By Katharine Webster and David Perry
Nick Jarek came to UMass Lowell in fall 2018 without declaring a major.
He signed up for a wide range of courses his first year, including a class in lighting principles, which he thought would fulfill a lab science requirement.
It turned out to be a high-level digital media
class on how to light a scene for photography or videography. Although it didn’t count as a science class, Jarek says it was the best “mistake” he ever made.
“We all did everything: being behind the camera, setting up shots and editing. I fell in love with the whole process, putting all the pieces together and working with fancy cameras,” he says. “And it’s very group-oriented. You work as part of a team, which I really loved.”
At the time, digital media was only a minor, but Jarek chose it as one of his two concentrations within the Bachelor of Liberal Arts (BLA)
degree. He took as many classes as he could in podcasting, screenwriting, video production, graphic design and motion graphics.
“Any course they had, I wanted to take, because I want to be prepared for whatever it is I do after graduation,” he says. “NESN (New England Sports Network) is the dream, but I have the skills to work in radio, be a cameraman for the Red Sox or do editing on movies.”
This fall, digital media became a major. The goal is to teach students how to tell stories effectively in multiple formats, says program Director Pavel Romaniko
, an assistant teaching professor of art and design
Senior year, each student must complete an internship or create a capstone project such as a film, podcast or digital marketing campaign, depending on their interests and career goals, Romaniko says.
“We want to provide a lot of flexibility within the curriculum,” he says. “We want to offer students a robust experience drawing on journalism, English and art, while also providing them with strong skills in video and audio production. It’s very hands-on, working with real-life clients.”
One of those clients is UMass Lowell’s Division I athletics program
, which will expand its internship program to provide hands-on experience for up to 15 digital media students. The students can do camera work at games, edit, or create motion graphics and video for the River Hawks website and social media channels, says Aaron King
’17, director of multimedia and production for UML Athletics.
King, who majored in English, was one of the first students to graduate with a minor in digital media. He now oversees all UML Athletics broadcasts for ESPN and NESN, as well as video content for the web and social media.
“Every work experience that I’ve had coming out of college, still to this day, is thanks to the digital media minor and the relationships and experiences I got during that time,” King says.
’17, ’18 also majored in English and minored in digital media before earning a master’s degree in peace and conflict studies. She now works as an associate producer for CNN in New York.
“The digital media program was a huge stepping-stone for me,” she says. “It gave me a competitive edge because it made me a one-woman production team: I can write, shoot, edit and produce.”
College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Asst. Dean Wael Kamal
, who started the digital media program in 2015, says the curriculum emphasizes learning a range of digital skills, and that it aligns with UML’s mission of creating a pipeline of highly skilled professionals to meet regional job needs.
“Regional demand shows the need for professionals with multi-skill experiences and academic training,” he says.
Visiting Lecturer Dan Frank
, who teaches many of the studio classes in videography and video production, says the major is also preparing students for jobs in digital advertising, corporate marketing and motion graphics.
Junior Ashley Habenicht, who like Jarek is pursuing a digital media concentration for her BLA degree, says she’s excited to take more classes with Frank because he’s spent three decades producing and directing everything from commercials to films and television programming.
“He’s a really good professor, and he has actual experience producing documentaries, music videos and TV specials,” she says. “He knows how to do a little bit of everything.”
Frank and Romaniko say that with the program’s expansion, the university has invested $60,000 in industry-standard cameras, audio recorders, lights and other essential equipment so that students can work with the most current technology.
The Digital Media Program is also taking advantage of a partnership that Canon offers to college and university programs that buy its cameras and lenses. Canon will loan its newest cameras to UML for a few weeks at a time, allowing students to work with top-of-the-line equipment, and will co-sponsor professional photographers and filmmakers as guest lecturers.
Digital media major Courtney Coviello, who transferred to UMass Lowell a year ago after earning an associate degree at Middlesex Community College, has been working her way through school at Lowell Telemedia Center
– another long-time Digital Media Program partner – and Tewksbury’s public access cable station. Now she has a third job as a digital media student assistant.
Although she already has extensive video experience, Coviello says UML’s digital media classes are expanding her knowledge and exposing her to a wider range of career options. Now that all of her classes are in person, she can’t wait to get her hands on some of those high-end Canon cameras.
“I’m excited because I get to have more experience working with better cameras, working with lights, and finding other people in my major and networking with them,” she says. “I’m going to be doing what I really love.”