An iMedia Way of Life

Just a few weeks in, it’s abundantly clear that graduate school is a process.

Monumental in itself, in many ways, the experience of Elon iMedia is comparable to some of life’s greatest milestones.

Consider this: by the time fall classes officially started at Elon on August 25, my classmates and I had already been birthed into this new world of interactive media.

Wide-eyed and eager, we spent our early days in an intensive, three-week digital boot camp. The crash course in photography and video production, coding and design swiftly set the pace and tone of this fully immersive program. Our initial development was measured by select creative projects, completed individually and as teams.

Elon iMedia's Class of 2016

Elon iMedia’s Class of 2016

Now, in our third week of classes, we forge ahead. Though still in our infancy in the program, our futures are starting to take shape. We’re getting a sense of the career paths we’ll take as we continue to develop our technical skills. Of course environment and support are critical in this stage. Lucky for us, we’re at Elon with resources and opportunities at every turn, from the amazing professors and staff in our department, to career services specific to our industry, and even social support with the tradition of College Coffee each week (yes, it’s awesome).

As we continue to grow, there will undoubtedly be challenges. Some we’re already beginning to see through research projects, learning programming languages or simply learning where our interests fit in.

But just as in life, there’s also a lot to look forward to. We’ll soon learn more about our fly-in projects for the winter term, we’ll continue to network with alums and other professionals who are doing amazing things in the industry and we’ll eventually showcase who we’ve become through creative capstone projects at the end of the program.

While our goals may evolve as we mature through the program, every component of iMedia is designed to give us exactly what we need to be successful. We’ve got many days and weeks ahead, but when it’s all said and done, I hope to one day look back, and say I lived my iMedia life to the fullest.

Looking Back at Fly-Ins

I’m going to take us back in time a bit. Two months ago, I was living in a world of coding. I would wake up in the morning convinced I had solved the problem with my header in my dreams and I would go to sleep counting divs and rows. This was winter term. This was the fly-in project.

The fly-in project consist of two different experiences. During the first 7 to 10 days on winter term, in groups of 6 or 7, we flew out to a foreign country to work with a local business or non-profit. We spent those days getting to know the people, learn about the culture, and gather all of the information and content we would need to build a fully-functioning website. The final two and a half weeks were spent editing, refining ideas, and building the final product.

I traveled to the Dominican Republic, where my group and I worked with Hogar de los Ancianos and Centro de Salud Club de Leones. The facility provides low cost medical care and free nursing home facilities for the underprivileged in the town of Cotuí. We spent our time interviewing the staff, photographing the facilities, and brainstorming ways to bring the culture of Cotuí into their website. We spent an amazing week in the Dominican Republic and topped in off with an excursion to 27 Charcos (waterfalls).

Our group spent a day settling back in before jumping into development. We spent the next two and a half weeks, including most of the weekends, working with all of the skills we developed during the fall semester. We each had our individual roles but we came together twice a day to check progress, critique media, and check off task on our burn down list.

It was our first taste of what the real world would be like. Working with a client was a new experience for many of us and it came with its own set of challenges that we learned to work with. For the first time in the program, we weren’t designing for ourselves. We had to find the layout, aesthetics, and content that met our client’s needs and their satisfaction. Monique Lewis, my team’s graphic designer, came up with nearly 50 different logos before our team came to agreement, only to have the client ask for something else completely. I placed quotes found from within the nursing home throughout our website only to learn that our translation was incorrect. The time frame also presented a set of challenges where we had to walk the line between getting the project done and satisfying the client. For many of the groups, we were still making changes after the final presentation.


The entire winter term was a unique and challenging experience. From the actual fly-in to the weeks of development and production back at Elon, I learned so much about myself as a web developer and how I would work in the real world. Everyone in the program stretched and tested our skills and grew within our selected fields. Now, as we prepare for the job search and interviews, we all have an experience to talk about and share with employers the benefits of our real world experience.

The Milestone Called the Capstone

By Monique L. Lewis, iMedia ‘15

I cannot believe how fast time has been flying by! We are three weeks into the spring semester and iMedia15 has hit the ground running to start working on our capstone projects. COM 590: Interactive Media Capstone brings about a time of self-reflection when everyone is thinking about his or her career goals and skills, and how to display them to potential employers/clients. How we identify ourselves professionally plays a big part in what we decide to do for our capstones and self-promotional portfolios, which is also a requirement of COM 590.

Capstone is an opportunity for us to apply everything we’ve learned so far in the program to produce an original interactive media project on a topic of our own choice. The self-promotional portfolio will showcase our best work examples and résumé, as well as provide access to contact information when we apply for jobs. The pre-production phase began the first week of the semester when we turned in our proposals, which describe the goals, significance, challenges, and solutions to our projects, for approval by our capstone advisors. After the proposals were approved we moved on to creating a persona or personas to identify our target audience. Another task that we are working on is to create a self-promotional strategy for our portfolios, which includes providing a list of potential work samples. While putting together my strategy I realized how amazing the iMedia program is because it helped me change my career path from a journalist to a graphic designer with eight portfolio samples that range from infographics to websites.

The production phase will begin in mid-March and students will work on both the capstone and self-promotional portfolio simultaneously until May when we present our projects at the capstone exhibit. iMedia15’s capstone projects will range from rebranded websites, mobile apps, parallax infographics, and interactive magazines, just to name a few.

the start up

Sophie Waller

Sophie Waller is a 2014 iMedia graduate. Sophie is one of a handful of iMedia graduates who went with a start up following graduation. She had tips and insights to share when we met recently in Raleigh.

“I am the Community Manager at Photofy Inc. For starters I run and manage all social media channels for Photofy This is everything from creating and posting content, monitoring all social interaction, and staying on top of complaints and queries.

Marketing is also a large part of my job. We are at the heart of the company focused on design, therefore we have a lot of ‘Featured Partners’ in our app. Featured Partners are graphic designers / typographers / or illustrators whose designs are featured in our app under their name (or company name).

One of my favorite parts of the job is to search through Instagram / blogs / websites etc. to find budding typographers or illustrators who are extremely skilled, yet may not have found enough work they deserve as of yet, to be featured in our app. I reach out to multiple designers on a daily basis to set up partnerships and pitch collaborations with them (each are different) and then arrange licensing with them.

iMedia prepared me for my job in a great way, in the fact that, if you looked at my job from an outside perspective, you probably wouldn’t think it would of helped me at all!

Working for a start up there are ten people in my company in total, therefore there is complete transparency when it comes to the design and business of the app. Although my job is social media and marketing based, because of my background, my input and opinions matter as they come from an educated background.

My boss comes to me with wire frames designs, asks me to contribute new design ideas for the app, I understand coding therefore can manage expectations for clients, and because of my understanding and knowledge of these aspects I contribute business ideas on a regular basis because I am aware of what we our capabilities are.

We are a start up, therefore I have a lot of customer / fan interaction on a daily basis. If ever there is something that is going wrong with a customers app, or they want to know a design question, a how to option, I respond to them directly.

I am very big on customer interaction, yes it might be stressful at times, but one of the biggest accolades we can get, and we have gotten countless times again, is how much our customers appreciate our one to one interaction.

When people message us saying, ‘Your app is amazing, and you’re all so helpful’, that’s the best part of my job.”

Sophie has advice for people considering iMedia.

“If you are on the fence about the program, do it. I was probably about 20% sure I was making the right decision when I joined, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Plus, it’s a really cool thing to show off about at parties”.

For students currently enrolled –

“Everybody’s path is different.

Please do NOT put an immense amount of pressure on yourself to be happy, settled and with your dream job a week after graduation, because let’s face it, that does not happen to everyone!

Although it may not feel it at the time, but you are in an extremely valuable position when you graduate.

Allow yourself to know your worth, know how hard you have worked, and know the incredible skills you have learned this year that not many people will have. Take a moment to think about what job you really want, not one you feel like you should have.”



Timing is Everything – along with Great Interactive Media Skills

by maggie mullikin and allie white

I had the pleasure of meeting with Allie White, a 2013 iMedia graduate. I thought it particularly relevant to share her story because Allie accepted a paid summer internship prior to graduating in May.

“I originally found Roadtrippers ( during Professor Xu’s class while we were doing the usability test project. I fell in love with the design of the site and how fun and original the concept and the people were so I kept up with the site after the project. After spring break when I was starting to stress out about the job search, I remember browsing their site and seeing that they were hiring for a Video & Photo Intern. I sent in my resume and a quirky cover letter hoping to catch their attention, thinking it would most likely head into the abyss that was leftover applications. However, I heard back from them within a week and set up a Skype interview for the following week. It was easily one of the most enjoyable interviews I had ever had. I immediately clicked with their hiring manager and I talked to his supervisor the next day. Within 2 hours of the call, I had an offer waiting in my inbox from them. It was one of those great situations where you mesh incredibly well with the people and the company. So a month later, I moved to Cincinnati – the day after graduation!

“Fortunately for me, the position was brand new and they saw a lot of potential for it to turn into a permanent position considering I was also well versed in graphic design and front end development. While I had specific large projects, like organizing and distributing our photo and time lapse photography library, I was also allowed a lot of flexibility in my position. I edited 5 videos throughout my time there, shot at a couple local events, and did both the shooting and editing for Lumenocity ( While I greatly enjoyed my time there and learned a lot from the people I worked with, I wanted to utilize all the skills Interactive Media taught me and I wasn’t going to be able to in my position. However, I would definitely encourage iMedia students to consider taking an internship after graduation. What’s great about an internship is the possibility of it turning into a full time position and growing your network. I also think it’s sometimes necessary if graduates are still trying to figure out which specialty to focus on in their career. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to what kind of company it is- a lot of companies view an intern as someone that needs to be guided step by step. Roadtrippers was very open to me designing the position for myself and allowing me to try new ideas, so it never felt like a traditional internship.”

Allie is currently doing freelance work across the Triangle. “After I finished my internship in Cincinnati, I moved back because I knew my network was stronger here and I would be able to find more design and video jobs in the Raleigh area. One of the greatest things about my experience in the iMedia program was being able to start doing freelance work during the second semester and counting my video work as an apprenticeship, under the guidance of Dr. Copeland. By using that as a class, I was forced to create a schedule, set priorities and goals, and remain accountable to not only my boss, but to the program. Freelancing and working primarily from home can be difficult because you can be flexible in your schedule which allows for a bit of laziness, and if you’re not careful you’re missing deadlines. However, my experience in the program taught me to appreciate that flexibility, instead of abusing it. I truly enjoy freelancing because it’s allowed me to pick both video and design projects and not be limited to one specialty.

And Allie’s words of wisdom for current and perspective students?

“While you should be doing research about companies you can see yourself working for after graduation, I would focus more on making your capstone an amazing portfolio piece that speaks to employers and shows exactly what you want to do. Your capstone should be a passion project and both challenge your capabilities and showcase the direction you want to go in your career. I’d also encourage students to take advantage of their Fly-In experience, both out of the country and back in Elon. My experience in Ecuador as Project Manager taught me a lot about myself, how to work productively with a team, and what I wanted to be doing career-wise.

And most of all, enjoy the rest of your iMedia experience, graduation will be here before you know it!”

The Middle of a Journey

I saw a billboard on I-40 West in the spring of 2012 that featured Elon’s Interactive Media program. At the time, I was a visual artist teaching, selling work in shows and making custom work (when the stars aligned). I was also working a temp job that was going nowhere. Interactive Media sounded intriguing, so I found the website and started exploring.

My next move was an email to Katie Williamson. Intrigued, I came to an open house. Then I made a campus visit. At this point, I was ready to sign on the dotted line. Katie encouraged me to go ahead and put in an application, so I did. Within weeks, I got the wonderful acceptance letter! This was October 2013.

Fast forward to July 2014, and I am in boot camp. What a wake up call that was. My interest in iMedia stemmed from my writing and visual background and the fact that my tech skills were woefully out of date. I had heard about boot camp, but had no preparation for the level of intensity that followed. As a former PC user, I struggled to navigate the Mac, among other things. My 20/20 hindsight now shows me that I should have been catching up on programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, specifically. At the very least, I would have been familiar with the Adobe suite and the layout commonalities of those programs. The production section was especially troubling—I was trusted with a very expensive camera. My hands shook almost every time I picked it up. And my video was simply awful. The subject was “About Me”, but I just wanted to hide. I made it through, though!

The semester started, and I still felt very nervous about every single class and new situation.  As an “older” student, I didn’t feel very connected to my fellow classmates. (So apprehension stayed with me, and getting the class assignments done was like working a 12-hour shift.

However, by the time fall break came, I was still there and making connections with everyone.

Just before fall break we got our Fly In assignments, and I’m headed to Costa Rica. I’ll be the writer for my team. Every week we meet to go over preparations. I’m doing a crash course in Latin American Spanish on Rosetta Stone. As the writer, I am tasked with being the cultural expert and to learn functional Spanish. I’m trying my best not to sound like Peggy Hill, but an accent is hard to erase.

It’s almost exam time now. I just finished a video for our production class, and not only did I not shake when handling the camera, but I even set up and used a shot gun mic. Who knew that would happen?

My favorite shot!

My favorite shot!

There are many projects to complete over then next couple of weeks. Everyone feels the crunch, but we are all in an iMedia boat together. It’s crazy, but I just might make it.

paula macLeod

Triple Threats

By Henry Kean – iMedia Class of 2014

The Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership held its Triple Impact Challenge this past Thursday, in which four teams of iMedia students entered and two placed.

The challenge requires teams with ideas that solve a social or environmental problem, or simply a business idea, to present their idea to a panel of judges. Teams must research the problem, and show that their solution is viable while explaining how they plan on executing it.

Four teams of iMedia students took the Triple Impact Challenge by storm.

Four teams of iMedia students took the Triple Impact Challenge by storm.

With experience in research, design, web development, and presenting, it is no wonder that the iMedia students did so well. The ideas ranged from an after school program that would empower kids and get them involved in solving social issues, to an application allowing teachers to share resources for free. After the pitches the judges asked questions about the research that went into the project and how the teams would plan to execute them.

Something that was really unique about the iMedia student teams was not only the ability to answer the questions with informed and educated responses, but also the skills that they had to execute their ideas. For the applications that were proposed the judges would always ask who would develop them, and the iMedia students would always stand a little taller as they responded “we would”.

While many of us may not know where we will be after graduation. This challenge reinforced that the skills we are learning in the iMedia program are indispensible. Being able to propose a business idea and say confidently that you are the graphic designer, developer, and came up with the idea on your own from conducting research is something that very few people have the ability to do. But in this program, that is the standard. That’s part of the reason it’s so difficult to know where to look for jobs. Not because we don’t know what we want to do, but because we can do it all and that makes narrowing your options down to a specific position that much more difficult.

The good news is, if trying to narrow your path down is too tough, being your own boss and starting your own company is always an option. And if the results of the Triple Impact Challenge are any indication, iMedia students should have no problems in that department.