In an ever-changing media landscape, St. Lawrence’s New Digital Media and Film major will equip students to think critically and creatively about the content they consume and produce. After four years of interdisciplinary coursework and opportunities to gain real-world experience, students will be well placed to confidently embark on careers in journalism, videography, graphic design, film, and more. Program Co-Chairs Sarah Knobel, Associate Professor of Art and Art History, and Brook Henkel, Associate Professor of German and Film Studies, shared what students can expect from this innovative new major.
What makes St. Lawrence’s Digital Media and Film Specialty unique?
BH: In leading with the term “digital”, we sought to reframe the study of film and media in relation to the rapid changes in digital media technologies and to challenge students to think critically and creatively about their highly mediated worlds. . The new major further sets itself apart by emphasizing the development of students’ skills in digital media production, a required experiential component, and a commitment to integrating social justice and media creation beginning with our new flagship introduction, Film & Media Action. During their final year, students of the major also assemble their work in the form of a digital portfolio, which they can use during their various careers.
What are the benefits of majoring in digital media and film at a liberal arts institution?
Sask.: We believe this major will meet the needs of a variety of students because it brings together and builds on the strengths of many disciplines in the liberal arts curriculum. The new major is flexible as it allows students to design a more personalized program that relates to their specific interests in digital media and film. There are a variety of production and theory courses that students can take depending on their interests.
BH: We also consider it important that our students find their own voice through our program, especially with the experiential component, including internships, and their final capstone projects, which encourage collaboration. We want students to have something to say about the work they create, not repeat what they have seen. And we want them to be aware of the power and ethical responsibility that comes with creating and engaging with media.
How will this program prepare students for their careers? What kind of careers can digital media and film majors hope to pursue?
Sask.: There are so many directions students can take. They can learn a variety of skills to prepare for jobs in the media industry, but also specialize in areas such as film, photography, podcasting, and audio. Many jobs no longer focus on knowing a specific form of media. It is important to have a specialization, but also to know how to create different content. Our liberal arts program allows for a range of knowledge and a variety of skills to match student interests and orientations.
BH: We imagine a range of different students in the major: those drawn to a more artistic approach to filmmaking; more commercial students who want to be part of the media industry; non-traditional journalism students who want to create multimedia stories (podcasts, video, photography); citizen journalists and activists, who can create a platform for themselves but also for other organisations; students interested in making narrative or documentary films; students who want to become graphic designers; and those who wish to be present online or work on social networks. We have already had students in our classrooms who fit many of these profiles and who would be a perfect fit for the new major.
How will faculty in this program support the career exploration of their advisors?
Sask.: There are over 15 faculty members supporting the program in this major, each with different areas of expertise to support student learning towards a range of career paths. There are also many opportunities for students to collaborate with their mentors outside of the classroom, such as…
- understand citizen journalism while working with global studies professor John Collins and his team of students who run Weave News.
- explore a career in journalism or photojournalism as a writer or photographer for The Hill News, our student-run newspaper. The journal’s advisor is Juraj Kittler, professor of English and performance and communication arts, and supported by Sarah Knobel, professor of art and art history.
- work alongside communications professionals in our University Communications Department while creating social media content and helping to capture student life on campus.
What kinds of tools or programs will students be able to use to support their learning?
Sask.: Depending on the production courses taken by a student, they will be introduced to video, audio and graphics software used in several production industries. Students will also learn to use a variety of accessible equipment and tools, such as cameras and audio mixers, to produce visual and audio content. Students will have access to the Newell Center for Arts Technology, as well as the Digital Scholarship Computer Lab at the Owen D. Young Library. Both facilities feature Adobe Creative Suite and other equipment and tools to meet professional production needs. The Digital Scholarship Computer Lab has just been equipped with podcasting equipment. We continue to write grants and seek funding to further develop this space and obtain additional cameras and equipment to support our production classes.
Tell us a bit about the expertise of the department’s faculty – who will students in this program learn from?
BH and SK: Our faculty have a variety of different backgrounds and different approaches to digital media and film studies. We are also welcoming new faculty in the next academic year, who will bring their expertise in the sociology of technology, film and media production, and the intersections of film and media studies with the study of foreign languages and culture. . We are also fortunate to have strong library support from Director of Research and Digital Fellowship Eric Williams-Bergen and Digital Fellowship Specialist Nicole Roche.
Here are some highlighted professors who helped create this major and teach courses that count towards the new major:
- Professor and Chair of Global Studies John Collins covers themes of globalization, nationalism, colonialism, violence, memory, political activism and media criticism in his courses. He is the founder of Weave News, an independent extracurricular media project focused on underreported stories.
- Associate Professor of Art and Art History, Amy Hauber teaches courses in digital media and culture that will count towards our new major.
- Associate Professor of Music, Film Studies, and Asian Studies and Music Chair David Henderson has taught many of the film production and theory courses that will now be part of the major. Some of his courses are documentary filmmaking, music video and world cinema.
- Associate Professor of German and Film Studies, Brook Henkel teaches courses on German and European cinema, representations of World War II in German and American cinema, and film theory. He is also Co-Chair of the Digital Media and Film major.
- Associate Professor of English and Performance and Communication Arts Juraj Kittler is an experienced broadcast journalist and editor and specialist in mass communications, media and the public sphere. He teaches courses in journalism and media studies.
- Associate Professor of Art and Art History, Sarah Knobel’s work focuses on ideas of the natural and the artificial in creating photography, video and art installations. She teaches a range of photography and video courses and is co-chair of the Digital Media and Film major.
- Maurer Professor of Performance and Communication Arts and Director of Rhetoric and Communication Allie Rowland conducts research on reproductive politics and bio-citizenship, particularly on gender, race and sexuality. His Rhetoric of Algorithms course counts towards the Digital Media and Film major.
- Associate Professor of English Penny Vlagopoulos specializes in 20th- and 21st-century American and world literature and regularly teaches courses at the intersection of film and literary studies, such as Literature and Film at the Borderlands.
- Associate Professor of Music and Director of the Newell Center for Arts Technology Christopher Watts is a composer and multimedia artist. He teaches music and technology.
- Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies, Mahrou Zhaf teaches courses that explore how gender roles and identities are constructed in relation to race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality in film and the media.
What excites you most about the future of this program?
BH and SK: We are excited about our partnership with the Library’s Digital Fellowship Program and seeing the Owen D. Young Library as a potential hub for students, faculty, and staff involved in the new major. The recent creation of a podcasting studio and a digital imaging lab are examples of new library spaces that will directly benefit the digital media and film program.
Learn more about digital media and cinema