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Digital Media Program Expands

Classes Emphasize Hands-on Learning

digital studies students in TV studio

Wael Kamal, director of the digital media program, works with students in the television studio on South Campus.

By Sheila Eppolito

A quick look around any dining hall, residence lounge or family gathering is enough to witness the power of digital media. Whether we’re texting, checking Facebook, reading a work email or getting it done on Candy Crush, digital devices are a constant companion in nearly every person’s palm.

In a strategic move designed to place graduates in the growing number of competitive full-time careers supporting the surge in digital media, the university now offers an interdisciplinary minor in digital media and is evaluating the addition of a digital media major.

Whether students are interested in pursuing full-time careers as web developers, camera operators, social media consultants, lighting designers, directors, writers or on-air talent, or are interested in combining some of the minor’s skills with a different area of study, the array of courses, instructors and collaborations cater to a wide audience.

“Today’s rapidly changing media landscape of digitization, high-speed connectivity and technological advancements has redefined the relationship between media and its audience,” says Wael Kamal, the founding director of the university’s digital media program and Art Department lecturer.

Before creating the new minor, Kamal traveled to conferences and met peers from other institutions with established programs, and made a key decision: While courses should be grounded in appropriate theory, the curriculum should be heavy on hands-on instruction and experience.

“Today’s converged media demands multi-skilled qualifications from workers,” Kamal says. “Gone are the days when people could specialize in one discipline and secure full-time work performing just one facet of media production.” 

Lights, Camera, Action!

Available to all majors, digital media courses are designed to be a mix of theory and practice, with a heavy dose of participation in a new, fully-equipped television studio in Mahoney Hall. To that end, the 30 students in the minor cycle through every facet of production in the state-of-the-art studio. There is an anchor desk, studio-grade lighting and sound systems and a green screen — all mobile, in anticipation of a move to a larger, permanent facility. 

Students also put skills to work with Lowell Telecomm and Lowell Public Schools, including programming on Lowell Educational Television Channel 22. 

For Regina Milan, a graphic design lecturer and program collaborator,  it’s a “no-brainer.” 

“Everything is video. Everything is dynamic,” says Milan, whose work with digital media students includes motion graphics and creating typography for use in video. 

“Today, you have to have a whole bunch of skills, you’ve got to be flexible and ready to work. I tell students minors like digital media are their ‘golden tickets’ to employment,” she says. 

For junior English major Marlon Pitter, the program’s storytelling class provided skills he hopes to use in his work as editor of the student newspaper, The Connector. 

“I’d like to add a video to our coverage. It would be an important new layer for our readers,” says Pitter.

Pouya Afshar, assistant professor in the Art & Design Department, believes the digital media minor is critical to student success.

“New art movements are heavily influenced by and intertwined with video and moving imagery components,” Afshar says.  “If we want to have successful artists graduating from this university, we need to make sure that they understand the language of moving imagery and video.” 

Worldly Skills

Kamal also looks forward to providing international opportunities for students, most notably through a memorandum of understanding with the University of Sharjah and in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Media City in the United Arab Emirates city of Abu Dhabi, which has more than 1,200 media outlets.