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!

Oh, for the Love of iMedia

IMG_7673[1]photo[3]I just returned from a wonderful and productive iMedia marketing trip to Boston. Aside from great visits to colleges and universities I connected with two of our first year (’10) graduates who now live and work in Boston.  Laura and Matt Hunter. Yes, they are both Hunters. Not only did they graduate with a master’s in interactive media from Elon but they met, fell in love, and were recently married.

Matt is the Digital Marketing Designer for the Boston Bruins and TD Garden. He designs, develops and manages content for Boston Bruins and TD Garden digital assets, including social media, mobile, email marketing, in-game experience, client renewal campaigns and web sites. Laura works as the Digital Media Producer at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). They both explained how Elon’s iMedia program contributed to landing their current positions.

Laura told me, “iMedia basically equipped me with all of the skills I needed to land this job.  The program gives the introduction to the Adobe Suite and you are expected to take off with whatever interests you.  Since this job was so new and the Convention Center didn’t quite know what they needed in their ideal candidate, the array of skills that I had from completing the iMedia program was what attracted them the most to me.  From there, I was able to use the resources I was introduced to in the iMedia program to find tutorials, inspiration and enhance my skills even further. Essentially I’m a hybrid between a project manager and a content creator. ”   

And Matt, “Without my iMedia degree I wouldn’t have landed my current job. Prior to enrolling at Elon for the iMedia program, I had little to no experience in anything relating to communications/digital/etc. In one year, the iMedia program provided me the tools and experience for someone in my current field to succeed.The iMedia program provided me the tools and experience I needed to succeed. It’s a program filled with students from different backgrounds and skills all with their own passions and goals, but also with the willingness to collaborate and learn from each other. You will learn from your teachers, classmates, real-life experiences, fly-ins, failures and successes.”

Matt and Laura both love their jobs and I truly believe that is one of the best things in life…loving your job. Laura told me, “The best part of my job is that it’s ever-changing.  The Convention Center hosts conferences that bring so many types of people through its doors:  from coffee baristas, to dental professionals, to tech companies to seafood industry professionals.  The scope of the client base keeps things fresh and new with every project that comes our way.  Additionally, there is a lot of creative freedom to design whatever my heart desires on the huge digital canvases available to me.  It’s a fun opportunity to bring some of my own random ideas to light and have thousands of people see it each day.  It’s been a great experience to be a part of a team that is the pioneer for this type of signage in the industry and to be successful in bringing the industry on-board with this new technology. The potential for growth within my team and the company is huge, which is also a great factor.”

Matt talked about his job as well, “I am a Digital Designer by title but I have had the chance to work on so many other projects at work outside of the typical graphic designer role. I’ve shot and cut videos, designed and developed websites, created t-shirts and posters. This is also what I think is the best part of my job. I get the chance to work on so many different types of projects.
And to tell the truth, getting the chance to go to hockey games, basketball games and concerts is pretty neat too.”

A unique cornerstone of the iMedia program is the strong connection between alumni and current students.  Matt and Laura both had words of wisdom for the class of 2014.
“Although you are getting an amazing degree that will put you ahead of a lot of people out there in the digital media world, the degree alone won’t necessarily get you the job.  Networking and making new connections is and always will be the key to getting in the door to your job.  This field is new and companies are still trying to figure it all out, so walk out there with confidence that you have an array of new and wonderful skills and they will be interested in what you have to offer.”

“I would tell students (specifically students who aren’t sure of what direction they want to go) to learn as much as possible while you are enrolled. While I was a student in the program, I often worried about what specific tool or skill I wanted to hone in on and “master.” Did I want to be a graphic designer? A web developer? A video editor? Copywriter? Animator? In the end, I didn’t focus on one specific aspect or skill while at the iMedia program. I took it all in and tried to learn as much as possible. When I graduated, I was knowledgeable on several aspects of the digital landscape. I felt like I was prepared to take on any position because I had built such a solid foundation at Elon.”

Faculty Spotlight: Professor Amanda Sturgill

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.

Dr. Amanda Sturgill fearlessly leads iMedia students into remote areas of Costa Rica each year for fly-in projects and has been working tirelessly to develop a new course on SEO, analytics and social media. Dr. Sturgill holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University and is passionate about teaching people how to make great content. If you are looking to be challenged, I highly recommend one of Dr. Strugill’s classes.

Dr. Amanda Sturgill with the Interactive Media team that built http://terraba.org, at their 2013 graduation

Dr. Amanda Sturgill with the Interactive Media team that built http://terraba.org at their 2013 graduation

How has your background influenced what you teach in the interactive media program?
I am a recovering newspaper journalist who has had a strong interest in interactive media since back in graduate school, where I worked as a student researcher in an interactive multimedia lab. I have a strong interest in using media to tell stories where the reader is a part of the story as it unfolds.

Is there a college class or experience that has most influenced your teaching philosophy?
My first multimedia class at Cornell with the amazing Geri Gay had the philosophy that learning, studying and creating are all inextricably related. I think in a skills-based field like communications, it’s important to consider all three, so my classes are always a mix of thinking and doing.

What is your favorite thing about teaching iMedia students?
I like the variety of students that iMedia attracts – many different undergraduate majors and different ages/levels of experience. It’s always interesting getting different people’s points of view.

I’m excited to hear about your new class, SEO, analytics and social media. Can you share a bit about it?
It’s something that I have been working on for almost a year that grew out of things students were hearing as they were interviewing for jobs. Those going the project management and content creation routes were expected to know how to effectively reach audiences and measure the impact of the projects they were creating. There is a robust Internet marketing community in RDU and another in the Triad, and we’ve had great support from both directions in putting together this new class.

How will the skills you are teaching translate to the future?
I teach Interactive Project for the Public Good (the Fly In) as well as the new elective. For both, the major skills aren’t particular techniques that are popular today, but rather the ability to analyze communication problems, to identify the emerging technologies that are the best solution and work quickly and creatively in a group to make it happen. I call the Fly In class the “little miracle” because we literally go from wheels up to web site in 3 weeks, but it’s also the kind of experience our students will have throughout their careers.

What would your students be surprised to learn about you?
I really enjoy keeping up with my graduates, both undergrad and grad students. My former students are doing everything from editing to acting to accounting to building web sites to serving in the military to lobbying Congress to preaching to translating to planning special events to … well, it’s a lot and they live all over the world.

What is your favorite thing about living in North Carolina?
The diversity! The booming NC tech corridor has brought smart people from all over the world to live here.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Dr. Strugill!

Who? What? Where? Wow!

by maggie mullikin

As we close out the first semester of our fifth year of the iMedia program, and with a current cohort of 38, we keep a close eye on our alumni from the past four years. Here’s a small taste of where our graduates are working, what they are doing and the cities in which they have landed.




INTERACTIVE MARKETING COORDINATOR | social media specialist | digital designer  community coordinator | user experience designer | e-marketing strategist | WEB PRODUCER | search engine marketing analyst | art director | video producer | front end developer | account coordinator | ATHLETICS MULTIMEDIA ASSISTANT | associate creative director | remote broadcast associate | graphic designer | instructional designer INTERACTIVE MEDIA PRODUCER | community manager | marketing communications associate | digital marketing coordinator | SOCIAL MEDIA & WEB MARKETING DIRECTOR instructional media designer | content developer | aftermarket media developer | online marketing manager | INTERNET MANAGING EDITOR


chapel hill | santa monica | washington | atlanta | boston | charlotte | bolder | seattle | raleigh | norwalk | austin | baltimore | charleston | durham | nashville | oakland | silver spring greensboro | richmond | burlington | wheeling | new york | columbus | daytona beach | winston-salem | cary | charlottesville | myrtle beach | ann arbor | los angeles