When Maggie McClain finished shooting footage for her class, Video Production 402, last December, she had 15 hours of film editing ahead of her in the Media Studies Lab. Last year this junior from Basking Ridge, N.J., would have done the work on old equipment in the basement of O’Boyle Hall, where the lab is located. This year McClain could edit digital images with Final Cut Pro and other cutting-edge software on a powerful new Macintosh G-5 computer. When she needed a break she could chat with fellow students in the lab’s brand-new lounge area with its comfy chairs.
“The Media Studies Lab is definitely on the way up,” McClain says.
“Before, the media lab was one of the most outdated places on campus. It was flooded more than once and we used to blow fuses routinely because we were so short on power,” says the lab director, Abby Moser. But last summer, with funds provided by the School of Arts and Sciences, the space was reconfigured, rewired and transformed.
CUA subdivided the space into a student lounge, a “cage” where students can check out cameras and other equipment, and a teaching area. The teaching area includes several G-5 computers and a smart classroom system that enables instructors to display their own or a student’s work on a large screen in front of the class.
“Our students work hard. Some of them practically live in this lab,” says Associate Professor Steve McKenna, acting director of the Media Studies Program, explaining the need for the renovation. There are 130 students majoring in Media Studies, making it one of the largest and most popular programs on campus. While the program emphasizes media history and theory rather than the production end of the subject, there are still 25 students concentrating in media production and many more who take media production courses.
Paul Zolandz, a senior vocal performance major from Wilmington, Del., is taking his first course in media studies this year and is producing a documentary on Martha’s Table, a local charity that provides meals to needy children. He had already done summer work in video production and is using Media Production 402 to round out his experience.
The video production skills Maggie McClain gained during the fall semester helped her secure an internship with the television program “The McLaughlin Group” this semester. CUA’s media studies students routinely nab some of the most prestigious internships around, including positions at the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Television, NBC and CBS.
One of the guiding lights behind the new Media Studies Lab was the late Facundo Montenegro, an assistant professor of media studies and a documentary filmmaker who died Dec. 12, 2005. Shortly before he passed away, he spoke about the new facilities: “We now have a lab on par with any production lab. The computers are much better. We have a unified software platform and the room is much more welcoming now.”
What was important to Montenegro was using the facilities to further the school’s mission. “I’m talking about social documentary and social justice, going to the community and building bridges, learning through service — not just going in there and putting in hours, but having students open their minds to a part of D.C. they may not have known before.” With the new Media Studies Lab, students have a place to do that even better than before. – A.C.
Back to top