Eyeing the future

Nine months behind us. One more to go.

It almost doesn’t seem as if much time has lapsed since that first week of iMedia boot camp, when the class of 2017 gathered in the classroom of our home base, the second floor of Powell. It was during that first week when Professor William Moner asked the class to write responses to four questions on index cards and suggested that what we wrote could later serve as a point of reflection. Some of us heeded that advice.

Beth Pandone keeps her card on the bulletin board above the desk in her bedroom.

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“I like to write down my goals and go through with them,” she said. “This card seemed like an interesting way to keep track of my goals and how I felt in the beginning of the program.”

Although she describes her responses as “vague and basic,” the goals she described then still align with her current plans.

“I still want to create content that is exciting and creative as well as help others,” Beth said. “I think the program allowed me to build the skills needed to do this, and my capstone, which focuses on education and the environment, shows that my goals and focus have stayed the same through this all.”

Now, Beth’s interests have evolved beyond broadcasting to include digital strategy and UX research and design.

Sam Solomon carries her index card around in her backpack. Sam wrote in now-faint pencil strokes that she wants to design and she loves to be creative. She wants to use design for a greater purpose, to improve eh world. As for iMedia, she wrote in August, she wasn’t sure how it would fit into her plans, but “it is a stepping stone.”

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When the program began, Sam wanted to get better at coding. “I can say that I have done just that,” she said. “(I) still have a ways to go, but I definitely know more than I did nine months ago.”

I am now way more interested in interactive design in  general. Prior to iMedia it was hard to imagine what I could do with a masters degree in interactive media but now my eyes have been opened and my head is full of so much knowledge about interactive design.” You can see more of Sam’s design work here.

As for me, I don’t know where put my index card. Good thing I know myself and that I’m prone to lose things. I’m sure that’s why, after writing my responses, I snapped a picture of my index card with my phone. I had forgotten about the picture until I was scrolling through my library recently and puzzled for a second over recognizing my crooked script. The next surprise was how, before dozens of times when I succumbed to fits of doubt about life after iMedia, I seemed to know what I wanted.

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Our class was the second one asked to complete the index card activity, which is meant to help students to start thinking about their progression toward completing a capstone project and post-grad life.

Students often come into the program with more ambitious projects in mind, Moner said. “The reality at the end of the program doesn’t always match, but the intent is still there.”

Looking back at the index cards helps foster a sense that students really accomplished what they wanted initially wanted to. “It might not have been the exact outcome, but … you were going in the right direction,” Moner said.

When I applied to iMedia, I was all but certain I wanted to find some way to launch my own hyperlocal journalism startup. I knew I needed to learn to code, and I felt confident I would master it even though I had already had a series of freakouts while attempting to learn Javascript. I didn’t know there would be so, so many more to come. Even then, I knew I wanted my work to have a broader impact, which is also something I love about journalism. My plans and interests shifted a bit quickly after starting classes last fall. I became interested in content strategy and – another surprise to me – branding. My post-iMedia plans now align my interest in writing and journalism with my newfound interactive skills. I’m excited about what’s next.

Sometimes you have to look back to move forward. Hindsight sharpens the recognition that how far you’ve come makes it easier to complete the journey ahead. Sure, that’s a little cliché, but it’s an idea I’m trying to focus on now that I know the finish line is rapidly nearing on the horizon, but all I see ahead of me is a hill of work I have yet to complete.

“It’s never as bad as you think it is,” Moner said. “And by that I mean, when you’re sort of in the crucible that’s all you can think about, right? But from our perspective, what we see as faculty is a tremendous amount of growth, both in the skills that you have and in the perspective that you bring to new projects and challenges.”

It’s tough to focus on what’s next when you’re still mired in coursework, the job hunt, and piecing together what’s next. Still, in-between hours of studying and working, we have formed lifelong bonds with at least a few of our peers. Maybe more than we can articulate to anyone else who has never experienced this program, we learned to problem-solve and persevere.

Things have worked out for me better than I imagined. I hope that’s true for the rest of iMedia ‘17 or that it will be in the near future.

May the darkest times be when we shine brightest. May we look back on these times with more fond memories than adverse ones. May we find ourselves in the middle of a reality more rewarding than what we ever dreamed each time we reflect on the point when it all started to become possible.

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