Where has the time gone?

Eons ago (also known as the beginning of August) when I first met the rest of my iMediates at the student orientation, Professor Copeland had some words that continue to stick prominently in my head: This will be the fastest and slowest ten months of your life.

I remember tilting my head to the side and thinking to myself, “well that doesn’t make much sense. Doubt both of those are true.”

Fast forward to today. If you look at a calendar, you’ll notice that it is just over a month until graduation and I am left to wonder where on Earth all the time went. Copeland was a prophet in a way: these past nine months have indeed been the fastest and slowest that I can ever remember.

The opportunities iMedia has given me are incredible and numerous.

Let’s start with the speakers, where we have been able to listen to everyone from Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project, to activist and former NFL punter Chris Kluwe (a discussion I was lucky enough to lead).

Chris Kluwe speaking with iMedia

Chris Kluwe speaking with iMedia

The class projects we have worked on have been great. I have been able to create a motion typography for one of my favorite movie speeches: for the American president at the end of Independence Day. I have created websites, both for computers and for mobile devices, for one of my favorite local bars/restaurants. I am currently working with Walkers Shortbread on their social media and SEO and trying to figure out the best ways they can improve those – which is something I’ve grown to love and hope to do on a full-time basis for a career some day soon.

I owe the program for one of the best and life-changing weeks of my life. As a part of iMedia’s Fly-In projects, I was able to spend seven days in Costa Rica, five of which were spent living with the Terraba tribe and learning the ways of their people (as well as being reminded just how fortunate people like me are).

Just enjoying waterfalls in Costa Rica. No big deal.

Just enjoying waterfalls in Costa Rica. No big deal.

Heck, I even owe iMedia for 90 percent of the items on my portfolio (shameless plug of it goes here), from the aforementioned Independence Day motion typography to a white paper on how colleges and universities should be teaching their student-athletes about social media and how to use it. I have also made several new connections in various industries, from public relations to digital content and everything in between.

Do I regret anything about the program? Absolutely not. I have grown both as a student, a new age storyteller and (as cliché as it may sound) as a person.

It really is amazing to think about how much all of us in the iMedia program have changed over the past nine months. Who knows what the next nine have to offer.

So Much More than Cookies and Camp

by maggie mullikin

I recently visited with Meghan Gargan Bredhal, a 2011 iMedia graduate. Meghan talked about her job and the role the iMedia program has played in her career.

“My current job title is Digital Marketing & Project Director for Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines. We are one of 112 councils that sit under the Girl Scouts USA umbrella. We serve 28,000 girls in central and eastern North Carolina and roughly 10,000 adult volunteers.

“In this role I’m responsible for developing and implementing the organization’s digital marketing strategy in order to achieve key business objectives such as increasing customer acquisition and retention, product revenue, and brand awareness. I lead and oversee the social media marketing program, design and distribute email marketing campaigns, oversee and update the website and blog, as well as lead the Salesforce CRM and marketing automation projects we have going on right now. It’s a big job, but very rewarding.

What is truly unique about the iMedia program is that it gives students a taste of everything, making them well-rounded candidates for the interactive industry. My versatility is something that helped me stand out from the crowd of more than 200 applicants. Additionally, having portfolio pieces to show that I not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, was what helped my current boss decide I was the best candidate for the job.  

“Whether I’m designing a visual piece of content for social media, strategizing on the best time to send an email blast, mapping out the new UX and IA for the Girl Scouts website (coming summer 2014) or developing a consumer promotion to drive customer loyalty and engagement – I rely on my iMedia education every single day.

The best part of Meghan’s job, “Girl Scout Cookies! Just kidding! Although, they are a wonderful perk. The best part of my job is knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of girls and adults across North Carolina. Non-profits have a reputation for being behind the times when it comes to technology and I’m glad to say that Girl Scouts isn’t one of them. We are constantly innovating and improving the way we do things and finding ways to incorporate technology to make it easier and more convenient for our members.”

Meghan’s advice for potential iMedia students,
“For potential students, I really recommend coming into the program with 1-2 years of work experience or 2-3 really strong internships under your belt. Understanding the demands of the workforce helped me place my iMedia education into context. It helped me define the areas that were most in-demand for my industry as well as develop specific portfolio pieces for the jobs I wanted once I graduated. Finally, having worked for two years before joining the program, I already had a well established network of contacts who were eager to learn about and share my work – thus leading to new contacts and new opportunities.”

Advice for current students,
“Be passionate. Be hungry for knowledge. Be exhausted (you can catch up on sleep in May!). The 10 months will fly by and there will never be another time in your life where you can completely immerse yourself in your digital education. Take advantage of every opportunity, explore any and all paths that interest you, and never stop learning once you graduate.”

SEO, Social Media and Clients… Oh My!

By Jess Chambers, iMedia ’14

Among all the other projects iMedia ’14 is working on this semester, the SEO, Analytics and Social Media class has been given an exciting opportunity to work with real clients. For the past few weeks, my classmates and I have been meeting with different businesses in the area to help them develop plans to increase their SEO and social media.

This is the first semester for this class and was organized by Dr. Amanda Sturgill. “I was really happy to be able to connect some business partners with our iMedia students this semester,” wrote Sturgill. “For businesses with little experience with new media or tiny budgets, our students are able to use what they are learning in iMedia to offer real value in advising on strategies for using interactive media. For the students, the chance to work with messy, real-world issues is invaluable, since they will be doing that for the rest of their careers.”

Our time in the iMedia program is quickly coming to an end. Working with actual clients in class allows me to use the resources and connections within the program while still getting real world experience. Most importantly, it will standout in my portfolio.

My team is working with TyraTech, a biotech company located in Morrisville, N.C., who has developed a product against head lice that will be appearing on Wal-Mart shelves later this month. TyraTech is also launching an insect repellant that will be hitting the marketplace soon. As a marketer (and as a student), this is an exciting time to be involved with this company as they are starting to develop their social media plan and compete against more established brands.

It won’t be long until my classmates and I are entering the workforce. The situations and experiences we face with our clients now are what we will soon be dealing with daily. While the capstone seems to get all the glory, it taking advantage of all the opportunities we get in the iMedia program that really make it an amazing 10 months.

“Our client for this project is Kustom Koozies, a Raleigh-based koozie printing service that specializes in events such as weddings and birthdays. I’ll be working alongside Kara O’Halloran and Arielle Aurrichio to create a social media content plan for them. The three of us are really in an enviable position because the owner of Kustom Koozies, Bob Liddle, is incredibly eager to spread the brand’s message through social media. The main challenge that we’re currently trying to tackle is how to truly capture and communicate the experience of a Kustom Koozie customer in an authentic manner. That being said, the three of us are incredibly excited to begin leveraging the right social networks as well as the right messaging to help spread awareness of Kustom Koozies’ brand.” –Jessica Kingman on working with her client for the SEO, Analytics and Social Media class

Faculty Spotlight: Professor Dianne Finch

The iMedia faculty hold the highest degrees in their fields and have relevant real-world experience. Being a graduate of the program, I wanted to profile the wonderful faculty members who help make the iMedia program so successful.

Professor Dianne Finch is new to Elon this school year, but has already made her mark on the iMedia program, offering a popular spring elective, Data Visualization. Professor Finch holds an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University. She has professional experience in software, programming and journalism. Before coming to Elon, she was manager for New Media and a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. We are happy to have Professor Finch sharing her knowledge at Elon!

iMedia Professor Dianne Finch // Elon Interactive MediaHow has your background influenced what you teach in the interactive media program?
My career in the software industry taught me the importance of designing and thinking critically before building. The same principle directly applies to the data visualization class.

In journalism, a good story can’t be written without solid reporting, critical thinking, and the ability to see behind the rhetoric and bias. In data visualization, students mine, clean, filter and analyze data before designing a visual. They should have an idea in mind, but the sketching doesn’t begin until they’ve discovered and vetted the data. The data should have the potential to tell a story – or part of a story. I believe that the same principle applies to many disciplines.

Is there a college class or experience that has most influenced your teaching philosophy?
There were many college classes that influenced my teaching philosophy. At Columbia University, my adviser and “reporting 101” professor pushed me to identify the best possible sources for stories. If a student handed in a story with sources that weren’t solid or authoritative when necessary, the story was rejected on the spot.  It was challenging, but it was an important lesson and so essential to good journalism.  In data visualization, the same principle applies – but the sources are the data.

What is your favorite thing about teaching iMedia students?
iMedia students are enthusiastic, creative and seem to be attracted to challenging endeavors. They bring a range of skills to my class. Some have worked in professional jobs, and others are recent graduates. Many are already adept in video production, motion graphics, Adobe design tools and coding with HTML and JavaScript. It’s apparent that they are taking advantage of everything that iMedia has to offer. I look forward to seeing their final projects and I’m confident that they will incorporate those other skills into their visualization projects.

Can you share a bit about the new course, Data Visualization?
The course covers the fundamentals of data visualization with an initial focus on data mining, cleaning, filtering and merging. We talk about using color, shapes, position, size and other visualization characteristics to apply to data types – such as categories, dates and quantitative numbers. As for tools, we start with Google Fusion and then move to the Google API, Tableau Public and finally the D3 JavaScript Library. We build interactive maps, timelines and other types of charts. When students walk away, the hope is that they will know which tools best suit their individual needs and abilities. Some require coding skills – while others don’t.

How will the skills you are teaching translate to the future?
Corporations, news organizations and even politicians are embracing data visualization to communicate important trends and stories that might otherwise be buried in spreadsheets and unavailable to the average person. Small businesses offering data visualization services are popping up around the globe – creating a new sector in the software or communications industry. Elon and other universities are establishing courses, and I’ve heard about K12 schools that are teaching children how to display data in the US and the UK. The big data and open data movements obviously contribute to the demand for skills in this area. As those movements gain momentum, data visualization should continue to evolve and adjust.

What would your students be surprised to learn about you?
I lived in Japan and traveled throughout Asia. I love the outdoors and lived in Alaska as a child. My husband, Brian, is from England. Thanks to Brian’s son, we have three adorable grandchildren. I’ve travelled to many countries, and must see many more.

I know you just moved to North Carolina, what is your favorite thing about living here so far?
The weather. Watching flowers break ground so early in spring. Again, the weather.

Thanks to Professor Finch for sharing more about herself. I hope spring weather is here to stay soon!

An Sneak Peak at the Spring Schedule

By Russell Varner, iMedia ’14

It is scary to think that we are already one-third of the way through the spring semester. Seriously, where did the time go?

Well, our time nowadays is taken up mostly by work either for class, our capstone projects or our personal portfolios. As you can imagine, it’s quite the busy time for everyone. Welcome to grad school, right?

Since I am not far enough in my capstone yet to share it, I thought I would give you a better idea of exactly what we are doing in our classes this semester. After taking more broad courses in the fall, Interactive Media is offering us more specialized courses in the spring. And as busy as we are, I am genuinely interested in and loving everything we are doing in these classes.

Media Management: Students are starting to learn about Google Analytics. At the end of the month, they will be taking a test to become Google Analytics-certified, which would look great on any resume.

Datamining and Visualization: Students are learning how to use Google Fusion to display data and are also beginning to brainstorm about our final projects. For these projects, students will have to display information in a variety ways including video, infographics and interactive websites. 

App Development: Students are currently learning about geolocation and how it applies to applications. Next up, they will learn about capturing videos and photos like on Instagram.

Public Opinion in New Media: Students here are going over media theories and new technologies and how they apply today – for example, how Facebook helped create a revolution in Tunisia. Students will also be writing a white paper on a topic of their choosing for this class.

SEO, Analytics and Social Media: Students are doing everything from learning the basics of search engine optimization and working with local companies to improve their SEO to keeping up with popular blogs on the subjects and writing blogs of our own. For a list of the blogs and links, click here.

Multimedia Story Telling: Students are taking a look at some of the more groundbreaking multimedia story pieces (such as The New York Times’ ‘Snow Fall’), learning how to use websites such as Zeega and Scroll Kit and planning their own multimedia story project for the class.

Some advice from the boss

By Marianne Brigola, Com Career Advisor

No, I’m not talking about Bruce Springsteen here.  Each year, the Student Professional Development Center hosts Professional Discovery Week, featuring a week of programming covering a broad spectrum of career topics, including networking, life after Elon, graduate school and industry-specific topics.

 This year, the School of Communications hosted a panel of employers who shared their advice to students about what it takes to stand out as a new employee. This years’ panel included:

Each of our panel members supervise entry-level employees and interns in their respective companies. Panelists spoke on everything from applying for work to starting off strong on your first day.  Some great advice they shared included:

Know how you’re branding yourself: All the panelists agreed that once someone works for them, that person also represents their company and their social media presence was a key factor in the hiring decision. Formica said that he looks at social media accounts even before taking a look at someone’s resume.

Showing your skills is more valuable that just telling someone about them. Resumes are great, but even more important is samples of your work. Milton said he often hears from applicants who apply with the intention of building their portfolio with the position—the ones who get hired are the ones with existing clips and samples that demonstrate the skills they’re claiming to have. For iMedia students, this might be done with your resume and more importantly with your electronic portfolio.

Stand out in your application. When you’re applying to jobs you want to stand out, but don’t overlook simple, effective ways to stand out. When Genszler was looking for jobs, she mailed in physical copies of her resume. She heard back from more employers with this strategy, often with signed letters that provided her with a company contact to follow up with. She landed her first job using this strategy.

Once you start. Be resourceful + decisive. Panelists all agreed that while you can use the excuse of being “new” for a few weeks, that doesn’t mean you should be lackadaisical or passive when it comes to learning what you need for the job, meeting new people at your company and showing that you’re ready to work. Wesson emphasized the importance of being true to how you presented yourself at the interview. If you’re claiming to be driven—demonstrate it! Don’t show up at 9 and then leave immediately at the end of the day.

Be comfortable and continue to grow where you are. This is particularly important for those who have not yet had their first professional, full-time work experience. In school you get used to a cycle of classes, a summer break and then a new change once the school year starts. Once you leave college, that’s not always the case–you may find yourself in the same job/role for one, two, three years or more. This can be difficult for some to adjust to, particularly if they are in their first year out of college or graduate school. Formica emphasized the importance of being comfortable in a role and recognizing that change doesn’t always come as quickly as it did in college. Recognize this and take active steps to improve your skills and knowledge so that you are ready for that next opportunity when it arrives.

Wait, we have HOW many weeks left?

By Laura Smith, iMedia ’14

We had been hearing all first semester about how once we got back from our trips abroad, the weeks would fly by. Well, our professors and advisers weren’t kidding. I had the lucky opportunity to travel to Cuba with professor Randy Piland and seven other classmates for my January fly-in trip. Needless to say, it was an experience that won’t soon be forgotten. In addition to gathering content, interviewing, planning, taking photos and more in a real world setting, I learned a lot about the Cuban culture, government and its people. Not to mention it opened my eyes to just how good we have it here in the States.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.12.11 PM

Pre fly-in trip to Cuba!













January was a little bit like being back in my former career, except instead of working 7:30a.m. – 4:30p.m., it was more like 9-6. The three weeks we spent putting our fly-in projects together were probably the fastest three weeks of my life. We spent the days making videos, building a website, translating interviews, color correcting photos, planning the presentation, editing content and trying to keep our sanity. In the end, I was incredibly happy with our finished product and every group’s project looked great!

Presentation day!

Presentation day!

After a few days off over “Fake Break,” we came back to a whirlwind of “Your capstone starts NOW”, “Have you started the job search yet?”, “Read 100 pages of this book” and oh yeah, “Figure out where you want to live.” So yes, it’s been a little overwhelming. But as of this week, we have 13 weeks left in iMedia. Thirteen weeks. Doesn’t it feel like we just started? The next 3 months will undoubtedly be a little crazy but here it goes!