A Moment of Reflection: What I Have Gained From iMedia

For the 2018 iMedia class, graduation is less than two months away (crazy, I know). This past school year has come with a lot of excitement and adventure, to say the least. As the iMedia class takes a breather from our studies with a week-long spring break, we finally have a chance to step back and marvel at the work we have accomplished over the past eight months. After learning new things and taking on big projects, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel…but before we move on to the next chapter of our lives, it is important that we relish our accomplishments from the past year.

This past year has opened doors and planted seeds of new beginnings for many iMedia students. What we have learned and accomplished here should be noted and celebrated. I have witnessed the substantial growth of my classmates as they work tirelessly in and out of the classroom. There is nothing in our work that should be taken for granted. Every small win has built the confident and thriving class we are today.

I have compiled a list of my own accomplishments and gains from this past year, and have found it to be extremely helpful in my own self-revelation. Looking at this list, I know for sure that my time here at Elon was well spent. The long nights in the editing bays, the hours spent sketching and wireframing, and even the small frustrations and hang-ups – they were all worth it in comparison to the growth I have gained as a professional, and as an individual. Below are what I believe to be the top six skills that I acquired through my time in the iMedia program:

  1. Strong Technical Skills in Adobe Editing Software

Every day in class we worked with editing software that varied from video work, audio and even app-development. Our skills to edit and create digital content has grown substantially over the past year. For example, I blossomed from having intermediate skills with Microsoft PowerPoint to having professional knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud software.

  1. Real World Experience

One of the most exciting moments of the iMedia Program was our fly-in experience in January where we complete a project for a real client in a foreign country. For one week, we were all knee-deep in a culture that was different from our own while servicing a non-profit organization. We all got a taste of what it means to work professionally with a team on a real project – and that’s awesome.

  1. The Ability to Adapt – Quickly

Being fully immersed in different editing software and programming languages for 10 months requires that one be flexible and ready to learn – quickly. The fear of trying something new has broken away from us. Now, we are no strangers to jumping in head-first.

  1. Theories to Inform Content Creation Strategy

Not only can we create beautiful designs and layouts, WE CAN EXPLAIN WHY THEY WORK. The ability to articulate why our work matters and how it impacts the final product is crucial. Our creativity has been paired with a soundboard of knowledge to help us make informed decisions in our design process.  

  1. A Strong Network of Professionals and Resources

As a university, Elon is known for its valuable network of alumni and career services. But the iMedia family runs deep. Many of my classmates, myself included, have already made several connections with iMedia alumni this year. Some alumni have visited our classes and given us a wealth of knowledge on how to improve our work. Being a part of the iMedia family is like a badge of honor – we are supplied with tools and connections that have helped us substantially in our projects and job search.

  1. Memories and Friendships

This is a big one for me. I have had the time of my life while working with my classmates. We have shared so many laughs and memories. Some I hope to never forget. This year was a time of growth for all of us and we did so with humility and respect for each other. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some phenomenal people.

I believe many of my classmates would agree with the things I have listed here. As a testament to their hard work and dedication – all of my classmates have gained a plethora new skills and abilities through the iMedia program. We each have collected a wealth of knowledge and materials that are sure to be beneficial for our next steps of life. Let’s carry this reflection with us and use it to fuel our final push to graduation!

Reflection

“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.”  — John Dewey

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Feeling Inspired

Looking back on the semester, the time has truly flown by, and perhaps one of the most rewarding things I’ve come to learn is how valuable your classmates can be to one another. We all work hard during the semester juggling so many different projects and papers, all keeping in mind what our goals are for the next semester and of course our goals beyond that. As someone who has the strange combination of an English undergraduate degree and a background in finance, there were not a lot of opportunities in my professional career to collaborate on creative projects. I have found it so helpful this semester being surrounded by other like-minded creators, who are there to talk about ideas, offer new ones, give feedback and generally just be supportive of each other. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked an idea through with classmates or asked for advice on a topic they might be knowledgeable in. I think so often we sit with an idea in our head and over-analyze it (or maybe that’s just how I am?), and can’t see the bigger picture as clearly.

Can't see the Forest for the Tress quote photo

As this last week before Thanksgiving break draws to a close, we are all preparing for the end of the semester with final projects and papers for our Capstone projects next semester. It has been interesting to see some of the Capstone ideas slowly starting to take shape. Having each other, in addition to our professors, as resources is a valuable part of this program, and I know when I enter the workforce after graduation in May, these skills will be useful as well. Before starting the iMedia program I hadn’t anticipated just how much of your experience is enhanced by your classmates, and I have no doubt that the fly-in will further support this idea, as we work with international clients. Undoubtedly, I’m not alone in saying I’ve found that being around creative people, fuels my own creativity.

creative group collaboration photo

Find Your Mantra

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A ten month graduate program can feel like a whirlwind at times, but in the best way possible.  Throughout the last eleven weeks, I have found myself clinging to quotes and mantras to help power through the late nights or early mornings.

 

  1. “Trust the process” – Literally Everyone

This is a quote that we have heard from professors and alumni who have come back to speak to us. From what I can tell, based on what previous alumni have said, trust the process is a quote that carries past the classroom and into the office. To fully grasp what this quote meant, I asked professor Motley and his explanation is spot on!

“Creativity and good design “on demand” can be a challenge. Buying into the concept of process gives you a way forward even when you might be creatively stuck. There are many variations of design processes; for the most part, those variations do not really matter. What does matter, though, is that individual designers should come up with a process that works for them. What do you do when you hit the wall creatively? How do you ensure consistent high-quality results with projects. How do you work through the obvious/cliché ideas to ones that are more unique and interesting? I believe you do that by following the same process for all of your work.” – Motley

 

  1. “I’m on vacation every single day because I love my occupation” – The Dirty Heads

I’m sure you are thinking, “Ashley.. how can a band called Dirty Heads help you stay focused on your job search?” Well, I am glad you asked. I have always wanted my career path to be enjoyable, to the point where work feels more like a hobby with payroll. When you are in an accelerated master’s program, the average time spent in the classroom is cut in half but the workload is not. The quick turnaround time for assignments can cloud your creativity, making tasks that were once enjoyable monotonous. To avoid the ugly, green, wearisome monster from taking control, it is extremely important to remind yourself of the big picture. For me, the big picture consists of finding my niché so upon graduation I can find a job where everyday feels like a vacation.

 

  1. “You can’t help others be their best, if you are not at your best” – Myself

With the steady flow of assignments, I discovered that I subconsciously put blinders to what was happening outside of the assignments. I let myself slip into the routine of school, homework, sleep, and repeat. I was so focused on devoting all of my time to the assignments in front of me that I forgot to take time for myself. I started letting my mental health slip and found myself in a creative block for most of my assignments, but I didn’t know why. Out of nowhere, it hit me like a brick wall. A friend of mine text me asking for advice and good vibes. After listening to what had been weighing her down that week, what I said in responsive rolled off of my tongue before I could process what  I was saying. “You can’t help others be their best, if you are not at your best.” After I processed what I told her, it was like a weight was lifted. I wasn’t at my best and the blinders took over.

A few weeks ago, we found out our fly-in locations. Since then we have hit the ground running by having meetings, assigning roles, and beginning the initial plans. I realized, I can’t contribute to my group or help our client to the fullest extent of my skill set if I am am unable to see past the four walls of my apartment or the classrooms in Long. I need to start taking more time for myself to boost my creativity. Since taking time for myself, I am refreshed and on fire for this program more than ever.

 

  1. “Working hard for something you love is called passion, not stress.” – Pinterest

The typical response I hear when I tell people that I am in a 10 month master’s program is “That must be really difficult. You seem to be in good spirits despite being stressed.” Truthfully, I don’t really feel stressed, I feel motivated. The purpose of a master’s program is to refine a skill set that you already have a passion for. The amount of projects, assignments, blog posts, and papers are not meant to stress you out, but rather take your passions to the next level.

It’s November already?!

Prior to the start of this year, anyone that I had talked to who had been through the iMedia program would remark on how quickly their time flew by. As I flipped my calendar to November this morning, I thought to myself “boy, they sure weren’t kidding!”  Just yesterday members of our cohort sported some creative costumes in celebration of Halloween, and now today we begin the month of November.

Halloween

iMedia students Kyndall, Kendra, Kaylin, Amanda, Kelsey (me), Tip, and Sarah gather for a photo sporting their Halloween costumes

Though fall break was only two weeks ago, I find myself thinking back to it as though months have passed! Just yesterday we received an email from Dr. Lackaff regarding our pre-proposals for our research paper, an assignment that seemed months away when we learned about it in our final days of our Theory and Audience Analysis class with him just three weeks prior. And to top it all off, next Thursday we register for classes for our spring semester. As such, we are all starting to excitedly plan our next semester. With class options like Virtual Environments, Digital Brand Communication, Game Design and Development, and more, it’s hard to narrow it down to just three elective classes, in addition to our capstone course. Some students will pursue a professional apprenticeship in place of one of the electives, gaining real-world experience in a field that is especially of interest to them. Others will pursue an independent study to learn more about a specific topic with a faculty member that has expertise in that area. No matter which direction we go, our options are exciting and I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are all greatly looking forward to what the spring semester will hold.

Trey working on a project

iMedia student, Trey, working on a class project in our beautiful common space

It’s both exciting and terrifying to think about how far we have come since we started our iMedia journey at the end of July. It’s exciting to think about our future after iMedia, as we have already learned so much and the knowledge we accumulate continues to grow each week. Yet it’s also scary to think about how little time we have left to continue to learn and take advantage of the incredible resources we have at our fingertips in this program. Receiving a master’s degree in just 10 months is an incredible benefit of the iMedia program, yet for those like myself who are interested in such a wide variety of topics, determining a direction in such a short amount of time is without a doubt quite a challenge, though it sure is not a bad challenge to have and one that I continue to embrace as the weeks continue on.

To alumni that visited campus and our new home in Long last week for Elon Homecoming 2017, we enjoyed saying hello and soaking up the advice you offered for the rest of our time in the iMedia program!

Early mornings

Early mornings before the sun has risen in our new home in Long.

 

What it Means to be a Unicorn

Since the beginning of our adventure in iMedia program, a popular buzzword has been thrown around in discussions among iMedia students and faculty alike. This buzzword, though questionable as to how or why it has grown in popularity among the iMedia group, has rung true to its new meaning. Whether it be in a dialogue about the multitude of projects and lessons the iMedia class is undertaking or gossip about prospect career interests that we each have in mind, occasionally the word “unicorn” has been nested in our class’ conversations.

Now I know what you must be thinking, “What does this mystical fairy-tale creature have to do with coding, design, editing software or UX? Well, to put it simply, iMedia students are unicorns.

This is a pretty heavy claim, I know. But allow me a moment of your time so that I may offer some insight as to why this is true.

My most recent recollection of iMedia students being called unicorns was during a coding session with Professor Walsh. In the midst of speedily typing away to code and debug a wireframe for a website, Professor Walsh’s eyes took a moment to survey the room. With all seriousness, he looked at the group of iMedia students in front of him and said, “You know you guys are unicorns right? Has anyone told you yet?”

Yes, we have been told. In admiration of the different skills and tools we learn each week in the iMedia program, we are reminded of our supernatural existence. The term “unicorn” only seems fitting after seeing a graduate student skillfully record and edit a video, reconstruct a kiosk with efficient UX design, create their own typography, design, and code a website, and eloquently explain the theories that shape current media practices. Yes, such a sight of splendor and power is best equated to the beauty and wonder of a unicorn.

Despite the awesomeness that comes with being a unicorn (such as the knowledge that with the completion of this program your career options will be vast and your skillset will be stronger than ever) – there is a minor downside to being a mystical creature. Marketing yourself as a magic triple-threat in the media industry is great, but at some point, we much each hone our own niche’ of skills and interests to solidify our profession. There are still some visible moments of unease when asking an iMedia student what they wish to do after graduating. At this point in the program, we exist as fluid magical creatures, experimenting and owning every tool and software that is thrown at us.

Currently, iMedia students are flourishing as we are able to call ourselves coders, designers, UX specialists, and videographers – all at the same time. But as we all know, with great power, comes great responsibility. As we ready ourselves for the start of the spring semester, we are becoming more distinctive in our professional roles.

We are aware that at some point, we may have to trade in our wings and horns for more practical attire.

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Introducing Our #iMedia18 Bloggers

The fall semester is in full swing and Elon’s ninth M.A. in Interactive Media class is busy with class projects, Winter Term fly-in prep and more as they discover all that the program has to offer.

#iMedia18 is eager to share their experiences with you right here on the Eye on iMedia blog.

You’ve already seen great posts from Kendra Sharpe and Kyndall Dysard. Check out the full slate of students you’ll hear from this year and read their full bios here. But don’t be surprised if a few others post from time to time.

kdysard

Kyndall Dysard

jfarmer

Jess Farmer

klane

Kelsey Lane

ksharpe

Kendra Sharpe

kskipwith

Kaylin Skipwith

asugg

Ashley Sugg

atravis

Amanda Travis

In addition to the students’ perspectives, you’ll read posts from a few staff members. Maggie Mullikin, Coordinator of Graduate Outreach and Special Programs, will discuss happenings and careers with iMedia alumni; Amber McCraw, Assistant Director of Career Services, Communications, will discuss career development; and Tarah Holland, Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions (that’s me), will discuss a variety of topics related to iMedia admissions. We may also have a few guest posts throughout the year.

Please be sure to subscribe/follow the Eye on iMedia blog to keep up with #iMedia18 this year. You can sign up by clicking “Follow” in the bottom right corner of your screen.

For more about the iMedia program, visit elon.edu/imedia and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We’re Going on a Trip!

Yesterday members of the #iMedia18 class were drafted for the Winter Term fly-ins. After learning what the destinations were last week, everyone was anxiously waiting to see where they would go. While some had a favorite destination in mind, others were just happy to finally be able to leave the country. Students weren’t the only ones who were excited. Draft Day is one of Dr. Copeland’s favorite iMedia days. “I love seeing what the team leaders are looking for in students for the fly in,” he said.

Here’s a breakdown of where teams will be traveling to in January:

Cap-Haïtien, Haiti

Haiti

Cap-Haïtien, Haiti is a port city on the north coast of Haiti. It’s known for its French colonial architecture and is classically nicknamed “The Paris of the Antilles.” Haitians mainly speak Haitian Creole and French. The students traveling to Haiti will be working with the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti (HHFoH) Organization. The trip to Cap-Haïtien will be led by Maggie Mullikin and Nicole Triche.

Galway, Ireland

Galway

Galway, a harbor city on Ireland’s west coast and sits right on the Atlantic Ocean. Students traveling to Ireland won’t feel the heat, but they will get to work with the Lurgan Project, a non-profit educational organization whose goal is to promote the learning of Gaelic in order to “help students fulfill their potential in becoming competent and confident Irish language speakers.” The trip to Galway will be led by Derek Lackaff and Douglas Kass.

Granada, Nicaragua

Granada

Granada is on the shores of Lake Nicaragua and is home to multiple Spanish colonial landmarks that have survived repeated pirate invasions. Argh! The group traveling to Grenada will be working with the Puedo LeerLibrary in an effort to promote literacy and a love of reading with Nicaraguan children. The trip to Grenada will be led by Phillip Motley and David Copeland.

San José, Costa Rica

San José is the capital of Costa Rica and sits in the Central Valley region with the Talamanca Mountains to the soutSan Joseh and volcanoes to the north. Unlike the other destinations, the organization for Costa Rica is still a mystery! The Costa Rican Federation of Social Organizations has been hosting competitions for local non-profit organizations to see who will work with our #iMedia18 students. The trip to San José will be led by Amanda Sturgill and Vanessa Bravo.

No matter the destination, the #iMedia18 class will work hard to make sure our skills are up to par for our clients. Stay tuned to learn more about the teams and make sure to follow the iMedia program on Instagram and Twitter, and like us on Facebook!