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May 23, 2012

New program puts focus on digital media

University will offer undergraduate major in digital media studies this fall

The University will offer a new undergraduate major in digital media studies this fall that will focus on the analysis and production of digital media, or new media, from two perspectives simultaneously—science and technology, and art and humanities. It’s the latest major in Rochester’s long history of groundbreaking innovations and multidisciplinary research and learning.

“We are happy to add this new program to the growing set of options available to our students,” says Richard Feldman, dean of the College. “I expect that students with passion and curiosity for digital communications will enjoy the cross-disciplinary work and learn a great deal from their collaborations with their peers.”

Digital media are computer-based multimedia technologies for representing the world. Digital media studies examine the fields from historical, aesthetic, and technical points of view. Designed by faculty members from nine different disciplines, the bachelor of arts in digital media studies will graduate students with the knowledge and skills needed for employment in both creative and technical fields.

“The digital revolution has significantly changed how people communicate, interact, and innovate, so it makes sense it would also impact the way that today’s students learn,” says Thomas DiPiero, dean for humanities and interdisciplinary studies. “When asked what their ideal curriculum would be, Rochester students expressed their interests in studying both art and science. They want to be technologically proficient and at the same time have an understanding of the history, theory, and technology that created the context behind their work.”

Discussions with students and faculty helped construct the first three years of the program in which students will work collaboratively, and have exposure to video production and multiple career paths.

During their final year in the program, students will work in small groups to complete a capstone project that combines the approaches, ideas, and skills that they learned throughout the major to create a digital media object. The work will be done in a new multimillion dollar facility that also will be home to a new major in audio and music engineering, which is in the final stages of review. That major is supported by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the music programs on the River Campus, and the Eastman School.

Rob Clark, dean of the Hajim School and a partner in the efforts, also has seen a trend among students in recent years to bridge what traditionally have been seen as divides between art and science. Last year, for example, a computer-aided design course that is a requirement for mechanical engineering students was mistakenly listed in the course schedule with no prerequisite. As a result, the first 25 to 30 seats were filled with arts and science students, and the Hajim School had to offer a second section to accommodate the demand.

“Students here and at other institutions are less driven by the requirements and constraints of any particular discipline,” says Clark. “They are less interested in boundaries between disciplines. I think our new curriculum and building space have created a great opportunity for us to say ‘we encourage that.’”

The digital media studies major was approved by the state early this year, and students have begun enrolling in the program for the upcoming fall semester. Taking a liberal-arts approach, the major incorporates disciplines from the arts and humanities as well as from engineering. Students are required to take at least 12.5 courses across a wide spectrum of analysis, history, production, and technology, including at least 5.5 courses in the humanities and seven courses based in engineering, or vice versa.

For additional information on digital media studies, visit www.rochester.edu/college/msc/digitalmedia.html.

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