Posted by Diane Gayeski at 5:30PM   |  Add a comment
students attending media conference

Are you thinking about joining the Park School as a student, professor, or staff member? There are many aspects of our school of communications that are similar to other reputable media education programs across the nation.  We have great faculty and staff who are talented and enthusiastic about sharing their expertise with students. We have millions of dollars of wonderful equipment. Our curriculum changes every year. And our students get jobs when they graduate.

But other aspects are quite different from those other schools that you'll see listed as "top film schools" or "top journalism schools". Here are the top 5 differences:

  1. We're singularly focused on undergraduate students.  While we have 2 "boutique" master's degrees, they are designed so as not to draw away any faculty or equipment resources from our undergrads. Our students are taught by our senior professors and have access - from day one -- to all of our fabulous facilities, mentoring from alumni, and funding from scholarships and internal grants. And our faculty - while maintaining national profiles as researchers, writers, producers, and consultants, are selected and rewarded by their success in teaching undergraduates.
  2. Students dive into their major from day one.  They choose one of 10 degree programs in the Park School when they apply, and they start taking courses in their majors from their very first semester.  Those courses build important professional and critical thinking skills AND introduce students to careers and essential professional skills in their majors.  When students graduate with a Park degree, they have exceptional depth in their chosen area because their curriculum is targeted specifically to what they intend to do. In fact, in many cases, our juniors and seniors are taking classes that are similar to those taught at a graduate level at other institutions.
  3. Learning is carefully engineered through both courses and co-curricular activities.  Each of these brings distinct opportunities and builds different skill sets, behavior patterns, and experiences.  Our classes provide exceptional learning environments and each student is assured of attaining important learning outcomes through their required classes.  But being an A student is not enough to be successful in the communications industry.  That's where co-curricular activities come in.  Through our student media (ICTV, WICB-FM, VIC Radio, The Ithacan, The Studio, Park Design House, and Park Productions) our students have opportunities to take the initiative in something that is NOT required as part of a class - but rather is driven by their own talents and inspiration. They often attend conferences and frequently pick up awards for their exceptional productions.

    Each of the student media outlets is mentored by a full time advisor who doesn't have the obligations associated with a faculty member such as research, committee work, etc.  These advisors are experienced professionals who work full-time in guiding our students - but it's the students who are the station managers, the editors, the media designers, the reporters, and who not only produce media work - but are executives.  This magical blend gives our students competence as well as confidence because they can practice what they learn in class in an environment that's close to the "real world" but has more opportunities for innovation than the actual workplace. 

    Students get positions in these media outlets based on their abilities and potential as judged by their peers - not by what year they are in school or what class they are taking.  This is the way it works in the industry... so it teaches our students to discover and articulate their talents and to work outside of just the requirements of the curriculum. Our students come out with a strong work ethic and an ability to work well in teams.

    Many students study off-campus for one or more semesters-- at our programs in London, NYC, and Los Angeles as well as many study abroad programs. Full-time internships are a required part of the NYC and LA programs, so our students get the experience of living in those big cities and working as a full time contributor to important projects. They're able to do this because by the time they go as juniors or seniors, they've had experience in our student media and probably have a couple of internships under their belts.

  4. Having more majors under one roof gives students the bigger picture and more opportunities to explore fields of study.  In big universities, our photography courses would be in the art department, integrated marketing communications would be in the business school, journalism might be its own school, communication management and design might be one class in a speech department or taught only at the graduate level, film might either be its own production-oriented school or an off-shoot of literature, and television might be a part of social sciences curriculum.   While all of these are part of the communications industry and collaboration among them is integral, students would never have any exposure to related areas and never meet peers who have complimentary expertise.

    At a small liberal arts college, there might be just one communications degree that offers 1 very superficial course in each of these areas, obviously not preparing students to function as experienced professionals in each career area such as journalism or screenwriting or advertising or new media design.

    Our students have the advantage of both focusing in their own major and being in one building that encompasses the entire range of communications as an academic discipline and as a professional field.  Once you're in the Park School, it's easy to explore new areas.  First year students in Integrated marketing communications often work on films with their peers in cinema.  Emerging media majors have shifts on our radio stations, doing news or just playing music they enjoy -- or even developing the station's website.  You don't need to be a journalism major to work on the newspaper or a TVR major to produce an ICTV show.

    Our signature freshman class, "S'Park" gives all students an overview of the myriad facets of the industry - hearing from alumni what their jobs are like and learning about opportunities they've never considered -- maybe crisis management or event planning or experiential marketing or audience research.  If students find that they are interested in a new area, they can add classes or a minor, or even switch majors within the Park School - just with a simple online change of major form.
  5. All of these mean that our students make better decisions more quickly.  We tell them "fail fast".. it's as important to find out what you don't want to do as it is to identify what you think you might enjoy.   Many first year students shadow professionals during their winter break and get paid internships their first summer.  They learn what it's like to work as a professional in the field they think they want - and they find out early on how they stack up against other talented peers, and if they enjoy the lifestyle and requirements of that aspect of the industry.  If a student in journalism finds out she doesn't like the late hours of a TV newscaster or a freshman cinema major realizes that he wants a more steady job than going from film gig to film gig, they can change directions early on.  Some students come in thinking that they are not "technical" but find out that they are great with media production equipment and software.  Our students don't wait until their senior year to find out if they are good at -- or more importantly, enjoy a certain profession.

    Our students leave not only with a job-- but with a great career path ahead.  They know what they love, and they have the resume to prove it.  They are confident and well-connected and polished.  They not only know facts and hands-on skills, they know how the industry works and what they can do to improve it. Overall - they are happy and secure and thoughtful citizens in our big, complex world.  They've had four years to explore deeply not just the professional skills but also to engage in critical analysis of their subject  -- and have a broad liberal arts background so that they can fully enjoy life's opportunities.

Bottom line: we are a community that values passion, innovation, hard work, critical inquiry, and talent.  We take our first-year students seriously as young professionals. They engage in real work and real issues and are given remarkable opportunity and responsibility.  It's not unusual to see a student producer fill several cars worth of hundreds of thousands of dollars of video gear to produce her documentary.  The student who is general manager of ICTV has more than 300 other students 'reporting' to him.  Professors routinely take students on shoots that wind up on national network news ... and it's the students' footage that's on the air.

I'm really proud of the school - it takes guts to give young students these kinds of challenges and responsibilities and it takes courage and drive for them to really engage in the buffet of opportunities we lay out for them.

Posted by Diane Gayeski at 12:11PM   |  Add a comment
Park student wins a College TV award

Great news- we just learned that the Park School is included once again in Hollywood Reporter's Top Film 25 Schools.  We're so proud - of course - but it's even more interesting because we are not just a "film school".   In fact, the Radio Television Digital News Association voted us as a top 20 journalism school.  Variety magazine has named five of our seniors to its 110 Students to Watch list.  The Princeton Review named WICB the number 1 campus radio station. The national Alliance for Community Media gave ICTV's Newswatch 16 and the ICTV website awards for excellence  - competing against hundreds of other student and professional media outlets.  The Ithacan regularly is awarded the Golden Crown - the highest award - by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and in 2015 we earned it for the best combined print and digital newspaper. 

We have 8 (soon to be 9) undergraduate majors and 2 (soon to be 3) graduate majors - that teach subject matter and approaches that in other colleges and universities are found within schools or departments of:

  • art (photography and graphic design/layout)
  • business  (integrated marketing communications and corporate communications)
  • journalism  (journalism and documentary studies)
  • humanities / writing  (our forthcoming BFA in writing for film, television and emerging media)
  • entertainment media (television-radio)
  • film (B.S. and BFA in cinema-photography)
  • education (communication management & design)
  • computer science (emerging media)

I like to say that we have more "under one roof" at the undergraduate level than any other communications school -- and that's more important than ever.  In today's communications landscape, the young people who succeed are going into jobs that didn't exist a few years ago and that they literally are inventing -  sometimes starting at the job interview itself.  And employers are looking for young talent who can tolerate ambiguity  - who understand that not everything fits into neat little boxes and who can see the big picture of the media system and how it fits into contemporary society.

Here in the Park School, our students enter their major from day one-- but they are also encouraged to get involved with related disciplines either by taking courses, enrolling in a minor, or participating in student media such as ICTV, The Ithacan, Park Productions, our two radio stations, and The Studio. 

My teaching assistant last year was an integrated marketing communications major and a TV-Radio minor - but she is also an accomplished photographer and got to work on Spiderman because she developed great film production skills by volunteering on film shoots for students in cinema.  Here's how she described her internship in London:

Creative Intern - Video


(5 months)London, United Kingdom

Produce branded video and photo content for social and digital campaigns working closely with the creative, editorial, and marketing teams. Responsibilities include producing monthly videos which includes writing, shooting, and editing for online release while strategically integrating products and maintaining consistent brand voice through content. Includes maintenance of production budget and dealing externally with rental houses, insurance brokers, and location rental for shoots.

She spent a semester at IC's London Center and a semester at ICNYC -- so she had the best of living in a bucolic college town and living in two major world cities. On campus, she was totally immersed in courses, clubs, and being a teaching assistant in a variety of courses that had her interacting with top media professionals.  But when she was in London and NYC she was finding her own apartments and living as a communications professional in a big city - fully engaged in her internships and taking a few courses that fit around her work schedule. She had paid jobs and internships - but also created her own private social media tutoring consulting practice.

Other students come to college and can't decide which of several passions and talents to pursue.  We don't force you to choose here-- we encourage you to put them together in distinctive ways.  A passion for NASCAR, a curiosity for sociology, and the talent for marketing and promotional media: that's Jusan. Want to combine your dream of promoting social justice with your creative media talents? Meet Jeremy. Are you concerned about the future of the planet and want to combine environmental studies with the skills of a journalist? Meet Kacey.  Are you intrigued by courses such as African American Popular Music and Sociology of Sexualities and want to use that knowledge to give a voice to underrepresented minorities in the media? That's what Christina did. And maybe you never, ever want to work for anybody - entrepreneurship is in your blood.  Meet Mike who was a triple major in TV-Radio, Computer Science and Business and who started his own "product studio" right out of school.

So - you can have it all - a focused major but a broad set of communications skills within the context of a liberal arts education.  Living among waterfalls and college-town hangouts while also experiencing the world.  We will position you to get a job-- you'll have the skills, alumni and professional connections, and savvy to get employed.  But you won't be job-scared-- you'll learn how to be an entrepreneur and thrive as a freelancer because this is the economy of the future.  Don't settle.

Posted by Diane Gayeski at 5:38PM   |  Add a comment
Students interning at our Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival

The deluge of demands on higher education to prepare students for careers has left a wake of various responses - primarily changes in curriculum and more emphasis on testing and assessment of outcomes - to try to engineer skills that match current job requirements. But by focusing just on on content,  they're missing the most important key to career success-- confidence.  Unlike most other colleges, we intentionally engineer confidence here at the Park School.

We all know that skills and facts become obsolete and that  knowledge alone doesn't land the job.  On the other hand, there's a great deal of research that shows that confidence may be the most important ingredient in getting a job and rising up the corporate ladder.  Perhaps nowhere is this statement better proven than in the studies that demonstrate why women don't get as far as similarly educated and competent men.  For example, a recent article entitled The Confidence Gap cites a number of studies that prove that confidence-- even over-confidence-- is what separates out highly successful leaders from their peers.

The sad part of this story is that higher education, for the most part, doesn't concentrate on teaching confidence.  None of the assessment measures that are required by accrediting agencies look at this factor, either.  In fact, a lot of education actually stifles confidence.  John Taylor Gatto, the 1991 teacher of the year, argues in his essay The 7-lesson Schoolteacher that school really teaches confusion, indifference, class position, intellectual and emotional dependency, provision self-esteem, and that one can't hide.  While Gatto speaks of K-12 education, the same lessons are often the big take-aways in college classes.  Too many professors are selected and promoted on the basis of their huge list of publications - matched only by their huge egos.  Some enjoy putting students in their place,  and consciously or unconsciously make them unsure of performance standards.  Their students are beholden to them for the grades that will impact whether they get that prized internship, qualify for a scholarship (or even to stay in school), or make it into graduate school. And too often, students have no other measure of how well they're actually doing other than their grades.

Here's how we engineer confidence: Opportunities to give students authority and responsibility early on in their academic careers push them into situations where they will inevitably test their own capabilities.  This also lets them see that their faculty and administration trust them.  For example, here at the Park School of Communications, we check out about $25 million of portable production equipment to undergraduates each year - and we entrust them to manage our cable TV channel and FCC licensed FM radio station.  Our station managers wind up leading 300 other student volunteers to execute programming that is accessible to the world - and accountable to the FCC.   Even if they don't wind up managing radio or TV stations, these student media execs know how to lead teams, manage projects, motivate and provide feedback to subordinates, and run meetings. 

Pushing students to interact with experts, even if they don't fully feel capable of engaging with them, allows them to learn how to network and use the language of their profession. I teach a freshman class called S'Park  where we Skype in leading industry professionals and students are required to live Tweet and to actually ask questions and share their opinions with our alums, including Bob Iger '73 (Disney CEO) and David Muir '95 (ABC news anchor).  We tell the students they are not "kids", they are young professionals - and they immediately begin acting that way.

 Providing opportunities to become independent and live in unfamiliar situations while still having a familiar structure allows them (and their parents) to choose options that otherwise would be too risky.  Our centers in Los Angeles and New York City allow our students to intern full-time while still checking in to take 2 classes and being mentored by their faculty and staff.  And working side by side with professors and staff on real projects allows them to see themselves as agents of change and as capable - while still being scaffolded by their mentors who are teaching important concepts while also doing a job.   Many of our students serve as crew for faculty documentaries or for productions done by our professional production unit, and many classes at Ithaca College work for clients in the community  writing grants, creating websites, or helping to teach kids.  

When choosing colleges, prospective students and their families should ask not just about job placement, what kinds of equipment or facilities are available, how famous the professors are, or even the college's ranking.  What's most important is whether a student will feel more confident having experienced life in and out of the classroom .  Being overwhelmed  by the size or the culture of the institution will clearly be a step in the wrong direction.  But so will being a truly huge fish in an overly small pond - while a student may succeed, she will accurately perceive that success there is not indicative of success among a more representative group of peers in the profession of choice.

Students need opportunities to test their own mettle, to lead others, to accurately see how they stack up against talented and motivated peers, and to find the niche where they feel comfortable and confident.  They need just the right amount of sheltering and hand-holding.  That's why we focus as much on developing and measuring confidence as  on measuring the acquisition of facts and skills.

Posted by Diane Gayeski at 3:59PM   |  Add a comment
Professor Gossa Tsegaye and students on a shoot

There are lots of ways to earn a college degree these days - and the price tag varies more than ten-fold depending on the choice.  Community colleges offer a great value for vocational and basic liberal arts classes-- and for most students, they can live at home which counts as additional savings.  State universities, even with their government support dwindling, are still quite affordable.  Proprietary schools offer laser-focused and fast-track training that can demonstrate concrete job skills and leads.  And online options such as MOOCS can allow the motivated to be independent learners, exposed to some of the best minds in the world without paying a dime.

And then there are the expensive, elite private colleges like Ithaca College. The bill for four years of this experience is easily a quarter of a million dollars.  The conventional wisdom regarding private schools is that it's where rich kids -- and the token few exceptionally bright scholarship recipients -- meet their mates and future business partners who come from similar backgrounds. "It's not about what you know but who you know", people say.  I don't underestimate the partial truth or the worth of that.  But if this is all it's about, parents could just give their kids memberships to a few country clubs take off on some expensive vacations hoping to meet the right people who will hire (or marry) little Johnny and Susie.

I do believe that connections are what an elite private college education is all about -- but  its more than social networking.

A four year residential college education helps students connect the dots.  It's not just about marching through a Chinese menu of courses in various distribution categories, checking off requirements.  In the best schools, there are many ways in which students learn to connect ideas and leverage divergent ways of thinking and solving problems.  For example, in fall '13 we're launching an integrated core curriculum through which students take four courses in different disciplines on a particular theme such as sustainability or mind, body and spirit and create an e-portfolio showing how they've synthesized tools, techniques, and ideas to solve problems.  At small colleges, it's much easier and more likely that students get involved in clubs and leadership opportunities where they put learning into practice.  And just living in dorms -- especially where there are trained staff and resident assistants and even faculty associates - provides a rich opportunity for experiential learning.

In elite colleges, classes are small.  Students are individually known to professors and to their peers.  This forms a support group, and provides opportunities for role modeling not found in huge lecture halls.  Students find their own voice-- they're called on and forced to take a stand and articulate their thoughts.  Other students are also talented and motivated -- they're not just rich kids but rather today in elite colleges they are more likely characterized by their drive than their parents' tax return.

Finally, smaller colleges that have strong reputations have similarly robust alumni relationships.  People are proud to have graduated from their institution and find it an honor to come back to speak and network with students. We just counted up the Park School alums who have been involved in various classes, contests, and special events just this fall and they number more than 70.   The common bond of having studied at the same campus or even with the same professor is a huge advantage when students are looking for internships or jobs with alums.  We hear from decades of communications students that saying "I'm from Ithaca" has opened many door -- and hearts.

In this crazy world of information overload, rapid change, and uncertain economies, the only thing that sets people apart is their ability to make all kinds of connections -- otherwise everything is just random.  Those connections are what make us human --- and make us more valuable as colleagues, citizens, mates, and parents. 

If you're considering coming to the Park School - don't underestimate the value of connections.  And if you're already here-- make the most of this precious commodity.

Posted by Diane Gayeski at 11:20AM   |  Add a comment
David Muir and Diane Sawyer Skype with freshmen in S'Park class

What's the role of colleges in preparing students for jobs?  The debate rages on among university leaders, politicians, and journalists.  Articles like this one by our own alum Jeff Selingo (VP of the Chronicle of Higher Education) summarize the conversation around this topic that focuses on the relative merits of a general liberal arts education vs. specific technical job preparation and the return-on-investment of a college degree. 

The Park School has been known for decades as a place that blends professional training with a broad liberal arts foundation -- and often minors in other subjects and langauges.  Selingo's article helps us focus on thinking about the kinds of attributes and behaviors that mark successful employees as they continue their careers -- sometimes far beyond particular skills they learned which might be obsolete in a few years.  Those include teamwork, critical thinking, reasoning, clear writing and speaking, and problem-solving.  Our Park students excel at these, not only because of their class experiences, but because so many take advantage of opportunities with our student media such as ICTV, WICB, and the Ithacan. But how do new grads demonstrate those competencies, and how do they get a foot in the door in this competitive global environment? 

The process that human resources offices and hiring managers used a decade ago are quite different today - and many of the changes are due to technology and social media.  So ... allow me to share some challenges, lessons, and some examples of how I'm trying to help our students ready themselves for the job hunt, starting on day one.

Challenge: The resume-reading robot
Yesterday's method of filling jobs was to place ads in a few newspapers, receive a few resumes, have somebody from HR screen them, and then let a hiring manager interview the most promising ones. Today's system is quite different.  Jobs are listed on multiple internet sites and thousands of resumes flood in.  HR staff use automated software like  the Resumator to look for key words and sort the wheat from the chaff. 
Lesson: Write like a search engine thinks
Resume robots obviously search out key words, so when students prepare resumes, they need to know the current, hot terms and names for processes, initiatives, and software that matter to employers.  For example, my communications students who want to go into video editing need to be able to list the software they've learned and they also need to know the terms used for the commercial editing processes, like "workflow".   Students going into organizational communication need to pepper their resumes with concepts they've learned such as Lean Six Sigma and employee engagement.  They pick up this "insider" language not just from textbooks, but from interacting with alumni and professionals who come in to do guest presentations, mini-courses, and workshops -- and also in internships.

Challenge: Conveying your personality on the screen
Once you do get a real person to read your resume, you've got to somehow stand out in the crowd. Many online job systems limit the kinds of file and the formatting of documents that you can submit.  But even though most young people in the job market now have their own website or blog where they post information about themselves, it can be difficult to stand out among all of these.
Lesson: Use multimedia tools
Until you get that big chance to meet in person, there are a number of multimedia tools that can give potential employers a glimpse of how you present yourself  and, if it's relevant, examples of your creative work.  Our students learn to create websites and blogs where they upload pictures, videos, and presentations, as recommended by Kyle Lagunas of Software Advice in this article.

At the Park School, all of our freshman students begin creating an e-portfolio in a first required course, S'Park.  This is where they develop and continually tweak a personal essay that describes their unique experiences and perspectives (such as travel, volunteer or leadership activities, minors, languages spoken, etc.)  The e-portfolio supports multimedia documents, so students often upload presentations, videos, still pictures, and examples of papers and creative media projects.  Even a highly praised final paper in a philosophy course is a valuable "artifact" to include: while it might not relate to your major, it can show your writing and research abilities along with adding depth to whatever you did study as a major.

Challenge: Doing a makeover of your college social media presence
Most companies will check out a candidate's FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts before hiring, or even before interviewing.  Obviously, the kinds of pictures and comments that made you the life of the party at school are not going to be similarly impressive to future employers.  On the other hand, somebody with no social media presence doesn't appear to grasp the power of these tools.
Lesson: Weed out your social media sites, and start getting connected with the right folks
Our S'Park class features alums and other industry leaders who come in person or via Skype to provide their perspectives and advice.  The course is taught in an auditorium with about 180 students, and they all need to Tweet live during the entire class.  The purpose of the Twitter feed is twofold:
1) It allows the students to assemble "group notes" so they gradually learn from each other how to tease out the important lessons in a guest speaker's presentation.  They can also ask questions of the guest speaker this way or post links to relevant sites about the presenter.
2) It forces students to begin a Twitter account that they use to present themselves professionally. Once they create an account, they often follow guest speakers and other industry luminaries, who will then follow their feed.  From freshman year, our students begin sharing their voice with other professionals, getting a head start at being a regular contributor to the dialogue in our field. 

Challenge: Knowing whom to talk with and how to network
College students are accustomed to communicating with their friends via text messages and FaceBook.  They may have shaky interpersonal skills and they also may not know how to start meeting other professionals. 
Lesson: start at home
It's tough to make inroads with potential employers and often sources of good leads are totally overwhelmed with employment-related requests. A recent article suggests people to contact both before and after graduation.  This article suggests often-forgotten people close to you like your friends' parents, your parents' friends, professors, and former guest speakers. We make many of those connections right here for our students. We're lucky that so many of our students' parents and friends are in the industry, and we often invite them here (live or via Skype) to speak with students, or we take our students on field trips to visit them.

Being successful in today's job market means embracing new and old techniques.  For college students, the message is to start early crafting a compelling image, saving examples of your work, learning multimedia tools, and expanding your network.  This may be news to other colleges -- but fortunately it's the tradition at the Park School.

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