23 Jun 2011

All posts from 23 Jun 2011


A Note from the Director: The Year Ahead

I feel strangely satisfied as I conclude my fourth academic year as MCDM Director.

This unusual feeling (it is for me!) began to develop late last month. At a Department of Communication faculty meeting, my colleagues enthusiastically supported our request to kick off a national search for a new MCDM assistant professor, who would bring further rigor to our one-of-a-kind program. It was a vote of confidence during a tough time for the University of Washington, as severe budget cuts and hiring freezes descend upon the entire institution.

We haven’t been immune; we’ve been asked to streamline our own staff and faculty over the last year as we continue to prioritize how to provide excellence to our community while keeping a close eye on finances.

But the university also sees us as inspired, slightly hyperactive regional and global ambassadors for the higher education business model-in-transition. They’re full supporters of our schemes, experiments and expeditions, from faculty hires to Four Peaks to our show on UWTV.

Still, my current state of “happiness” is much more aligned to the intrinsic state of the MCDM.

As we wrap up the first week of our summer quarter, we also welcome the newest members of our community, MCDM Cohort 11. Each year the MCDM draws more diverse and exceptional applicant pools. We offer a degree unlike anything else in the world and it shows—our yield rate for those offered admissions is an impressive 92%.

Cohort 11 is composed of 60 students, from the United States, India, Australia, China, and Thailand. We drew students domestically from Maine to California, and from Georgia to New York.

As with all MCDM cohorts, part of their strength is the diversity of experience and background. Some of the members of Cohort 11 have been in their fields for nearly two decades, others are on the beginning trajectory of their careers. Over half finished their Bachelor’s degree seven years ago or more.

The cohort boasts individuals from across fields and sectors: Nokia, Seattle Police Department, Wizards of the Coast, REI, WorldVision, Microsoft, Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and the Gates Foundation are all represented, not to mention the entrepreneurs who run their own operations.

A good number of them have elected to take three of our most cutting edge classes that we have yet to offer (we tend to try new classes out in the summer): The Health of Networks, Transmedia Production and Distribution, and Marketing and Storytelling in the Anyscreen Era.

Our curriculum, as always, is permanently beta thanks to the ever-shifting subject matter that is digital media. However, we’ve worked closely with our faculty and renowned Communication Department Principle Lecturer Lisa Coutu over the last year to develop a common standard and vision to the classes that we do offer. Indeed, I take great pride in quoting from our remarkable, and first-ever, Faculty Handbook (also completed this week), as developed by Anita Verna Crofts and Heather Werckle to summarize that vision:

The Four Peaks [innovation, entrepreneurship, community, story] are the core elements that all MCDM students must now draw upon if they wish to engage with trust and persuasion in this noisy digital age. They imply the creation and curation of compelling stories in partnership with communities of interest, as our students explore connective technologies that by their very nature challenge their ability to entirely control the process. MCDM students learn to manage the risk and rewards of these technologies, in order to achieve Return on Investment in this communicative interaction. It all begins with getting someone’s attention; it lives on through a sustained level of multi-platform engagement. This is our guiding MCDM curricular philosophy.

What do we hope to accomplish in the year ahead?

– An even more compelling curriculum in line with our philosophy above (including revamped foundational classes).

– A strong lineup of organizations to partner with our students as part of our Community Scholarship initiative.

– An ever-more robust, high profile edition of our Flip The Media channel, along with other conduits for sharing our students’ best work with the world.

– The creation and funding of the MCDM Summit Corps (our very own fellowship program).

– A fundraising campaign for a robust scholarship program.

– A wholesale refresh of our web properties.

– An expansion and rebranding of our highly successful UWTV show (considered the station’s flagship program).

– A signature Four Peaks event early in 2012 on the scale of our 2010 TEDx Seattle gathering.

– First Friday Happy Hours hosted by key community members, similar to the one we had with Wexley School for Girls in April.

We also want to build upon the triumph that was our first annual Screen Summit a few weeks ago (orchestrated by Beth Koemans and Scott Macklin, programmed by Heather and Anita).

Next year will be bigger and bolder: we’ll showcase more graduating students’ work, which Anita will cultivate throughout the year. Scott and I intend to take our Anthony Giffard “Make The Change” Award national, recognizing digital disrupters from far and wide, much like the Webby Awards. And we’re brainstorming how at that same event next spring, we can recognize superlative student members of the MCDM community who contribute so much in and out of the classroom.

In other words, we have much with which to welcome our Cohort 11 students. They will benefit from the collaborative energy of their predecessors (read Cohort 8 Jeff Hora’s parting blog post for inspiration for those who are beginning their own MCDM journey), even as they find creative new ways to contribute to both the subject matter and to the ever-evolving nature of the program.

Have a great summer everyone.  Rest up!


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A Note from the Director: The Year Ahead