Partners pave way for digital media major at UMass Lowell

By George DeLuca
November 29, 2016

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O’Leary Library at UMass Lowell South Campus

The digital media major at UMass Lowell may no longer be on track for a Fall 2017 unveiling, as some associated with the program hoped it would be. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that partnerships are forming to address additional requirements in a growing effort to make the major a reality.

With intra-university paperwork still routing through the appropriate channels, attention has turned to the studio facility standards that must also be met for the major to gain credibility. O’Leary Library Director George Hart and digital media program director Dr. Wael Kamal have been busy negotiating an agreement to pool their respective resources, while joining forces in pursuit of a path to compliance for the major.

The library is “in the midst of a transition, and part of the transition involves partnering with other units on campus,” Hart said. To date, a final announcement has not been made on the digital media major. But Hart is forging ahead with the planning process, including studying the feasibility of reprogramming the digital services center at the O’Leary Library.

“We’re looking at the idea of consulting space where experts, not just librarians, from our staff around campus will consult with faculty, and they will plan curriculum, technology pilots, and different things. And then we’re talking about a studio where they can execute,” Hart said.

Some of the facility-oriented elements needed for advancing the viability of the digital media major are already in place. “Right now we have the ‘sandbox,’ which is a studio for certain kinds of high-end classroom recording sessions that are broadcast and put on the internet,” Hart said.

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O’Leary Room 140

Besides the “sandbox,” three other facility components are on-tap to beef-up the digital media program: O’Leary Room 140 in the Learning Commons area, the planned renovation of the digital services center, and, the availability of additional resources offered by Lowell Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) in downtown Lowell.

Room 140 is already set up as a lab and a classroom. It has Mac workstations with the full Adobe suite installed, large wall monitors for screenings, and an elaborate sound system. “We can do workshops there, and our digital media program is beginning to utilize it,” Hart said.

Hart is also planning a complete renovation of the digital services center. “We’re in the process of repurposing the former media center into a more broadly defined digital services studio,” he said. Hart and his staff are visiting other colleges to look at their digital studios. “We’re reviewing the best, most efficient, effective, and appropriate equipment and services that we can place in our new concept,” he said.

According to Hart, the digital media program is welcome to use his vision for a digital services studio for grant writing purposes. “Dr. Wael Kamal, is applying for a grant to try to move the program forward. The grant requires a studio like the one we’re planning on building. He has consultants coming in to help him advance the program,” he said.

Julie Nash, the vice provost of Student Success, has been involved in the initiative since her role as associate dean in the Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Services college. Although she’s no longer on the front lines, she has stayed involved and is supportive of the digital media program’s development. “We are finalizing the proposal and looking to invite external reviewers to campus pending final approval,” she said.

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Digital Services Center at the O’Leary Library

Hart said that the consultants will identify the design standards and programmatic requirements for the digital media major. It’s hoped that the planned digital media studio space will “be the place that receives the consulting folks to feed us the criteria for recording, editing, graphics and all the digital services tools that have to be applied,” he said.

Hart hopes to have the space transformed into a studio by next summer. His vision calls for the digital services space to be gutted and renovated. If Hart’s project proposal is approved, the wall adjacent to the mezzanine will also be opened to facilitate access to the mezzanine study space.

Meanwhile, Kamal said he is “working with academic and community partners including the O’Leary Library & Lowell Telecommunication Corporation (LTC) to advance the digital media major proposal through shared resources. As an example, students in the major will have the opportunity to access LTC’s high definition three-camera, professional TV studio for class projects.”

Kamal also said that he’s pleased with the spirit of collaboration that exists on campus. “There is a partnership, a strong collaboration happening within the digital media program (now a minor) and the digital services department located at the O’Leary Library,” he said.

According to Kamal, the digital services center will share resources, equipment, and archives and, in return, the digital media program can contribute student staffing as available when the need exists. The digital media program can also provide student videographers and assistance with video productions when needed. The arrangement is designed to “serve both sides,” said Kamal. And of course, the expanded partnership with LTC will add another element towards meeting the digital media major requirements.

“In November 2016, the studio at LTC will get three new Sony HD (hi-definition) cameras, a full size teleprompter, a new ‘TriCaster’ switcher with digital graphics and virtual set capability, a wireless intercom system, and a full size audio board with a live telephone interface,” Kamal said. “This partnership with LTC will allow for high quality live and recorded productions with opportunities for our students to be directly involved with Lowell’s public access TV station.”

If the digital media major is officially approved, UMass Lowell will be able to add film school to its complement of disciplines across the university. Nash is encouraged by recent progress. “I am happy to say that the collaboration between the digital media academic program and media services in the library will only provide better access to resources and expertise for our students, and we are more excited than ever about future steps for the program,” she said.

Part 1: Renovations planned for UMass Lowell’s O’Leary Library

Part 3: UMass Lowell professors give thumbs up to proposed digital media expansion

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