A New Media Mix
Digital Communications Program To Take Full Advantage of Today’s Technology Innovations
By Doug Goodnough
In the age of user-generated content, a new program at Siena Heights University is tapping into the innovation of its students to drive the curriculum.
The Digital Communications program was approved in fall 2012 and will be offered as a new major and minor beginning in fall 2013. According to program director Dr. Davin Heckman, Digital Communications is a combination of old and new concepts. However, the ultimate outcome is to equip students to discover new approaches to communication in a digital age.
“The program is built around the strength of Siena’s fine arts curriculum,” said Heckman, who is a considered a leader in the emerging field of electronic literature. “There are many digital media programs built around studio arts, but this one is designed to basically draw its strength in the interests, energy and abilities that students bring to the major from their areas of concentration. If there is something uniquely Siena about the program, I’d say that it is built around the tradition of Studio Angel-ico (SHU’s art program) and much of the program is driven by the particular contributions
of the student as an individual.”
The curriculum allows students to develop practical skills for creating and packaging content in digital formats. Courses such as web design and advanced animation and video will provide stepping stones into time-based and interactive electronic media while providing practical skills in digital tools.
Students will develop design and digital media skills through Studio Angelico, home to a community of highly skilled visual arts professors.
“Ideally, students will use their time in the studio to develop something that communicates content from their area of concentration in a new and engaging way,” Heckman said. “These students will look for jobs in professional fields that require creativity, teamwork and problem-solving, specifically using digital tools.”
He said he expects many students to add Digital Communications as a minor or second major to enhance the many existing academic programs SHU currently offers.
“I also see select students being competitive for specific communication jobs where specialized knowledge in a topic is an advantage,” Heckman said of potential career outcomes. “I predict a number of these students, particularly those with humanities minors, will go to graduate programs in digital humanities.”
Heckman said social media will also play a role in the program.
“Communications courses deal with social media and its implications,” Heckman said. “Increasingly, fine artists, both in literary and visual fields, are also responding to, creating and critiquing social media practices. However, I think it is the students, many of whom are growing up in this milieu, who will drive the formal experimentation in the program.”
In fact, students may come to class with a greater understanding of social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram.
“We want to encourage them to think about new ways of thinking and doing,” he said. “The Digital Communications program cannot do all things for all people, but for the right student—the creative, intrepid and dedicated student—we can at least propel them forward into a future of their own making.”