When Huntington University brought two Best of Festival awards home from the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Festival of Media Arts, Dr. Lance Clark was more pleased than surprised. As dean of the arts and professor of digital media, Clark already knows the high quality work produced by students and faculty. Through competitions like this one, others are getting to know it, too.
Since 2016, Huntington University students and faculty have submitted a broad range of work to the BEA Festival of Media Arts every year. Competing against schools from all over the country, including Division 1 powerhouses such as the University of Florida, Arizona State, USC, and Ball State, Huntington University’s digital media program is garnering attention.
“For four years in a row, we’ve received a lot of good awards,” says Clark. “Three years in a row we were second in the nation for total number of awards, and we’ve received at least one Best of Festival four of the last five years. Last year we had three, including a Chairman’s Award.”
The awards mean much more to the program than the notoriety they bring. According to Clark, the effect they have on the students and faculty accounts for their real value.
“More than anything else, it gives our students and faculty an extreme measure of confidence in the level of education they’re receiving here at Huntington University,” says Clark.
Huntington’s Digital Media Arts program launched in 2005, with the help of a grant from the Lilly Foundation. Clark, who joined the faculty in 1993 as part of the communication department, observed that students wanted to engage with the world through digital media platforms. In a time when social media was virtually non-existent, the effort felt like exploring a new frontier.
Today, the Digital Media Arts program has grown from seven students to more than 150; it is now the largest undergraduate program offered by Huntington University. Digital Media Arts offers three areas of emphasis – film, animation, and broadcast media – spanning two locations. In 2016, the university opened Huntington University Arizona in Peoria, which has been designed specifically around Digital Media Arts and complements the Indiana program.
“We are a signature program for Huntington University and one of the top private digital arts programs in the country,” says Clark. “We’ve worked hard getting to this point.”
More than the technical skills that come with the degree, the program emphasizes the tenets of the Kinema Manifesto: respect for the art, respect for the individual, and respect for the community. Students are challenged to “out work, out serve, and out love” as they find their purpose.
“It’s not just about getting a degree,” says Adam Widener, associate professor of digital media arts/broadcast media. “We integrate so much of that hands-on, community-based, heartfelt how-and-why into what we do. Knowing that my work has value is what really sets our program apart.”
Widener, also an alumnus, worked as a broadcast reporter before returning to Huntington University to teach. Though his work has been recognized by professional associations around the country, Widener found himself drawn back to the program because of the sense of purpose it nurtures.
“Our program helps answer questions of ‘why am I here’ and ‘where am I going with my life,’” says Widener.
Josh Addessi, instructor of animation and fellow alumnus, believes that alumni-faculty bring a unique perspective to the program.
“It’s been a unique experience to graduate, work for a while and then come back to the program,” says Addessi. “As an instructor, I approach things from a more critical perspective and consider what I would have wanted when coming through the program.”
Although Huntington University’s Digital Media Arts program boasts alumni and faculty who have worked as Veggie Tales animators, at Sony Animation, in professional sports venues and in various television stations across the country, program faculty measure true success by the difference their students and graduates make in their communities.
“Students come here and start to get a sense of purpose; they are motivated by impact,” says Clark. “They want to use their God-given talents to make this world a better place.”
The world needs more storytellers, good storytellers, emphasizes Clark, to help understand the world where we live. That’s why he believes the Digital Media Arts program is so important. Students graduate from Huntington University not only changed, but changing the world.
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