in 1968,” Arellano said. “The border means a lot to me and it’s been great for me to be able to cover it in different ways in my career.”

Arellano started his journalism career when he wrote a fake “angry letter” to the editor of the OC Weekly.

“I thought the premise of the April Fool’s article was so funny, it deserved its own joke,” Arellano said.

His plan to express his “fake frustrations” backfired when the editor suggested that he pitch story ideas.

“By my senior year (at Chapman), I was already freelancing articles for the OC Weekly,” Arellano said.

Arellano served as the editor-in-chief for OC Weekly from 2011 to 2017 before moving on to the Los Angeles Times.

To Arellano, learning about the border is crucial for Chapman students, as the distance to the San Diego-Tijuana border is only about a two hour drive from campus.

“Border issues matter, especially with Latinos, especially at a time when you have the president who has made the border a very important issue in his campaign,” Arellano said. “(Students) should be informed about what’s going on and a great way to learn that is by talking or hearing from people who have spent their careers documenting the border.”

Arellano said that he is glad there are month long events like La Frontera that focus on the border.

“When I was going to Chapman, there was no way on earth something like this would happen.” Arellano said. “It brings happiness to a proud Panther to be able to see not just this panel but the event in general.”