HMCS adds new media position

By Katie Havranek

While Internet innovations affect all students’ college experience, students in the Humanities and Media and Cultural Studies department are feeling the changes in their curriculum. The HMCS department is calling for a new professor to specialize the department’s digital media classes.”Old media is in decline,” said Leola Johnson, the chair of the HMCS department. “We’re getting closer and closer to Web 2.0 in the media-things that are more interactive.”

A five person search committee made up of faculty in the department, affiliated faculty in other departments and two student representatives will begin reviewing applications as early as mid-October.

Katie Harger ’09, one of the students chosen to sit on the committee, said she is excited to see where the new professor will fit into the curriculum that strives to integrate a theoretical and a practical learning approach to media studies.

“The internet is the most powerful cultural text we have right now,” Harger said, “and there are currently almost no classes surrounding it.”

The HMCS program has doubled since its inception five years ago, said Diane Michelfelder, the former provost. With only two full-time faculty-Leola Johnson and Clay Steinman-the HMCS department is in need of a third tenure-track professor to help with advising.

Michelfelder said that the addition of the new faculty member will not detract from the journalism program at Macalester.

“HMCS will continue to offer three journalism courses annually,” she said.

Johnson said the department is searching for candidates with an M.F.A. or Ph.D. who are experts in video production and web design. She said that many of the applicants so far have strong backgrounds in digital and interactive art.

“We are looking for someone who will challenge students,” Johnson said, “and has a commitment to the liberal arts education.”

The new professor will be required to teach both theoretical and practical aspects of the media.

The expansion of media studies is not only taking place at Macalester but is a trend that can be seen at many universities across the country. Johnson said that inspirations for growing the department come from Pomona, Pitzer, NYU, Georgia Tech and MIT.

“We believe we’ve been largely on our own,” Johnson said.

Harger hopes to see more practical classes in the department because journalism careers are changing rapidly.

“It’s hard to know where media studies is going,” she said. “All of this is new to everybody.”

Johnson said that the HMCS Department is increasingly receiving queries for graduates with not only skills in writing but with knowledge of new media skills such as streaming video, blogging and posting photography.