Nathan Gibbs, a standout figure in media education at PLNU, is evidence of how vibrant cultural tapestries, steadfast faith, and an insatiable passion for multimedia storytelling, can lead one to a vibrant and successful professional and academic career.
Early years in Southern California
Gibbs grew up in Escondido in a Mexican-American Christian home. He and his family were very involved with church life. Growing up, Nathan participated in many of the youth group activities at his church as well as attending retreats and camps.
“My parents took us to church every time there was an activity,” he said.
Inheritances from the Chicano era of California shaped a distinct cultural narrative in Gibbs’ multicultural family — one that is common among Mexican-American families who have lived in the U.S. for multiple generations.
His grandparents on his mother’s side grew up in the 40s and 50s, an era where speaking Spanish in school sadly often bore severe consequences like physical punishment.
“When they were younger, my grandfather had always mentioned that they would hit you as part of the punishment for speaking Spanish in school,” he said. “So he decided to switch [to English].”
As a result, Gibbs’ mother’s Spanish was not as strong when he was growing up. Despite this, Gibbs was still exposed to the language through his family, particularly his abuelita or grandmother. His church growing up also had Spanish-speaking services.
The desire to connect with his family’s mother tongue led him to minor in Spanish in college. There he met Rosario, the woman who would later become his wife. Rosario is Mexican and when she and Gibbs first met, she’d only speak Spanish with him, forcing him to develop his language skills further.
“When I ended up meeting who would become my wife, my Spanish wasn’t great,” he said. “I had a lot of book Spanish in my head, but I didn’t really practice it all that much.”
Gibbs said that for the longest time he did not know that Rosario even spoke English.
“Then I heard her interact with somebody else, and her English is perfect,” he said. “She was fully bilingual and could speak English but she just was, I guess the way she would say it, she was making me work for it.”
Today Gibbs and Rosario have established a bilingual household for them and their five children.
“We alternate between English and Spanish,” he said.
The genesis of a passion for storytelling
Gibbs traces the origins of his multimedia journey back to his high school years in the 90s. The high school he attended had a strong arts emphasis and afforded him the opportunity to take several photography classes.
“At the time, digital cameras weren’t really a thing yet,” he said. “So it was all black and white, hand-developed stuff. I really like doing it. I really liked taking pictures.”
Photography in high school led Gibbs down a path of exploring cameras, images, and film.
College further ignited Gibbs’ appetite for exploration. Gibbs enrolled in Abilene Christian University (ACU) in Texas, where he majored in Electronic Media.
A journey through radio, video production, photography, and HTML coding laid the groundwork for his omnivorous approach to multimedia.
He was especially drawn to self-study and exploration.
“I think I thrive in places where people leave me alone and just let me explore and experiment,” he said. “I have regular classes, but I could spend hours and hours in the dark by myself digging in on something.”
It was during these years that he discovered his love for audio storytelling.
“There was a point where I guess I just knew I loved it,” he said. “I just loved making stuff. Once you start mixing things together, being able to edit and control it and tell a story, it’s like a light bulb goes off. It’s more meaningful. It does something to you when you listen to it.”
“I just loved making stuff. Once you start mixing things together, being able to edit and control it and tell a story, it’s like a light bulb goes off. It’s more meaningful. It does something to you when you listen to it.”
Upon graduating college in 2000, Gibbs decided to pursue his graduate education.
He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic University in New York where he got his Master of Fine Arts in Electronic Arts. It was there that his undergraduate experience unveiled a breadth of knowledge unparalleled among his peers.
Graduate school became an arena for honing his skills further as well as guide fellow students who did not know as much as he did.
“All of a sudden, I was in the same place where I knew more than some others and had room to explore and experiment with a lot of new things myself, which I really appreciated,” he said.
Balancing teaching and practice
After graduate school, Gibbs would go on to spend the next decade working as a media professional in areas like photography, video, radio and other media forms. He worked for 9 years at KPBS in San Diego.
He taught classes at organizations like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and then began to teach as an adjunct at PLNU.
He became an Associate Professor at his alma mater in 2013, where he taught undergraduate classes covering video production, digital media, and broadcast news tailored for Convergence Journalism and Multimedia majors at ACU.
As the faculty advisor and director of KACU, Abilene’s NPR station headquartered at ACU, Gibbs offered guidance and direction, supervising a team of five full-time staff members and providing mentorship to student announcers, news anchors, reporters, and producers.
Gibbs also directed operational, staffing, programming, corporate development, and fundraising initiatives, implementing strategic changes as needed.
Gibbs worked extensively with the university’s TV station, introducing live ESPN+ streaming. He also created podcast studios and helped implement significant curriculum revisions. Gibbs’ time at ACU presented him with the perfect balance between his passion for academia and multimedia storytelling.
“I would have a half teaching load and half a professional load, which has always been the dream scenario for me,” he said. “I enjoyed having the opportunity to teach, but also the professional output of serving the community and creating a media environment was great.”
At ACU, Gibbs gained the opportunity to transform much of the multimedia landscape in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Tasked with revitalizing a dilapidated TV studio, Gibbs embarked on a renovation project that spanned several years.
“We wrote grants, did fundraising, managed to partner with others on campus when they had renovations, where we were able to create this concept of a centralized video hub,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs and his team were able to amplify the studio’s capabilities to include feeds from sports venues and other campus locations.
“We could bring all those feeds in from there into one place and produce the shows there,” he said. “We really saw just a tremendous change over the course of about 3–5 years.”
The change was incredible — the space transformed from a dysfunctional studio patched up with duct tape to a hub driving ESPN+ broadcasts for campus sports events.
Under Gibbs’ guidance, students seamlessly maneuvered the productions. They developed skills like shooting and control room operations as they earned ESPN+ credits for their resumes.
“It was really intense, a lot of activity,” he said. “It’s incredible that students are running so many events in a given week.”
Amidst these achievements, Gibbs transitioned to Point Loma Nazarene University in 2022 where he now works as an Associate Professor of Media Communication.
This transition to a new role reflects a blend of Gibbs’ personal and professional aspirations. He was driven by a desire to reunite with family in California while preserving his commitment to Christian academia.
Acknowledging the nurturing environment at PLNU, which is similar to his previous institution, the alignment of faith and teaching ethos resonates profoundly with Gibbs.
“One thing that I really enjoyed (at ACU) was the Christian atmosphere,” he said. “I think comparing the two universities, they are very similar in expectations for faith in the classroom, in teaching and faith for their faculty. I just found that to be a really sweet thing.”
The move posed some challenges, however. Navigating the complexities of uprooting a family with five young children was not easy, but in the end Gibbs and his family knew they could make it work.
“I know if I was going to come back, this is the only place I wanted to come to,” he said.
Nurturing future storytellers
Now positioned within the Department of Communication Studies, Nathan’s diverse teaching repertoire encompasses multimedia journalism and an array of broadcast and media courses. Transitioning departments in his second year presented fresh challenges but also opened new avenues for innovation and educational growth.
Some of the classes that Gibbs most enjoys teaching are the multimedia journalism classes.
“That’s a class where I think you’re seeing the diversity of multimedia options,” he said. “I’m able to speak into that and help the students to web stuff and put it all together.”
This year he’s been able to teach Broadcast News and Introduction to Film and Television Production among other courses.
For Gibbs, teaching is not just about imparting knowledge but about fostering creativity and ensuring that every student arrives at the same destination, regardless of their starting point.
“You have students who spent years in high school learning and running the TV station or something at their well-funded schools and they’re ready to go,” he said. “Then you have students who have never done anything and they’re sitting in the same classroom next to each other. The question always is, ‘how do I make sure that we get them all to the same destination?’”
“I think college is a bigger picture development of you as a person, for you to work with other people and to explore your voice in a different way. In the end you’re becoming a deeper thinker, someone who can analyze things, who can plan things, who can develop things and produce things.”
More than just traditional “book learning”, Gibbs emphasizes a crucial facet: technology often evolves faster than academia can adapt. This means students will continue to encounter new technology and new software throughout their careers. For this reason, Gibbs considers it important to inculcate in each student an appetite for perpetual learning.
“You have to know how to learn because you will always have to keep learning new things,” he said. “It’s important to come at a challenge with eagerness and excited nature. I know how things should look. I don’t know where the buttons are, but let’s go find them. That’s always my approach with that.”
Gibbs also acknowledges that the role of university education expands far beyond skill acquisition.
“I think college is a bigger picture development of you as a person, for you to work with other people and to explore your voice in a different way,” he said. “In the end you’re becoming a deeper thinker, someone who can analyze things, who can plan things, who can develop things and produce things.”
For Gibbs, it’s important for students to learn how to work together as they will often have to do so in their profession. In addition, the faith element in the classroom is also a very important factor to consider. “I think from our role, from the faith side, we want to impress upon them that they’re going to do good in the world and their stories are going to help make things better in some way,” he said.
Drawing parallels between his professional and personal life, Nathan delves into his role as a parent to five adopted children. Despite the challenges, he acknowledges the invaluable ministry found in both mentorship and parenthood.
“We do have a lot of challenges, like many families with kids that are special in different ways that keep us on our toes,” he said. “I think I’m blessed to be able to have a ministry in my job. That is part of my role as a mentor with students, [it’s] a ministry. At home as a parent, [that’s] very much my primary ministry with my kids. We have a lot of fun.”
In his free time, Gibbs enjoys physical activity. In October, he completed an IRONMAN triathlon.
“I’ve been active this last year practicing and working on running, cycling, and swimming,” he said. “That’s been a fun outlet.”
As a committed educator at PLNU, Nathan envisions a long-term journey, intending to retire there. He sees the university not just as a workplace but a nurturing ground — a place where mentorship, challenges, and growth converge, creating an enduring impact.
In Nathan Gibbs, the realm of media education finds a strong advocate, someone dedicated not only to shaping skilled professionals but also nurturing empathetic, socially conscious individuals — a legacy that transcends conventional academia.