by Katie Williamsen, Elon iMedia Class of 2012
The faculty members in the iMedia program hold the highest degrees in their fields and have revelant real-world experience. Being a graduate of the program, I wanted to profile the wonderful faculty members who help to make the iMedia program so successful.
Professor Qian Xu is a dedicated professor and usability expert. She grew up in Nanjing, China and completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Nanjing University. Professor Xu then moved to Shanghai to work for Newegg in the online marketing department. She then relocated to Penn State to complete her Ph.D.
Lucky for Elon, Professor Xu was hired a little over two years ago to teach interactive media strategies. One of the highlights of the class is developing a user experience test, which is her favorite thing to teach. I was lucky to have Professor Xu as a teacher and capstone adviser.
How has your background influenced what you teach in the interactive media program?
I received my Ph. D in media effects, focusing on the influence of online technology. I conducted a series of research on user experience with interactive media in my graduate studies, which contributed a lot to my teaching interests in user experience, user-centered design, and usability testing. My past working experience with the online marketing department for an e-commerce company also sparked my research and teaching interests in tracking and analyzing user behaviors.
Is there a college class or experience that has most influenced your teaching philosophy?
Not really. But I believe in that “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Therefore, I tried to avoid teaching hard facts in class but discuss more about the ways of thinking.
What is your favorite thing about teaching iMedia students?
iMedia students are a very vibrant group. Students come with very different backgrounds that bring a lot of interesting perspectives into class discussions.
How will the skills you are teaching translate to the future?
User experience and user-centered design are the trends of interaction design. Understanding users’ needs and responses is crucial for designing successful interfaces. The user testing tools and methods that the students will learn in my class for assessing user experience and eliciting user response towards the interface will assist them to gain helpful insights for the interactive projects.
What would your students be surprised to learn about you?
There is not really anything surprising about me. But they might be surprised to learn that the theory class is not that boring and can be quite approachable. The things that they will learn in my class will shed light on practical interface design.
What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend in the Triad?
Cooking and walking. I am recently became interested in Thai cooking and experimenting with curry and coconut milk. I like Lake Mackintosh in Guildford County. They have a nice 3-mile walking trail which I walk often.
Thank you for all of your insights, Professor Xu!
By Stephanie Schwartz, iMedia Class of 2013
I have been fortunate in the past few days to be able to talk to several iMedia alums on their thoughts on the program, now that they have some distance from it.
By far the iMedia program’s biggest strength and weakness is its 10-month structure. Yes, we get out fast compared to most other master’s programs and we certainly work hard, but as many of us are discovering, it’s not enough time to really master a tool or a technology, to fully grasp all the fundamentals. For many of us, it’s the first time we’re really exposed to design principles or how to edit photos professionally, and we may not have had the opportunity to explore as much as we wanted throughout the school year. iMedia is very much an interdisciplinary and overarching program, introducing us to a lot of things in a short time.
In looking at other master’s programs that cover one aspect of the iMedia program (art, design, journalism, communication, marketing, web development, digital media, branding), many of us discovered that what makes iMedia unique is not just its structure – 10-month programs aren’t that unusual anymore – but that it is so broad. Most other graduate programs that touch on “interactive media” – however that term is defined – are siloed, very specialized.
The key is to make the degree work for us. Allie Boardman ’11 suggested twisting the degree to emphasize the portions of it that fit best with what we want – if you want a tech job, focus on that aspect and downplay the theory, while those interested in strategy or project management emphasize the holistic media approach and the more traditional graduate classes. You won’t be a master unless you go outside of what you’re being taught, she said.
Several students have already gotten that message, working on projects and gigs outside of schoolwork to gain greater familiarity with something of interest. For Anna Davis, that means working on web design for outside clients. “The only way I know how to learn is by doing,” she said, adding that with outside projects, you don’t have the same type of deadlines as you do in an academic setting.
Others pick up cameras and recording equipment, trying to integrate photography or film production into a jam-packed schedule, or design and code websites for interested parties. Some people take leadership roles, looking to become project managers. Allie is in a project management role, and she says the well-rounded nature of the degree means she understands the process and work that goes into each element, adding that she can communicate between all the parties involved.
Sometimes we do get an opportunity to explore something we’ve always wanted to do for projects outside of class. iMedia students plan our exhibition of capstone work at the end of the year. I finally get the chance to use social media for a real cause, something my previous employers weren’t interested in, while Ruth Eckles and Audra Macri get to produce the videos that will grace the website that Rachell Carroll, Jake Amberg, Madeline Chapin and Will Neff get to build and design. All of them have indicated their interest in these areas and many of them have worked on outside projects to build up their production portfolio.
Each of us can add these experiences to our resume and can continue to hone our skills in these areas after graduation. Jackie Hartley ’11 echoed that the degree does give you the tools for you to specialize, and that you’ll have to become an expert in your particular field in your own time.
David A. Kennedy ’10 said that working with clients helps with time-management and introduces you to a broader work of working with others in an agency-type setting. Along with Allie and Andrew Mauney ‘12, he stressed networking. Allie was one of the students who did an internship during the spring semester, and she suggested finding an area where you want to work and then trying to build a network in that region. Brittany Ison ’12, who works in Burlington, reiterated many of the things our professors have told us: that putting in the extra hour or two on a project will make a big difference, especially when it comes to our portfolio, and in the end, that’s what matters.
Above all, the alums emphasize one thing: learning. For Lou Tuffillaro ’12, his capstone project was an exercise in execution and planning for deadlines. For Caitlin Smith ‘11, it was about process. Mitch Donovan ’11 echoes a tagline often used in iMedia marketing: “You learn how to learn.” While we may not be saying that exact phrase, we know what he means: tutorials, Googling, talking to others, using what resources we have, and experimentation.
Wherever we’re headed, we all know that interactive media is always being redefined. Not just the tools and the technology, but even accepted best practices and established theories. We’re being prepared to recognize when they are and how to adapt.
by maggie mullikin
Fact. Elon University’s School of Communications has created a leading edge master of arts program and students are landing jobs after graduation. Great jobs.
Matt Duncan is a Multimedia Designer with NASA in Washington DC. He has combined his skills and passion, found a great job in an exciting city and took time to meet with me and share his words of wisdom about Elon’s Interactive Media program.
“After graduating from North Carolina A&T State University with my degree in Graphic Design I was looking for a master’s program where I could grow my skills in digital media, digital marketing, and social media. Elon’s iMedia program allowed me to study and gain knowledge of all of these disciplines. Another reason I decided to attend Elon was because of the facilities and incentives the program provides. Having all the Adobe software for free, and given to me when the program began, was a huge benefit for my life after Elon. I was able to land internships/jobs because I had my own laptop with the software I needed.
“My interactive master’s degree has made a significant impact in my career. It allowed me to gain the skill sets needed to become a well-rounded graphic designer by mastering web design, film and photography, and motion design. It also added additional skill sets I did not have before such as, project management, social media, and digital marketing.
“I would recommend the iMedia program to others because of the versatility it offers and the up to date training you receive on current trends in the industry. There are many different avenues you can take in this program. If you are undecided on what you want to do this program exposes you to different projects and assignments and helps you find your right path. The digital media industry changes so frequently, learning from professors who worked in the industry and still have connections is such a big help.
“My advice for current and prospective iMedia students is to make sure you use the resources that Elon has to offer. Elon has some of the best professors you will ever have. Take time out to pick their brain and gain valuable insight. Also make sure that you speak with people in Career Services as much as possible. They can help you with your transition for your life after graduate school. Ross Wade is best career guidance counselor! Make him your best friend.”
Visiting Matt at NASA was fantastic. He is creating, contributing, and continuing to prove the strengths and benefits of our iMedia program.
Spring semester is here - just a few weeks removed from an incredible winter term.
In iMedia, January is all about the fly-in projects. These winter trips allow students to build multimedia projects for the public good and showcase the skills they learned in the fall semester. It was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my career.
My teammate Ashley Deese said it best:
The fly-in gave me an opportunity to work with a real world client and create a multimedia project for a client that would not have been able to afford it. Not only will this experience give me the competitive edge needed to stand out as an applicant when I am applying to jobs but it is also satisfying to know that we did something for the public good.
The process started with the draft. The advisors convened in late September to fill their rosters for the four fly-in trips: one in Cuba, one in Portugal and two in Costa Rica.
Each team spent October, November and December preparing for the trip – practicing video interviews, creating a group blog and coding sites in HTML and CSS for class.
In January, we hit the ground running. Each team had about a week to assess their client’s goals and gather the content for the site. Then we had 10 days or so to design and build the site.
Let me tell you – it was not an easy process. Literally, blood, sweat and tears went into these projects.
But it was rewarding once we presented our projects to our friends, family, industry professionals and iMedia alum on Jan. 24.
Here’s a list of the four projects:
Escazú, Costa Rica
Seven students built an interactive website for a community-run nonprofit that aims to save the natural beauty, traditions and culture of the young mountains of Ezcazú, which is adjacent to capital city San José.
Térraba, Costa Rica
Client: Asociación Cultural Indígena Teribe – Teribe Indigenous Cultural Association
Seven students documented the culture and natural sites of the Térraba indigenous group in southwestern Costa Rica. A government-commissioned dam could destroy parts of the land, on which the people have lived for more than 500 years.
Client: Organopónico Vivero Alamar
This cooperative farm on the suburbs of Havana provides food and community services to Cubans. Six students documented what the farmers do and how the food travels from the farm to the table.
Client: Surfrider Foundation
The international Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans and beaches. Six students built a site to showcase the preservation and educational efforts of a chapter in the coastal community of Ericeira, Portugal.
These projects were awesome!
I managed the project on the Costa Rica trip in Térraba, which is an indigenous community in danger of losing part of its land and culture to government-commissioned dam. The Térraba treated us like family during our visit. They showed us all of their sacred sites, fed us delicious food they grew themselves and even took us rafting in their river.
My team worked really hard to create a site that would help preserve the culture of this wonderful community that we came to love.
“The job they did was of very high quality and very important for us. It is the first time someone did something like this here in the Térraba community,” said Jerhy Rivera, vice president of the Asociación Cultural Indígena Teribe (Teribe Indigenous Culture Association).
But my teammates and I hit some speed bumps on our journey. So did other teams.
Future iMedia students, here’s the reality of the situation:
- You can’t prepare for everything. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Your flight will be canceled. You’ll get lost on a mountain for hours. Your client will want something unexpected. One line of code will render your site useless. So be flexible.
- Teamwork makes the dream work. Don’t fall prey to the perils of group projects. Try to be positive when things are falling apart. I’ve discussed this before, but learned so much more during the fly-in.
- Honesty and openness is key. One day, my teammates basically told me that I was acting like a “military taskmaster” as described by Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. I, being a realist, was focused on the large amount of tasks we had to do and the short amount of the time we had to do them. My teammates wanted me to be to more of a cheerleader instead of a micromanager. Achor wrote: “In short, sacrificing positivity in the name of time management and efficiency actually slows us down.” So after our come-to-Jesus meeting, the team morale shifted for the better.
- Fall classes are super important. Learn everything you can because you’ll probably back up your classmates at one point. The coder will help the videographer. The writer will help the photographer. It happens.
My classmates shared more insights.
1. Clients won’t always respect your expertise. 2. You have to trust your teammates so they trust you. 3. Preparation is the most crucial factor to success.
Don’t set any expectations for the trip because they’ll be blown away no matter what you think of.
Dont’ be afraid to try something different, whether it’s a skill like coding. It was something I wanted to get better at so being the web developer for my group helped me a lot. Trying different food is also fun, too!
1. Working with a group on something that big means a lot of trust and sacrifice. 2. If there are people not doing their jobs, there better be some people willing to pick up the slack or things won’t get done.
by Ross Wade, Elon School of COM Career Guy
‘Tis the season for iMedia fly-in projects! At this moment all of our iMedia students are in different countries, serving deserving non-profits, by creating dynamic and meaningful digital media. The iMedia class of 2013 will be visiting Portugal, Cuba, and Costa Rica.
Check out this video from our Cuba iMedia team:
Check out their blog and be sure to follow them on Twitter at #imediaincuba.
The Portugal iMedia team we will be working with the Surfrider Foundation chapter in Ericeira, Portugal. Follow them at #isurfmedia on Instagram and Twitter.
Follow the Costa Rica iMedia team at #teamCFA and @zuCRu
For information on past iMedia fly-in projects visit the iMedia website. Below is a video about the 2012 iMedia Iceland group’s work with the Citizens Foundation.
- Leave a comment
- Posted under Uncategorized
by maggie mullikin
Whether I am visiting a former iMedia student at their office, co-hosting our most recent iMedia Dinner & Discussion, or speaking to current iMedia students about their interactions with alumni I am struck by the amount of conversation, networking, connecting, sharing, and generosity that exists. I believe this is due, partly, to the fact that so many iMedia alumni are working in the field they love and have the career they aspired to after earning their degree in interactive media. The conversations are optimistic, hopeful, encouraging, and full of ideas and guidance. They include the many reasons why people from all undergraduate backgrounds should consider Elon’s iMedia program.
Kacie Lett (’12) is an account coordinator at Response Mine and I had the pleasure of visiting her in Atlanta. This is what she had to say about the iMedia program and what it has done for her career.
“After graduating from my undergraduate university, I was overwhelmed with options– I knew where I wanted to be, but was lacking the skill set and insight on how to arrive there. By fortunate chance I learned of the Interactive Media Program at Elon University, and instantly knew it was for me. The understanding of tools, concepts, and real-life business practices that you gain during this 10-month degree is something that cannot be fully put into words nor understood in its entirety, until you land that first job post Elon.
“I ventured down to Atlanta, Georgia where I was welcomed into a digital advertising agency with open arms. My peers and bosses alike were surprised and impressed with the knowledge Elon provided me. I never would have had the skill set, nor the confidence to walk into my company and accept the job I was offered, had I not first pursued my master’s degree at Elon University. In less than six months, I was afforded the wonderful opportunity to manage the paid search advertising and search engine optimization for two prominent children’s clothing brands.
“I sing the praises of Elon University and the IMedia faculty and staff wherever I go. And while I only spent a short while there, Elon University will always be a place I am proud to call home.”
Nicole Wyche (’11) a strategist with Ignite Social Media had the following to say about her iMedia experience.
“The iMedia program was 10 months of the craziest job I’ll ever have. I hit the ground running, learned something new every single day, survived quick turnarounds, worked with clients and diverse internal teams all while keeping up with the latest tech developments and news. I left more than prepared for the rest of my career and excited to hit the ground running again.”
These two women speak to the advantage this program has given them and what it can do for others transitioning into the world of interactive.
by Ross Wade, School of COM career guy
Graduating in May? Freaking out? I totally get it. You’ve probably heard this before, but “looking for a full-time job is a full-time job.” Not only is looking for your first “real job” a lot of work, but it’s also totally distracting. How are you supposed to study or write papers when you feel compelled to check your email every five minutes to see if an employer has contacted you? I remember during my job search I checked and rechecked jobsites all day long…it was like a had a jobsite addiction.
Most of you will prepare yourselves well for the job search process. You’ll visit your career center for resume and cover letter assistance, begin networking at professional events and career fairs, participate in mock interviews, sharpen your online presence, etc. All of this is highly important, but I wish I had thought a little bit passed that my final year of college. Once you land your first job there are a whole other set of challenges and issues that can arise, and to be honest, I wasn’t really prepared for them.
So…I offer you five pieces of career advice…that I never received:
1. Having a five-year plan is awesome…but leave room for some freestylin’.
My old motto used to be “Plan, plan, plan!” My MBTI type is ENFJ…and I’m such a HUGE “J” (judging) – I make lists for everything, I’m always early to events and meetings, I need to know as much as possible so I can make a decision as soon as possible…I just can’t help myself. Of course I love the idea of a five-year plan. My plan lists what I need to do each year to reach my next career goal, and keeps me on track as far as building skills, connecting with professionals, and implementing new ideas to help my office. However, the longer I’m a professional, the more I realize I can’t plan for everything. Once you start your career, you may realize that your skills and interests may not be as close of a match to your new job as you thought. You may find that you don’t like living in a big city as much as you thought. Out of the blue an amazing job opportunity may come your way that’s too good to pass up. Change happens. Being flexible and able to “freestyle” is important. That’s why it is really important to pay attention to what matters most to you…your values. The more you understand yourself, the more you’ll know when it’s time to stay or time for a change.
2. Office politics and being the best new hire evaaahhh!
One of my first bosses gave me some great advice: “never come with problems, always come with solutions.” I try to remember this when I approach anyone with anything (especially managers and co-workers).
A current colleague of mine gave me some other great advice: “when you’re the new kid, be wary of the folks that immediately come up to you wanting to be your friends…they may be friendless at the office for a reason.” Now I’m not saying be suspicious of friendly folks, I’m just saying it is a good idea to lay low the first six months or so at your new job. Take the time to observe and figure out who the superstars, the gossips, and the brown nosers are. Once you get a sense of the office and its politics, you can feel more comfortable connecting and trusting colleagues. A great way to get a vibe of the office and learn more about your co-workers is to participate in office extracurriculars. Join the office kickball team or volunteer at a local non-profit with some colleagues – you’ll have fun and make some buddies at work.
Informational interviews are a great way to meet new folks and make positive impressions when you are new. When I was brand new to Elon University I made it a point to do informational meetings with directors in other offices and a couple of high level administrators. These meetings gave me a chance to ask some good questions, learn more about the history of Elon, learn some challenges and goals of other offices, and meet leaders early on that I may not have had the chance to meet until much later (if at all).
3. Planning for your future…grown-up style.
Along with your new job, and that paycheck, you’ll have other expenses – college loans, car payments, rent, food, bills, etc. Having a budget is important. I suggest putting together a solid budget during your job search (yup – before you even land your first gig). Know average salaries for jobs in your industry, the cost of living for the city you’d like to live in, and create a budget including all of those costs that are a part of “real life.”
I also recommend, as you are searching for jobs, that you look for companies with great retirement plans. Some companies have matching programs where if you put in a certain percentage of your annual salary, the company will match it. For example, “company X” may state that if you contribute 5% of your annual salary every year (taken out in bits each paycheck) to your retirement plan, the company will contribute 8% of your annual salary (out of their pocket) to your retirement plan as well. FREE MONEY!!! I love free money.
4. Have a life. Being happy day to day is important.
I recently talked to an alum that loves her job, but does not like the city she is living in. When I asked her why she said, “I’m just so lonely. I don’t have any friends or family here.” I hear this from recent alums all of the time. When creating your job search goals, be sure to consider your social supports. You need folks around you to encourage and help you. Life isn’t all about work, it’s about living.
Let’s say you are in a new city all alone. What do you do? There are a ton of things to consider! Join a religious or spiritual community, volunteer, sign up for an online dating service, schedule Skype talks with friends and family several times a week, or get a pet. I know some of these ideas sound cheesy, but connection to others is important. I’m a big city guide geek – this one is one of my favorites.
5. Be a life-long learner.
The best way to stay current and relevant is to keep growing your skills. Join a professional association (maybe even take on a leadership position), utilize online tutorials to grow your skills, read great books and blogs on topics that interest you, and take risks at work by taking on large projects (you’ll learn so much and grow your confidence). Many organizations’ HR offices offer skill development seminars or a leadership programs. With every new skill you learn, there will be an opportunity to use it, improve your work, and impress your boss.
One of my favorite things on LinkedIn is “thought leaders” posts – great advice and stories of leadership and innovation by some of the world’s most successful and influential people.
- Leave a comment
- Posted under Uncategorized