This Fall, the winds of change blustered throughout the Aggieland Communication community. While new Freshmen shuffled throughout the halls of Bolton, eagerly finding their place among within this great university, a new force emerged in Bolton 113 as the Department’s New Media Lab took shape. Spearheaded by Associate Professor of the Practice, Joey Lopez, PhD and implemented by First-Year Lecturers Jonathan Guajardo and Xiaofei Song, the lab drew students from a variety of majors to the department to engage in all manner of media production and exploration.
A NEW SPACE FOR A NEW TYPE OF STUDENT
While utilized previously as a makeshift flex-space room, Bolton 113 now serves as a place for students to work on their creative works outside the classroom, connecting and collaborating with other like minded creatives from all majors. Having spent a good portion of the summer transforming the space from its original studiously ornamented decor to its current maroon digi-styled existence, the Lab currently features a plethora of advanced equipment for students to experiment with. Over the summer, Joey Lopez secured a $10,000 Academic Innovation Grant grant to help equip the fledgling Lab. This grant provides the students with access to a wide assortment of industry-standard media equipment such as two 4K Sony SLR cameras, several 4K video monitors, as well as a variety of microphones and video recorders. As part of the Lab’s pedagogy, students are encouraged to check out the equipment at their discretion and make creative works, both as part of their COMM coursework as well as for their own personal growth and development.
The first official New Media meetup took place on October 15, 2019 at 5 PM in the newly converted Media Lab. Unlike in other classes or organizations, students who participated in New Media meetups were never told what to do specifically with the equipment. Help would be provided to anyone who desired to learn more about any particular device, however, the Lab’s moderators would always encourage the students to think outside the box and make something they would be proud of and something they are passionate about. This philosophy is part of the core values that the Lab was founded on: Make Stuff, Take Risks, and Be Awesome.
Organized into two parts, the meetups would begin with a facilitative discussion proctored by Dr. Lopez where the students in attendance would have an opportunity to share any projects they may be working on currently. Constructive feedback would then be provided by both their peers as well as the faculty members in attendance.
Part Two would consist of an instructive portion led by Jonathan Guajardo who spent his time teaching the students the basics of the equipment the lab has to offer and would then let the students have in-meeting time to use the new gadgets they just learned about. Wandering throughout the expanses of the university grounds, the students would take the equipment all around Aggieland, telling stories, making media, and building a creative community wherever they went. Three of this year’s meetings (Oct. 15, Nov. 12, 19) were held on campus and one (November 19th) was held in the trendy Downtown Bryan area. At the last meetup, students were given the opportunity to walk around in a small urban setting and shoot video and photos of what they encountered along the way.
NEW FACES FOR A NEW PROGRAM
Two new faces joined Joey Lopez, Ph.D. this year to build up the New Media program within the Communication Department: Lecturers Jonathan Guajardo and Xiaofei Song. Hired, in part, to implement the New Media curriculum proposed by Lopez in his first year as a Lecturer at A&M, the new faculty members taught two sections each of the 200-Level Communication Technology Skills course (COMM 230) with Guajardo teaching one additional section of New Media and the Independent Voice (COMM 250).
Jonathan Guajardo came from San Antonio where he earned his B.A. and his M.A. in Communication Arts from the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW). An understudy of Dr. Lopez during his tenure as an Associate Professor at UIW, Guajardo completed his Master’s Capstone project in the Alternative Pedagogical Methods of Black Mountain College and analyzed how they were implemented in the former ACTLAB at the University of Texas at Austin and the Convergent Media Program at UIW. Bringing 10 years in professional media production experience to Texas A&M, he also owns his own media production company, GA Media. A lifelong Texas Aggie fanatic, he currently is living a dream by teaching at Texas A&M and strives to teach his students to dream big and never stop innovating in their field regardless of what their career goals may be.
Xiaofei Song came to Texas A&M from Pullman, WA, where she earned her Ph.D. from Washington State University (WSU). Xiaofei has a research background in socially constructed meaning of intimate relationship, nutrition literacy, and health communication with Indigenous population; and she has teaching experience in digital content creation and intercultural communication. Xiaofei believes the creation of digital contents not only help individuals to further understand a phenomenon, but also allow them to explore a way of communication that can better tell their stories.
LOOKING FORWARD TO A NEW SEMESTER
As the semester wrapped to a close, the New Media faculty found some time to reflect on all that had been accomplished this semester. In total, we established and outfitted an entirely new lab within the Communication Department for our students to use, organized four well-attended meetings, and met numerous students interested in working on projects as part of the New Media Lab. For the coming semester, we anticipate a New Media student organization to emerge with several students vocalizing that they would like to have one created and others who are currently working on drafting out a constitution and by-laws to present to the TAMU Student Government Association in the Spring. We are also looking for new opportunities to collaborate with other departments within the Texas A&M community and seeking new avenues for growth. All in all, TAMU New Media is on the rise. See everyone in Spring 2020 and Gig ‘Em Aggies!
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