In an industry which is rapidly changing, Valdosta State University’s mass media students are able to keep up with the latest media trends in a new state-of-the-art facility.
Mass media students and faculty moved into the 12,720-square-foot Mass Media Building earlier this year. Located in the former VSU Bookstore, the renovated building features a 47-seat screening room, computer lab, journalism lab, two audio recording booths, an audio production studio, and two video production studios.
When the Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Mass Media was established in 2002, there were approximately 67 students in the program. Today, with more than 350 majors, the need to expand classroom and studio space was a top priority. The new facility is a welcome change from previous years of managing classes and studio time between two buildings.
“The planning for the new Mass Media Building began about seven years ago,” said Dr. Carl Cates, department head for Communication Arts. “We had students taking classes in Nevins and two converted classrooms in the Fine Arts Building served as our production studios.”
Cates, who has been department head since 1997, said the new facility allows for expansion for both instruction and training and gives students an opportunity to gain a competitive edge within their profession.
The new facility was designed and outfitted with the latest equipment, which allows students to create a variety of media productions using equipment that is considered standard within the industry.
“By using the advanced digital equipment, students are equipped to transition directly from VSU mass media into a professional career,” said Frank Barnas, professor of mass media. “In the academic sense, students are literally taught on the same equipment they will find in newsrooms and production houses in Atlanta, New York or Los Angeles.”
The new facility will strengthen existing programs on VSU-TV (Mediacom channel 20) and allow the weekly newscasts and sports shows to expand. Mass media students will now have the opportunity to hone their skills in broadcast journalism, video production, and audio recording and mixing.
“Our weekly newscast has now quadrupled to four newscasts per week, plus our sports programming is expanding again this fall,” Barnas said. “One of our studios consists of virtual sets, allowing students to focus on creative and editorial elements instead of worrying about moving desks and backdrops.”
In addition to the expanded facilities and equipment, the mass media program has revised its curriculum to keep pace with industry trends.
“VSU’s mass media program has a strong production capability,” said Mike Savoie, assistant dean of the College of the Arts and associate professor of mass media. “The new building will help us recruit students; however, more importantly it serves as a strong retention tool and it is the integrity of the program that keeps them here.”
Savoie said VSU’s mass media students are well trained and prepared to begin working in the industry.
“We have had a great deal of success in placing students in highly specialized media internships and jobs after graduation,” Savoie said. “Students have worked at national sporting events in Georgia and Florida, including football games for the National Football League and NASCAR events.”
Staying connected to changes in the industry is important to the overall success of the mass media program.
“This is a changing industry, we have to stay on our toes,” said Savoie, who worked as a music video and commercial director and producer before coming to VSU. “We are not just trying to produce radio, television or film programs; we are constantly looking at what is going on within the industry, so that we can prepare our students and give them the tools to function in a real professional environment.”
This fall mass media students will have the option to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Sports Broadcasting.
“We have always had our students heavily involved in covering VSU athletics, from directing, announcing and camera work, now they will have the opportunity to formalize that training within a structured degree program,” Savoie said. “It is another tool to reference what they are learning.”