Major Donation Helps Bring New Media Innovation Lab To Life

January 3, 2022
Students working in media lab

A combination of university and donor support is giving students at SSU a leg up in breaking into the film and video production industry.

The Manitou Fund has donated $150,000 to the Communication and Media Studies Department (Coms).

That money is being used to help equip the newly opened Media Innovation Lab and support plans for a Cinematic Arts and Technology BA degree.

“Our students are excited beyond belief about the Manitou grant money,” said Coms Department chair Ed Beebout. “Some of this year’s graduates have even joked about staying on an extra year so that they can take full advantage of the new tools available to them.”

The Media Innovation Lab was completed in 2020, utilizing space in Salazar Hall previously occupied by the Tech High program. The university agreed to create the video production facility after Coms lost its original studio to the Stevenson remodeling project. But because of the Covid shutdown, students were unable to use the lab until this fall.

However, their return to campus came with a double dose of good news: not only was the Media Innovation Lab finally open, it was being outfitted with brand new equipment thanks to the Manitou Fund grant.

The production studio features green screens, an LED overhead lighting system, equipment to live stream programming, edit suites and an audio recording booth. In recent weeks, students have begun training on how to properly use the new equipment.

“It is thrilling to see our students familiarize themselves with the cutting-edge technology that is being used in the film industry right now,” said Hollis Robbins, dean of the school of Arts and Humanities.

Students are equally enthusiastic.

“This new equipment is essential for student success for those who plan on pursuing a career in video production,” said Mitchell Davis, co-general manager of the Studio Blue student media outlet.

“It gives us the real-world experience we need in order to be comfortable and prepared to get hired for a job. This puts us at an advantage because we are already familiar with the equipment when entering the film industry,” he said.

The other co-general manager, Dottie Aschwanden, agrees. She says the new studio space, combined with the Manitou Fund support, is a game changer.

“Student access to appropriate equipment is vital to student success because there is a greater chance of understanding how to properly utilize these tools. It is crucial for students to have up to date equipment to translate their skills to the film world,” she said.

The Manitou Fund grant will also support a visiting instructor specializing in audio production as well as student scholarships. Beebout believes this sets the stage for the successful launch of a newly proposed BA degree in Cinematic Arts and Technology, which he hopes will be approved by 2023.

“We want to become a desirable alternative to other impacted film and video production programs in California,” he said.