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Illinois State’s School of Communication provides relevant resources for students to succeed

Lamposts leading up to the swings of Redbird Plaza with Fell Hall looming in the background

Redbird Plaza and Fell Hall on the campus of Illinois State University

The School of Communication is involved in the ever-changing art that concerns media while also exploring how that media are distributed through a wide array of technological platforms.

Director of Convergent Media Nathan Carpenter, Ph.D., gave some insight to his position: “I’m here to foster connections and relationships among our different media outlets and to direct the growth and keep my eyes peeled for changes in the larger media ecosystem and try to find ways to provide resources that will help all of our organizations grow and benefit.” He also teaches a course called Communication Technologies and Impacts, where students study the relationship between social media and larger society.

One large part of this is the Social Media Analytics Command Center, or SMACC lab, which has now been running for five years. “The goal of the SMACC lab is to collect, visualize, analyze, and present social media data in ways that are useful and beneficial for research and education and client work that students and faculty might be doing,” Carpenter explained. They also do large scale research, such as analyzing conversations and posts leading up to the 2016 election.

There was a challenge to provide resources to students who are not involved in campus media programs such as TV-10 and WZND. In response, the School of Communication was able to launch the Communication Innovation Center (CIC), which is located in 280 Fell Hall. The room is a multifaceted space for students to work with technology with which they might not otherwise have access, such as studio booths, microphones, cameras, and green screens. Carpenter’s team soon learned that the mobile furniture makes it a very popular room; instructors and student appreciate the ability to move around one another, and it provides a unique learning environment.

Over the past year, Illinois State has transformed into what is known as an Adobe Campus. This means students have access to more Adobe features than most other schools, including creative cloud suites, video and sound editing, graphic design, prototyping and app design.

Another new feature in the School of Communication is a 50 terabyte media server, which can share assets between anyone in the CIC or in TV-10. This means students no longer have to wait for something to download onto their computer. They can jump right into their work and download within seconds.

Recently, the School of Communication secured funding to renovate two labs in Fell Hall to create more multifunctional spaces like the CIC. This will make it easier for students in intense design and programming classes to follow along and have a more hands-on experience. The plans will be finalized by the spring semester, with a goal to have the renovations completed by fall 2020.

Technology is constantly changing, so Carpenter and his team must work hard to stay on the cutting edge and provide relevant resources for students, with the ultimate goal of fostering convergence.

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