Communicating Arts Department

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Comm Arts changes reflect changing media world

Posted on Aug 29, 2010
Program updates and new Interactive Media concentration benefit students.

In the constantly evolving world of media - video, DVDs, film, audio - UW-Superior's Communicating Arts major is evolving to stay on the crest of the media wave.

Beginning in the Fall 2010 semester, the university's popular Communicating Arts major will feature a renamed concentration that includes two updated and renamed tracks and an entirely new track in Interactive Media. The changes are the result of the Communicating Arts Department's continuing efforts to keep its programs relevant to students and their prospective employers.

"We looked at everything we do in mass communications and made the necessary changes to ensure we're forward-thinking in a discipline that by its nature is always cutting edge," said Associate Professor Brent Notbohm.

His thoughts were echoed by Senior Lecturer Tom Notton. "Not only are we keeping up with the media world," he said, "we're staying at the front of the marketplace."

Media Communication Concentration

Faculty began by changing the name of the Mass Communication Concentration to Media Communication Concentration to reflect how the media world has changed in recent years. The new name also reflects the changes to the concentration's four tracks, which enable students to focus their studies in specific areas.

Media Studies Track

The old General Mass Communication Track is replaced by a new Media Studies Track that focuses on media history, theory and criticism. Assistant Professor Dr. Tara Kachgal, who joined the faculty this fall, possesses the scholarly background to advise and support this track.

"This strengthens our program area's liberal arts focus with more emphasis on critical thinking and analysis of how people are portrayed in the media," Notbohm said.

Journalism Track

The strong, versatile Journalism Track, overseen by Senior Lecturer Joel Anderson, continues to be offered. Some of its courses were updated.

Digital Cinema Track

The Video Production Track is now named the Digital Cinema Track to reflect changes and new additions to the program as well as changes made during the past several years.

Notbohm said the video program he advises has been moving away from the older model of TV and studio production into a film-style model that includes art, documentary and fiction films. These skills are in demand for making a variety of video types for entertainment, communication and industry.

"We're offering a lot of new things in this track but much of the change reflects the direction we've been moving in for years," he said. "We teach skills, theory and aesthetics, but the stories the students choose to tell are their own."

Courses for the track cover everything from screenwriting and video production to media law, audio production and a new course in digital graphics and effects. Like all the tracks, it includes a required "capstone experience" in which a student uses the skills acquired in classes and labs to create a senior project.

Interactive Media Track

This new track prepares students for the media world in which video, audio, text and graphics are used separately and together in everything from TV to DVDs to computers and the Internet.

"The new track enables us to prepare students for the potential opportunities they have in video and multimedia - some of it's visual, some of it's audio, some of it's text," said Senior Lecturer Tom Notton.

"We can do so much more now than just video," he said. "The exciting thing is that as the technology is evolving, we have a track that is evolving with it, and adding new technology as it emerges."

The new track includes existing courses, such as DVD Production and Design; updated courses, such as a radio production course that's been broadened to audio production; and new courses, such as the one in digital graphics and effects.

Notton has spent 25 years in video production and education, so he's been part of the revolution that has occurred over the years. He notes that his current desktop computer can handle video editing which once needed to be done in a full-scale production studio. A slow-motion machine for video that cost $5,000 several years ago has been replaced by a computer program that creates the same effect with a single click of a computer mouse.

The media revolution also has affected where students find jobs after graduation. Once, they mostly went to work for TV stations or large corporations. Now, they can follow that route or work independently, Notton said.

"There are so many new opportunities for graduates in media production that weren't available 25 years ago. That's exciting," he said.

How students use the Interactive Media Track to create careers may depend on how they pair it with an academic minor, Notton said.

For instance, combining the track with a minor in Political Science could enable a graduate to specialize in creating campaign websites and new media strategies for political candidates.

Or, a student could open countless doors in the business world by combining the track with the minor in Information Technology. "Imagine the potential for a person with a media background and a computer background," Notton said. "Imagine the skill set that person would have in new media.

News Contact: Al Miller | 715-394-8260 | amiller{atuws}
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