Over a year ago, Media Arts and Science (MAS) faculty embarked on a mission to redesign their outdated master’s degree program. Their goal: create a pathway to industry that focused on emergent technology and developed skills from concept to finished project that would better prepare students for their careers.
Associate Professor Joseph Defazio, with support from Davide Bolchini, chair of the Department of Human-Centered Computing (HCC), and input from the HCC Advisory Board, led the effort to redesign the program, course by course, after extensive survey analysis of industry professionals. Christy Gormal, COO and VP of Matchbook Creative, an HCC board member and alumna of the MAS graduate program, developed and taught one of the initial core courses, NEWM-N 501 Foundations of Digital Production.
Defazio says that things change so quickly in this field, and with about half of the students already working, it was important to both stay abreast of new developments and build on a solid foundation.
The MAS graduate program has been expanded from 30 to 36 credit hours to match other graduate programs, and now includes 24 core requirements, a choice of 2 electives that align with objectives, and either a final project or thesis.
Gormal says it became clear during conversations with faculty and program chairs that talent was there, but students were challenged with a lack of understanding about the operational side of a business. “They have never been tasked with planning the project, discovering where certain project decisions should or should not be made, or how to create a timeline and budget and how that can impact that outcome. (In this program) they learn about roles and responsibilities and what it takes to be profitable, all while managing the successful outcome of the actual project.”
She says that once students understand business objectives, their moves and contributions become intentional, and that when the company is more successful the employees can also reap those benefits.
Students in Gormal’s class partnered with industry to work on real-life projects and apply what they learned. Two of them worked with Rev Racing, NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. They attended a race in Dover, Delaware and received media credentials to film content for social media videos. Another student created graphics for Spring Mill State Park.
Ultimately, the MAS grad program wants to continue to connect and have dialogue with companies in the emergent technology and media industry. “We still have a lot of work to do in this space in Indiana. Opportunities exist, but perception is reality,” Gormal says. “We also need to prepare for the changes that are happening in the industry. More freelance opportunities are happening, as well as work from home options and non-traditional project arrangements, and we have to prepare the students for these shifts.
“Change is rapid and I am proud of SoIC for investing the time and energy into preparing their graduates. They are listening and making the necessary shifts to position their students for success when they walk out of this university.”