Lessons in adaptability

Sometimes the smallest things in life cause us to adapt and change directions in a big way. For Trey Caldwell it was a mere two-point margin that caused him not to pass the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test to follow the career paths of both his parents. Trey would have to wait another six months before re-taking the test, but rather than getting discouraged, Trey used this turning point to pause and consider what he wanted out of his career as he kept an open mind to new opportunities.

When Trey graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in graphic design he had no thoughts of graduate school. He intended to look for a job or go into the Air Force and possibly pursue information security. But he still had a strong interest in graphics that he hoped would be a part of his future career. Trey kept hearing great things about an Interactive Media Master’s Degree program at Elon University from friends, professors and alumni, so he chose to apply.

In the iMedia Program Trey is excited to pursue his passion for graphics and coding, and to learn more about working with animation and new technology. “It’s always good to keep your mind open and learn new things,” he said. By learning many skills rather than just one specialized skill, Trey knows he will be able to adapt in a rapidly changing career. “Media and technology are always adapting and changing so you have to learn how to adjust yourself with that,” he said.

Many of us have experienced these defining moments in life that determine which direction we will take based on the attitude we have towards failure and opportunity. It is a valuable lesson that recent college graduates and people in their 20’s especially must learn from experience. We learn to appreciate moments of failure as opportunities for pause and reflection, when we might discover something about ourselves we didn’t realize before, and head in a new and exciting direction.


Student Worker

It was May 31 when Nick Cook, 24, put on his engraved Elon name tag and tie for the last time before trading his weekly attire for an Elon baseball cap, pull over hoodie and sneakers.

Nick, a 2015 college graduate from the University of Elon, had just finished his last day of work as the assistant director of Admissions at Elon. He had been working at the office for the past two years before deciding that he wanted to pursue a masters degree through Elon’s Interactive Media program. With it now only being a few days away from the start of school, Nick has had to mentally prepare for the upcoming role transition. He now stands at a crossroads between being an active on-campus professional and a full-time student.

Nick explains that there has been a need to change his mindset to mentally prepare for his role as an Elon student. He admits that, at first, it feels “weird” not being in the office.

Nick Cook is one of many scholars who have had to transition between the role of a working professional and a student on campus. As colleges find more opportunities to offer their recent graduates on-campus jobs, there has been a growing mix of “student workers” that make up the alumni-network.

Several studies indicate that encouraging recent graduates to hold these duel-roles of student and on-campus professionals benefit the university tremendously. The biggest benefits of these role transitions being the promotion of student engagement, loyal alumni, and “work ready” graduates. With those benefits in mind, it is understandable why there have been more student workers like Nick.

Inspiration from duty

Jonathan Wilkinson, began his collegiate journey at the University of Chapel Hill. During his time there he felt like he had a higher calling in life, so he decided to join the army. Mr. Wilkinson served in the army for six years. Being stationed in Egypt in 2013 would open his eyes to a new path, and ignite his passion for social media and strategy. His mission started with just upholding the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt, but he knew and felt bone deep like there was more that could be done.

He arrived home from serving his country and decided to finish his bachelor’s degree in Greensboro, North Carolina. at Guilford College. As an undergrad, he studied history and philosophy. With the urge to serve his country still burning within, Mr. Wilkinson looked for a way to turn his passion to reality.

With little knowledge on how social media and strategy, the only thing left for Mr. Wilkinson to do is try and further educate himself. So he shopped around and found the Imedia program at Elon University. He felt like the program would give him the skills he needed to entry in a field where he can be passionate.

Mr. Wilkinson, accompanied by 14 classmates during his summer seminar, came into the interactive media program with different backgrounds, and the ambition to gain a toolbox of trades that can help further each student’s passionate interests in Imedia and more. Not one peer background the same in the imdea class of 2018, but each student is working to better themselves in order to further their career.

From student-athlete to graduate student

Jess Farmer, 23, walked through Elon’s mailroom in her basketball shirt and passed two current Elon basketball players. In that moment, it all hit her. Jess was no longer a student athlete at Elon University.

Jess, originally from Asheville, North Carolina, received a scholarship to play on the women’s basketball team at Elon. She graduated in 2016 and is now back on campus enrolled in the full-time 10-month Interactive Media graduate program. In the interim, she lived and worked in Durham.

Being a student athlete at Elon was a defining part of Jess’ undergraduate experience and returning to Elon as a graduate student has been a challenge. She’s trading locker room hangouts for late nights in the library and is reentering the classroom with a completely different mindset.

For Jess, no longer being a student athlete does have its benefits. It means not having to juggle a crazy schedule between classes, practices, and games, or being watched by her four coaches. Interactive Media will bring a different kind of crazy schedule and routine though, and Jess is looking forward to the challenge.

“I couldn’t imagine a better transition back to Elon,” she said, “While it’s been hard encompassing the student life and not the athletic life, my classmates in this program are going to become my new teammates.”

Like many other student athletes who graduate and enter the “real world,” moving into a new chapter has its ups and downs. Transitioning back to the institution she graduated from and leaving her athletic family behind has been difficult for Jess. But as she reflects on her time on the basketball team, she is excited that she gets to return to the campus she loves and looks forward to what lies ahead in the next 10 months.

The trials of going Graduate school and parenting.

Sarah Donahue wakes up every day at 6:30 to get ready before she prepares her two daughters for daycare.

After the one-hour drive from her house in Eden, she drops the children off in Burlington. She then heads to class at 9 a.m. at Elon University, where she is a graduate student in Interactive Media.

Later, after the long drive home, she does a myriad of tasks that include shopping for groceries, cooking dinner, and getting the house prepared to be put on the market.

After putting the girls to bed, she folds laundry while enjoying one of her favorite shows. On some days, it may not be until 8 or 9 p.m. until she can start her homework.

Donahue represents a large section of students across the country who are dealing with the hardships of being a parent while attending school. According to Donahue, nearly a quarter of students across the country are parents. There are limited resources to help parent-students, as only seven to nine percent of schools provide childcare.

Yet, Donahue is excited to return to class. Aside from the opportunity to improve her prospects in a difficult job market, she is glad to be in a social setting after finishing her undergraduate degree online while taking care of the kids.

There will be many long days for Donahue in the next 10 months. The next day she wakes up: Rinse. Wash. Study. Repeat.

From teacher to student

The 10 hour days were long but rewarding working with youth. Kyndall DySard, 22, has spent her summer working at the Wake Forest Boys & Girls Club in Wake Forest, North Carolina. She had worked at the club during summers since she was 15. She left her position and recently transitioned into being a full-time graduate student in the iMedia program at Elon University.

She was able to run some programs that included topics like yoga, diversity, financial health, creative thinking and problem solving. She became incredibly close with the club members and employees. “That’s a family” she says, even having a matching compass tattoo with a co-worker there.  

Although she will miss the close-knit community, she knows the iMedia program will pave her way for future success. Her talent lies more behind the scenes, “rather than molding the minds.”

DySard, like many other iMedia graduate students, is adjusting to student life at Elon. As the first week of classes draw to a close, many student find themselves settling into what will be a difficult but rewarding year.

Not in Bermuda anymore

Kaylin Skipwith imagines herself pacing back and forth with nerves for her upcoming graduate school boot camp next week.

Skipwith, 24, is worked up with anxieties and is trying to find ways to mentally prepare for the weeks to come. Skipwith obtained a Communications degree from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is now pursuing a graduate degree in Interactive Media at Elon University.

Skipwith has been working at a content marketing firm called PACE for two years and became quite comfortable with her routine in the office. Entering the school atmosphere is what she thinks will be most difficult for her to get used to. She claims she was in “lazy mode,” and was vacationing in Bermuda leading up to her seminars this week at Elon where she says, “I got a taste of what its like to be back in the classroom.” She recognized that this program was for her when she started her work at PACE and wanted to be more hands on in the work the company was doing. Skipwith adds,

“I noticed the opportunities and wanted to pursue this degree.”

Skipwith hopes to gain new skill sets and acquire more knowledge of the things that interest her most. Her interests range from graphic design, art, and doing video work. Skipwith is just concerned with as she puts it, “having to reprogram my brain for that lifestyle.” She has been doing some research to prepare herself for the iMedia program but still worries for the workload to come.

Skipwith, as well as many other students, realize that it takes a lot of hard work to be prepared for graduate school. It takes dedication, focus, attention to detail and lots of heart.

Back to school, again

Kendra Sharpe has only been a part of Elon’s Interactive Media program for one week, but she already has a good feeling about it. Like most people, Sharpe has had a few difficult jobs since graduating college. After earning a degree in English from the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 2014, she found herself working in a variety of fields.

Managing a thrift store in Greensboro, doing social media for the Charlotte Style Magazine, and being an office assistant at a law firm all came with their own set of trials and tribulations, one being “busy work that kills that creative spark in you.” Three years of not feeling appreciated can be draining for a person and that’s when Sharpe decided that enough was enough.

Switching between different professions gave Sharpe a wakeup call, one that most people don’t get until it’s too late.

“I don’t like to sit in an office and do work for someone else when I could be doing something for myself,” she said.

Like many others, taking the leap and going back to school — getting back into an academic routine — has been a blessing for Sharpe. “Getting back to this space opened my mind to new possibilities. It feels good to be around peers who have similar interests that can help you grow as a person and influence you to think differently.”

Unemployed Together

Amanda Travis packed up the car and started down the road from Durham, North Carolina for the start of the iMedia Master’s Program at Elon University.

Travis, 27, as excited as she was for the start of a new chapter, anxiety was also setting in.  Being employed throughout undergrad and working up to 60 hours postgraduate came to a halt, leaving her job and being unemployed for the first time in five years.  A new lifestyle was also put forth going from an apartment by herself with many perks to living with no washer and dryer, no dishwasher and a new roommate.

“Learning to adjust without amenities and the convenience of having it there was a big change in many ways.”

With the motivation to gain user experience design knowledge and the potential to fall in love with another media platforms covered in within the program, she knows this sacrifice is worth every penny.

Although Travis is adjusting to her new routine along with many others who have gathered from across the country for the iMedia Program.  She is focused on her future and knows this is a great opportunity and worth the unemployment, debt and the struggles that we will all tackle together.

Social media design: Making your cafe suitable for Instagram popularity

This article by Casey Newton on The Verge offers all of you design people a new twist.  It chronicles the ways that some new restaurants are designing their interiors and exteriors to become ‘Instagrammable.’

How better to draw customers than to go viral, right?

The Verge, by the way, is an online media site with big goals:

The Verge is an ambitious multimedia effort founded in 2011 to examine how technology will change life in the future for a massive mainstream audience.

Our original editorial insight was that technology had migrated from the far fringes of the culture to the absolute center as mobile technology created a new generation of digital consumers. Now, we live in a dazzling world of screens that has ushered in revolutions in media, transportation, and science. The future is arriving faster than ever.

Keep your eye on sites like these.

Story structure: Here’s a long-form example from Sports Illustrated

This poignant piece about how elite distance runner Gabriele Grunewald is coping with repeated instances of cancer offers a nice chance to study a piece of narrative writing that includes a non-chronologic structure.

It’s also just a real good story to read to appreciate Grunewald’s efforts — and what her resolve and her personal growth teaches us.

We mentioned in class that modern films often jump from one time period to another, not always in chronologic sequence.  In other words, they can switch time periods, from the present to the past and back to present — or more.

A good piece of writing can do this too, especially lengthier feature stories that follow the lives of people over time.  So here we see a nice story by longtime reporter Tim Layden that begins with a scene from the past, then moves forward to develop the main character’s story, then jumps back into the deeper past — and then finally ends with the runner’s outlook now.

As you read this, try following the structural turns.  This is primarily a narrative.  It begins with a key scene: The discovery.  When does the writer switch scenes?  When is he move into explanation to help us make sense of Grunewald’s story?  When does he slip us back into the past — and how does he bring us back?  Study.  This is how we learn.  First we study; then we try.

Notice, too, the amount of information Layden provides.  How many times did he interview Grunewald and others?  Where did he find the running stats? How does a media writer become well-enough informed about a rare type of cancer to report authoritatively?  How many years, do you suppose, did he observe Grunewald, knowing something of her battle, before he set out to write about her?

You may not want to become a feature writer for a magazine, but the fundamentals still apply.  (1) Find your idea, then (2) your angle. (3) Carry out lots of research. (4) Organize (map) your structure.  (5) Write a draft.  (6) Revise until it’s wonderful.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get.  And when you write stories like these about people like Gabriele Grunwald, well, it keeps you in touch with why we’re alive.  And perhaps it helps others to stay in touch.  I imagine Tim Layden wrote a few stories like this before he gained this high degree of command and artfulness.

It comes with informed, focused practice.

Some familiar magazines may be sold as Time Inc. balances priorities

Now that you’re weighing careers in the media industry, you should be paying attention to the owners and actors as the digital revolution continues.  To put it simply, it’s important to know who owns what — and where media companies are going.

As this piece in AdWeek reports, parent company Time Inc. is leaning toward selling a few well-known magazines as publishers shift their thinking — and investing — toward video production.  Why?  Well, partly because they expecting to find more growth in digital brands’re realizing that consumers will endure ads on video clips more than they’ll seek out ads on printed pages.

That said, we should note that Time owns a bunch of magazines and isn’t offering to sell some other favorites like People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Travel + Leisure.

Time Inc., of course, is always changing to adjust to markets.  It acquired both Southern Living and Sunset magazines about a decade ago.  Sunset is the West Coast version of this sort of lifestyle mag.  Developed by family-run Lane Publishing, it was a must-have on many living-room tables as I was growing up in California.  At issue: Will this genre last with its regional travel, food and home how-to-do-it articles?

You can follow industry news by bookmarking and reading sources like Adweek and Advertising Age, which cover media organizations as well as business that advertise with them.   And, of course, you can find many more sites.