Featured Student Friday – Dorian Parks

Dorian Parks is a Digital Media Innovation student at Texas State University

You may have seen this SJMC student wandering the halls of Old Main throughout the semester, or perhaps sitting beside you in class. Or just maybe you have checked out the website Geeks of Color to peruse the latest coverage of the ‘geek’ world. Well, this summer, Dorian Parks has traded the hills of San Marcos for Los Angeles and the halls of Old Main for the entertainment giant, STARZ.

The Television Academy Foundation’s Internship Program provides 50 undergraduate and graduate students with internships in various media production fields. According to their website, host companies include ABC, CBS, HBO, Disney, NBC, and Warner Bros., to name a few. Needless to say, this eight-week program is beyond competitive and Dorian has proven his expertise and passion for digital media by obtaining this position.

Dorian has been preparing for an opportunity like this throughout his education as a Digital MediaInnovation major at Texas State University. Staying true to his mass communication frame of mind, Dorian recognizes that our communication is evolving every day.

“Digital media is the new way that we ingest information and I want to be a part of that digital revolution,” said Dorian in his video interview securing him the internship. The interview, produced and recorded by the creative extraordinaire himself, provides a look into the vast imagination that Dorian uses to fuel his enthusiasm for making and distributing his original content.

While at Texas State, Dorian commits his time to the website he founded called Geeks of Color, a blog-type feed that covers current news on all things ‘geek’ and promotes inclusion and diversity in the vast world of entertainment. Reviews, podcasts, gaming, and guest contributions can all be found within this impressive digital creation, demonstrating Dorian’s passion for media and communication. Not only does Dorian care about the infinite world of comics and popular culture, but his desire to bridge the gap of race and the entertainment industry is inspiring.

“I am so excited for this internship, I can’t wait to see what opportunities it leads to,” said Dorian.

The internship is scheduled to be starting this summer and we share Dorian’s excitement as we eagerly wait to see where this position takes him in the future. In the meantime, the folks in San Marcos can stay up to date on all things Dorian and geek on his website and social media platforms.

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Check out what Dorian is up to next; this SJMC student does not fail to impress!

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Dr. Cindy Royal speaks on integrating digital culture in academia at SXSW

In Saturday’s SXSW Interactive panel “Disrupting J School with Digital Culture”, SJMC’s Dr. Cindy Royal explained how academic institutions can be more nimble by developing a culture of innovation. Joined by University of Southern California Annenberg’s Robert Hernandez, the session started with an introduction to digital culture, then discussed how innovation is happening at each of their respective schools, and ended by providing advice for other academics seeking to introduce digital concepts and topics into curriculum.

Dr. Cindy Royal began by explaining how students have three options when it comes to digital courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. They can either take digital-focused electives, add a digital concentration to their major, or sign up for a Digital Media Innovation major. With digital courses like the Fundamentals of Digital and Online Media, Coding and Data Skills, Social Media and Analytics and one-credit short courses like Digital Tools: 360 Video & VR, any student has a wide variety of curriculum options from which to choose.

At USC Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism, Hernandez said he’s not just preparing students for disruption; he’s preparing them to be leaders of disruption. Through innovative courses that partner with leading media companies such as NPR, the New York Times and ProPublica, Hernandez said diversity in his courses breeds creativity.

“What was magical was the diversity of students from different disciplines and watching them learn from each other. We have students from public relations, communication, gaming, engineering, and each one brings his or her craft to the table. These are different cultures coming together to collaborate, which is what they’ll experience when they enter the real world.”

Overcoming Challenges

Developing innovative curriculum in academia does not come without its challenges. Both Royal and Hernandez explained the disrupting traditional systems is not easy and that funding can often be an issue.

“We do a lot with a little,” said Royal. “Our director Dr. Judy Oskam is great at finding pockets of money for us, and she’s been very open to find funding to support our efforts.”

However, one major misconception about innovation is that it is too costly. While some digital equipment is highly expensive, many tools and hardware isn’t as bad as one might think. The Insta360 camera that Hernandez set up to live-stream the presentation, for example, only cost $199.

“Sometimes, smartphones might be all someone needs for an innovative project.  You can do this with little to no money,” said Royal.

Being a product of a newsroom with a bootstrap budget, Hernandez said he’s used to “hustling with nothing.” Consolidating resources has been one solution for USC, where the school even eliminated some computer labs because so many students already had their own laptops.

Outside of a budget increase, Royal said grants are also a valuable source for funding.”If grants don’t cover equipment, you can set up trips for training,” said Royal. “Get creative, and prioritize your needs.” Both Hernandez and Royal also advised academics to partner and share resources with other organizations and even academic institutions that value innovation.

Building A Culture of Innovation

While a lack of funding can be difficult, affecting the overall digital culture of an organization can be more of a challenge.

“One person can’t do this,” said Royal. “You can’t have that token ‘digital’ person in an organization — you need people who are willing to take their spare time to learn this stuff.”

Hernandez said he often has be his own “hype man” for his projects and goals, especially for those who don’t truly understand what he does.

Overall, the duo’s advice for developing a more innovative culture in academia was to model the behavior first.

“When you show off student projects and successes, people start to take notice. It becomes attractive to other faculty,” said Royal.

No more classrooms, no more books for outdoorsy SJMC students

February was an unconventional month for SJMC students who wanted to get out of the classroom and into the “wild”.

On the first Saturday of February, senior lecturer Jon Zmikly took his Digital Tools: 360 Video & Virtual Reality course to the Meadow’s Center for Water and the Environment on the campus of Texas State University-San Marcos. This one-credit “Digital Dash” hybrid course revolved around immersive storytelling and giving students hands-on experience with virtual and augmented reality. Armed with 360 video cameras, smartphones and GoPros, students learned how to plan, shoot and edit video content for these new platforms.

“My favorite aspect of this course was the hands-on experience at Spring Lake. I am a very visual learner, so physically working with the technology allowed for me to fully grasp what I was learning in the modules,” said student Savannah Stockton. “I enjoyed the change of devices and the ability to work different parts of the story using the different technology, and I feel as if it not only expanded my professional qualities, but also my level of coolness.”

Zmikly said all 18 students enjoyed getting outside and had fun with the unconventional “classroom.”

“I was amazed at how many students were excited to get up early on a Saturday morning for class,” Zmikly said. “They also picked up quickly the nuances of filming for a 360 environment. It’s a different world than flat video, so there was a lot more to think about than just shooting one subject. I was really impressed.”

The team worked with the Meadow’s Center for Water and the Environment in celebration of the Center’s 15-year anniversary. Multimedia intern and SJMC student Dy Rios also joined the team to help provide content and act as a liaison between the class and the Center.

“I can’t tell you how much I loved working with the students at the Meadow’s Center,” said Rios.

Some of the students’ content will be published on the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment’s website at meadowscenter.txstate.edu.

Last weekend’s out-of-the-classroom experience was led by senior lecturer Dale Blasingame, with help from Kym Fox and Jon Zmikly. After spending five weeks learning how to turn stories solely using their phones, students were responsible for creating social content that chronicle the rebirth of Bastrop State Park, which suffered a devastating wildfire in 2011 and a flood last year. Signs of life are emerging at the park – including flowers and new trees, nearly 2,000,000 of which have been planted in the past five years.

Students and faculty at Bastrop State Park

“Weekends like this mean so much to me. Hearing the students talk about experiencing a park, some for the very first time, never gets old. I’m beyond excited to see the work they come up with,” said Blasingame.

The group used everything from Go Pros to smartphones to get footage and create social media-specific posts on topics from “10 Things to Do at Bastrop State Park” to “Signs of Life”. They even partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife and “took over” the organization’s Snapchat account. During the final night of the weekend, Texas Parks and Wildlife captured a Facebook Live of the campfire and has now garnered over 23,000 views (and counting)!

 

“Obviously we’re always busy on social media, but we never actually focus on the storytelling part of it,” said student Marco Martinez.

Both of these courses are digital electives for students throughout the SJMC program, and Blasingame and Zmikly said they are proud to be bringing an out-of-doors angle to the Digital Media Innovation major, of which they are faculty.

“Dale and Jon have been particularly creative in developing these experiences for students,” said Dr. Cindy Royal, director of the school’s Media Innovation Lab. “Their work has been instrumental to the direction of our Digital Media program in encouraging students to get outside and engage people with digital tools, as opposed to using technology to avoid doing that. I appreciate the time and effort they have taken to learn new skills, develop curriculum, manage the logistics and build relationships associated with these successful experience projects.”

Blasingame’s three-credit Mobile Storytelling class began as a one-credit “Digital Dash” hybrid, and Zmikly said he hopes his 360 class can make the same evolution.

“I’m very excited students can gain hands-on experience on new tools for storytelling. It will serve them well wherever they go in the future,” said Zmikly.

Emily Sharp in D.C.

The 2017 Presidential Inauguration was one for the books. As protestors, supporters, heads-of-state and average citizens filled the Capitol building and its grounds on Jan. 20, members of the University Star joined their ranks to cover the big event. Editor-in-chief Emily Sharp attended both the presidential inauguration and the Women’s March, while also covering the Texas State Strutters’ performance for the school newspaper. Sharp sat down with us and shared her experience in Washington, D.C. and attending these historical events.

Q: How did the opportunity come about?

A: “The Friday before we left, we brought it up with our advisor and told him we would love to go but didn’t know if we had the funds for it. He told us he could make that happen and pay for it using travel funds that the University Star had. Going and covering the Strutters’ first-hand was an opportunity we didn’t want to miss. While we were sitting there talking about it, I asked if there was enough money for two people to go. I didn’t want my news editor, Bri, to go alone. It would be dangerous and with the amount of stories to cover, one person wouldn’t be enough. Within two hours they informed us that everything was being sorted out by the travel office and told us that we were going.”

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Photo by Emily Sharp and Bri Watkins

Q: From a journalism and historical standpoint, how important was attending this event to you?

A: “Any inauguration, being able to go to that, for many people, is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I don’t know if I’d be able to do that again. That alone was a lot but also the Women’s March, which itself is probably going to be in history books. It was just another thing that I couldn’t believe I got to be a part of. As far as the Strutters’ performance, the university needed to cover something as big as that.”

Q: How do you feel about the backlash received from Texas State students about the stutters performing?

A: “I understand that some people are going to be unhappy about it. I think regardless of the election results people would still be upset that the Strutters attending. Regardless of that, they [the Strutters] get to add to their list of performances that they got to do. They’ve performed in China, they’ve performed at past presidential inaugurations, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was a great opportunity for those girls to experience performing on a stage that large.”

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Photo by: Emily Sharp and Bri Watkins

Q: What were some main takeaways from attending the inauguration?

A: “Security was ridiculous. I have never seen anything like that up close. The biggest thing I noticed during the inauguration was the split in the people. Whoever went up and spoke had a huge crowd reaction. There were never only polite claps for whoever was up there. Both from the protesters nearby and the people attending the inauguration, there was noise. It was crazy to see the divide so clearly and see all the different types of people. We see a little bit of that on campus, but it’s different to see it on a national scale of people from all around the world.”

Q: What was the Women’s March like?

A: “I noticed the contrast between the people the most. Both [the inauguration and Women’s March] had amazing people and both had not-so-great people. I was so surprised how peaceful the Women’s March was, especially with the slightly violent protest the day before. We expected to see Trump supporters in the streets, but we didn’t see any of that. If we did see someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, nobody was calling them out. It was all very peaceful and I think that was the best way to get their message across. It was huge! It sounded like when you get concessions at a game and you hear the roar of the crowd — that’s what it sounded like throughout the whole city. We were 30 minutes away, walking to our hotel, and you could still hear the roar. It was crazy to see, and the thing I remember the most is seeing the wide variety of ages, types, color — everybody that you could think of to be represented was there. It was something I feel like I’m going to remember for my whole life. Talking to people from both sides really humanized it for me.”

Q: Was there anything that took you by surprise?

A: “The participating peacefully took me by surprise. The amount of security took me by surprise. A lot of people up there [Washington, D.C.] were saying that they’ve never seen that amount of security before. That was interesting to see, I expected to see security but not that amount of security. You felt fenced in everywhere you went, like at any moment you could be trapped in an area. Gates and fences everywhere. They also changed the parade route last minute, so that was a huge surprise. Luckily, we were still able to catch the Strutters. Another thing that took me by surprise was the attendance at the inauguration. The sections were not filled up at all. I was expecting there to be a lot more protesters as well as supporters.”

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your trip as a whole?

A: “I’m really thankful that we got the chance to go. just to be able to record the Strutters’ performance. That has gotten so much attention, there have been people who reached out to us and thanked us for covering it. It was a crazy trip with little sleep but it was so worth it to get these historical aspects and bring them back to Texas State with our coverage on it. There were people from all over following it because we were one of the many news sources covering it. I think if people can, they should attend celebrations of different points of view because that’s the only way to grow and understand. That’s why I do what I do.”

Featured Student: Sara Shields

11205507_1094288760588668_4648911632773368105_nWith a love for drones, web design and technology, Digital Media graduate student Sara Shields is constantly looking for new, innovative ways to tell a story. That’s what led her to her newest endeavor: graduation video “e-nouncements.” As she works hard in earning her master’s degree from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Shields shared with us what led to her passion for these new media projects and how she hopes to use them for her future.

Q: What is the “senior graduation” video about?

Sara: I just recently made a “senior graduation” video (shown below).
While I was doing a friend’s senior portraits, I also captured candid moments during our photo session through a video format.

Q: Why did you make the video?

Sara: I’ve always tried to find interesting or creative ways to visually tell a story. For a few years, I’ve been doing senior portraits and designing graduation announcements for college seniors. One day I was trying to think of new creative ways to announce a college graduation, when all of a sudden the video idea hit me: “E-nnouncements.” Rather than announce a senior’s graduation through printed images or invitations, why not “e-nnounce” it online through a video? Since my main passion is videography, I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to try something new and different on a digital platform.

Q: What would you like to do once you graduate?

Sara: Once I graduate, I hope to find a job doing videography or web design, as these are two of my passions.  


Sara received her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations at Texas State University, and now she teaches two Web Design and Publishing courses in the mass communication program and loves the challenges and opportunities in web design. Great job, Sara! If you would like a graduation video made by Sara, check out her contact information and website below!

Email: saramshields@gmail.com
Website: www.sara-shields.com

Going with the Current: A Google News Lab Workshop

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Nick Whitaker, Media Outreach Manager at Google, spoke about strategies, trends and directions in data and information and tools that Google News Lab uses to help journalists and entrepreneurs change the future of media by organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful during 2016 Mass Comm Week.

“This is a unique moment in the history of news,” Whitaker said as he opened the Wednesday afternoon session of Mass Comm Week on October 27, 2016. “There are a lot of labs popping up and people are trying new things. Industries are realizing that we should not place in one place forever. It should be adapting and changing.”

Whitaker spoke about Google News Lab’s effort to empower innovation at the intersection of media and technology by sharing his experiences of collaborating with journalists and entrepreneurs to build the future of media with Google. While there are millions of ways of storytelling and understanding the information,Whitaker said “we do this in three ways: training and development, trends, and programs.”

Whitaker also spoke about the importance of VR Journalism that virtual reality is a totally new medium of telling stories. “Interfaces are changing the way we see things. We need to come out from a comfort zone,” said Whitaker. “We need to change the mindset about anxiety into excitement about experimenting with technologies.”

Whitaker emphasized that visual striking storytelling is flourishing like never before and encouraged journalism students with new opportunities for innovation in journalism.

You can follow Nick Whitaker on Twitter at @googlenewslab. For more information about Google News Lab, visit the website g.co/newslab. 

News Engagement Day success!

Despite the disheartening statistics behind Millennials and their involvement with current news, Dr. Kelly Kaufhold spent News Engagement Day (Tuesday, Oct. 4) proving otherwise. Once again, Kaufhold did an amazing job last week engaging students in the best way possible. A “Cash Cab” style questionnaire and fantastic incentives kept the students crossing the front of LBJ Student Center curious. Kaufhold was able to draw in many students enthusiastic to prove their knowledge on current events. Even though some of Kaufhold’s questions left participants scratching their heads, he accumulated large crowds with correct answers! A perfect mix of pop culture and politics revealed that these students are far from letting statistics determine their standards of news involvement.

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SJMC Students Go Mobile at Garner State Park

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SJMC students prepare for one final hike at Garner State Park. Photo by Sasha Kodet

By Dale Blasingame

A group of 16 School of Journalism and Mass Communication students spent the weekend of Feb. 27-28 outdoors – in the name of mobile storytelling.

The students were part of the first-ever Mobile Storytelling in the Park course, taught by Dale Blasingame in coordination with Texas Parks and Wildlife. The class, which was part of the SJMC short course series, featured two weeks of online learning about how to shoot professional-quality photos and videos on your phone – everything from shot composition, camera apps, editing apps and storytelling techniques. The students then traveled to Garner State Park to put those ideas to the test. They were responsible for four video projects while in the park, all with the goal of getting more college-aged students to visit state parks across Texas.

“It got me out of my comfort zone,” said Abby Watson, an advertising senior. “I feel like in class, you just sit there and might get a little bored. But with this, you’re constantly going.”

Faculty members Kym Fox and Jon Zmikly, along with Ky Harkey, Tyler Priest, Sasha Kodet and Whitney Bishop from Texas Parks and Wildlife, assisted with the course.

Zmikly helped lead a drone demonstration with DJI Phantom Quadcopters 2 and 3 and contributed to the official Texas State University’s Snapchat (txstateu) during the weekend workshop.

“I loved getting outside and helping students with their projects. Their stories were really creative, and I could tell they had a lot of fun. These are the kinds of experiences students don’t get in the classroom,” said Zmikly.

Students used GoPros, HD mini-cameras, smartphones, mini-tripods and lapel mics to cover and capture the weekend experience, and they also gained experience with drones and 360 cameras. Footage was then edited and uploaded to various social media sites, and mobile hotspots were used when service wasn’t available. One creative project is their 360 video of the sunset over Mount Baldy where you can see the Frio river to the east (as the below video plays, click and drag your mouse for different views).

On Saturday evening, Texas Parks and Wildlife photographers led a session on night photography where students learned about aperture settings, shutter speeds and different ISO options.

The students are currently working in teams on different mini-documentary projects that will be used by Texas Parks and Wildlife. They’ve already submitted individual video projects on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.

To see their work, search the #txstgarner hashtag across the different social networks.

SJMC Announces New Digital Media Innovation Major

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Students in the Coding and Data Skills course work on Web application projects.

At its February 18, 2016 meeting, the Texas State University System Board of Regents approved a new degree in Digital Media Innovation (DMI) in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  The new degree, which is scheduled to launch in Fall 2016, is pending final approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in May.

At the heart of the Digital Media Innovation degree is the professional demand for graduates who possess an intersection of technology expertise and strong communication skills – for jobs that include news application developers, data and social media analysts and mobile experience producers. Graduates with excellent communication skills are also in demand at technology companies and in startups, and the new DMI major will prepare students with the conceptual, strategic and practical skills for new and emerging careers.

Associate Professor Cindy Royal is leading digital innovation initiatives in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  “I am pleased the Board of Regents values this innovative, new approach to media education,” Dr. Royal said. “I am confident that this program will result in excellent career opportunities for students who receive a degree in Digital Media Innovation.”

Required Coursework – Coming Soon!

 

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication will continue to develop innovative courses that support the degree including current topics and technologies in the areas of drone journalism, data visualization, sensors, virtual reality and more. Students may take electives in one of the traditional majors, to provide an industry focus, if desired.

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Faculty used Design Thinking exercises in developing the requirements for the Digital Media Innovation major.

“Dr. Royal and other faculty began working on the curriculum for the DMI major in 2014 while she was working on the Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, where innovation is ingrained in the culture”, said School of Journalism and Mass Communication Director Judy Oskam.  “Our faculty used collaborative documents and design-thinking exercises to develop the curriculum plan that resulted in this degree.”

“I’d like to thank the faculty who worked on and provided input to this degree, as well as the professionals who supported our efforts,” Dr. Royal added. Professionals from organizations including the Austin American-Statesman, The Guardian, Knight Foundation and Investigative Reporters and Editors provided letters of support, and the degree received unanimous endorsement from the SJMC Advisory Council.

Additional information about the new Digital Media Innovation degree can be found at http://www.masscomm.txstate.edu/degrees-programs/digital-media-innovation.html.

SJMC Student selected to present at NCA Conference

Graduate student Joshua Morrison, will be representing Texas State and SJMC at this year’s National Communication Association’s 101st Annual Conference. The conference will take place Nov. 19 – 22 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This is Morrison’s second time to present at the conference and will be presenting two papers — one in the Performance Studies Division and the other in Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division.

The rhetoric division is the biggest at the conference, and Morrison will be presenting as one of the top four papers in that division.

He discusses how celebrity studies is an emerging and growing field in academia, a very broad and interdisciplinary field that includes departments in English,FullSizeRender history, sociology and communications.

“The intersection that I meet at when I study this topic is rhetoric and communication, media studies, performance studies and critical cultural studies,” Morrison said.

Morrison is interested in the role the media plays in celebrity culture and the conversations the media industry has about fame and celebrities, especially women as public figures.

According to Morrison, the conversations regarding men usually revolve more around their craft as a performer, but the focus of women is more about what they are wearing and less about their craft.

Morrison encourages expanding the institution of celebrity studies to increase awareness about the disparity of gender, racial and class lines that exist in the media’s coverage.

“Who better to change these conversations than the people who write the headlines?” Morrison asks.

Best of luck to Joshua at the conference this week!