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New Center for Media Studies takes the classroom into the community

September 5, 2014
PLU Center for Media Studies and MediaLab students Amanda Brasgalla, Olivia Ash and Valery Jorgensen (L to R) conducting a video interview

PLU Center for Media Studies and MediaLab students Amanda Brasgalla, Olivia Ash and Valery Jorgensen (L to R) conducting a video interview.

New Center for Media Studies Takes the Classroom Into the Community

By Natalie DeFord ’16
Communications Major

Like many college students, Olivia Ash ‘15 was uncertain about her future when she first arrived on the campus of PLU back in the fall of 2011.

“I’ve always loved music, and so I knew I wanted to get involved with PLU’s student radio station, LASR,” said Ash. “During the fall semester of my first year, I became a DJ, and fell in love with radio.”

Now a senior, Ash, 21, is LASR’s student general manager. She credited PLU’s emphasis on public engagement with providing her with many on- and off-campus opportunities to learn about radio and expand her media skills, helping make her career path after college abundantly clear.“Through my experience with student radio, I’ve had opportunities to visit professional stations,” said Ash, a communication major whose emphasis is PR/Advertising, “which has made me realize that radio is definitely in my future.”

Ash is among several dozen PLU arts and communication students who will participate this school year in the new Center for Media Studies,  an initiative that formally launches this fall. The goal of the center is to invert the school’s arts and communication classrooms by providing students with more opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge in real-world settings.

Center for Media Studies Opens

A public event to celebrate the launch of the new Center will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18 at B Sharp Coffee House at 706 Court C, Tacoma.  Formal remarks will be made at 6:15 p.m. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register for the event or call 253-535-7150 for more information.

Situated within PLU’s School of Arts and Communication, the center leverages programs in journalism, public relations, advertising, art and design to provide students with learning opportunities by working with clients, both on and off-campus. Rather than a geographic location, the center is an organized way of conceptualizing and approaching topics typically taught only in classroom settings. This fall, for instance, four different classes containing nearly 50 students studying graphic design, research methods, public relations/advertising and media studies, will work together on a series of real-world projects, all focused on one specific community partner.

PLU’s reputation for service learning is nothing new. But School of Arts and Communication Dean Cameron Bennett said community engagement is especially important for students interested in pursuing careers in arts, media and communication in the 21st Century.

“Our objectives are to increase our public outreach, further engage with our communities and enable our students to have every opportunity to succeed in a marketplace that is constantly changing and evolving, ” said Bennett.

Ash will be among the center’s first group of students to formally partner with an off-campus client. Appropriately, this first client will be KPLU-FM 88.5, the local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate owned by the university. KPLU has studios in Tacoma and Seattle.

In addition to her duties this fall as LASR’s manager, Ash will work on a student team that will research how KPLU might expand its audiences on air and online. She also will work with two other student groups, one that will help produce on-air content for KPLU, and another that will shoot and edit videos of professional musicians for the station’s website.

To some extent, activities of the new center will be patterned after PLU’s highly successful MediaLab program, which for nearly 10 years has performed media services for area businesses, government agencies, media organizations, school districts, nonprofits and other community partners, in addition to producing numerous award-winning documentary films.

Robert Marshall Wells, Associate Professor of Communication and faculty advisor to MediaLab since its inception, has been appointed Director of the new Center for Media Studies. Wells says outreach, engagement, teaching and learning will be the top priorities.

“MediaLab will continue to exist and will simply become part of the new center,” Wells explained. “The real intent here is to increase the overall capacity of our programs and do an even better job of integrating our campus with surrounding communities. We can help and learn a great deal from each other.”

By no later than spring 2015, the center also will begin offering continuing-education classes, evening and weekend workshops, and online courses, all of which will be open to the general public, not just PLU students.

“Stay tuned. A lot of exciting new things are in the works,” said Wells. “Our ultimate goal is to make PLU the destination point for anyone who wants to learn about arts, design, communication or media.”