At Skidmore and Mercer County Community College, I have been fortunate to be able to work for and support three areas that I am deeply committed to: digital media, art, and interdisciplinarity in the liberal arts. As a scholar working in an emerging discipline I have always felt that it was my responsibility and privilege to work towards the deeper understanding of the digital media discipline within the larger college community. At both MCCC and Skidmore I have organized and participated in committees dealing with media and technology and visited classrooms and led workshops to introduce digital media to interested faculty, staff, and students. At Skidmore I have also had the opportunity to think about the broader discipline of art and how it functions in a diverse and multifaceted department. I have participated in many conversations about how to strengthen our curriculum, our major, and our community, and I have been humbled by the generosity, openness, and collaboration of the voices in the department. At Skidmore I have also been excited by the opportunity to work with others outside my department. As a graduate of a small liberal arts college and an interdisciplinary graduate art program, I deeply value the conversations I have had with scholars in other disciplines. At Skidmore I have been able to collaborate with faculty and staff across campus to work on pedagogy and innovation within the liberal arts.
Service to the Department
One of my most central roles in the Art Department has been the crafting of the Digital Media concentration. When I was hired there were several digital media classes but there was no sense of progression through the concentration. I have spent the past three years designing a set of classes that would offer my students both the breadth and depth of a concentration in digital media. Along with making these curricular changes, I have also redesigned the space of the digital media lab to support my students’ work. In my first year I changed the layout to create a separate viewing and discussion space that allows us to get away from the computers and do the equally important work of collaborating, critiquing, and discussing student work. I also had the walls lined with homasote to create a visual workspace for advanced students to show their process. In the past two years I have worked to upgradae the technology in the lab—I wrote several capital requests for digital equipment including projectors, scanners, printers, and computers that stay on pace with changes in the field and improve the experience of students as they create digital media work. I am also committed to making equipment available to all my students for their Senior Show projects; in order to make this possible I have purchased and assembled a wide range of screens, players, projectors, and cords and implemented a system for lending this equipment to students fairly and accessibly.
The strength of the Art Department lies in the connections between its faculty and our concentrations, and I have collaborated with many different colleagues within the department to strengthen those connections with the Digital Media discipline. This past year I worked with Robert ParkeHarrison to propose a reworking of the Digital Media and Photography labs. I collaborated with Deb Hall to institute a portfolio review for Digital Media and Communication Design students leading to their advanced studio work. I worked with several different faculty to hire a new technical assistant and to propose a new faculty position in Video for the Art Department. I collaborated with different faculty to design a survey for our alumni and create a video for a NASAD accreditation visit. I also led a workshop for Art Department faculty from different disciplines to create websites to show their own professional work. I am currently collaborating with two faculty to propose a co-taught interdisciplinary course.
Another important role I have played in the Art Department is as a member of the Curriculum Committee for the past two years. We have worked together to refine the new version of the major and make it more transparent for our students. After researching programs at peer and aspirant institutions, we introduced a new naming and numbering system that reflects the progression through a concentration and the continuity among concentrations within the major. We also worked on streamlining the exploration portion of our major and proposing new placement for several courses within the exploration. This past year we designed a framework for new course descriptions and an advising form with greater clarity. The Curriculum Committee has also led the department in two departmental retreats that I helped to plan, design programming, and facilitate discussions for.
I am also committed to being a member of the Art Department who helps by volunteering for shared work. I have represented the department at Accepted Candidates Day, Prospective Candidates Day, Convocation, and a High School Counselor’s Lunch. I helped hang student work in the annual art show in the Library. Each year I participate in the Senior Seminar meetings and have mentored the maximum number of senior majors in writing their reflective essays for the Senior Thesis Exhibition. As part of the Senior Seminar I led a short workshop for senior art majors to create websites for their digital portfolios. I have taught an FYE and currently have twenty-five advisees. I also provide technical support to the Schick Art Gallery when they showcase digital media artists and students by loaning equipment and helping to troubleshoot technical problems.
Service to the College
My arrival on campus was synchronous with the beginning of the three-year Project Vis Mellon grant. I was thrilled to be in an environment that was rich with opportunities to participate in visual and media education and service across the College. My background and experience dovetailed with many of the goals of the grant and I found myself drawn towards the work that was being done through Project Vis. I started my work as a participant in different professional development workshops including the GoPro Visual Storytelling Workshop, a workshop on Creating Visual Arguments, an Omeka Training Session, and the annual xLab Conference in New York City. These workshops led me to design and lead several workshops of my own for faculty, staff, and students under the auspices of the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative and Project Vis, including offerings on Web Design, Website Design and Structure, and Integrating Web Projects into Your Assignments. I also taught a 1-credit interdisciplinary course on Web Design through Project Vis in my second semester on campus. Another way that I participated in the grant was through my role as a member of the Visual Literacy Forum advisory board, the Media and Film Studies affiliate faculty, and the Harder Hall Design Group. In the Harder Hall Design Group, we worked together to research and design an innovative plan for a lab that had different options for teaching with technology. I have learned a great deal working with and collaborating with the faculty whose visions have defined the work of Project Vis.
The Tang Museum has been another catalyst for my collaborative and interdisciplinary service across campus. In my second year, I was part of the Tang Mellon Faculty Seminar. The trip to Dallas and subsequent conversations led to a curatorial collaboration with several faculty directed by Rachel Roe-Dale and Rachel Seligman. For this exhibition, Sixfold Symmetry, I selected work by the contemporary artist Thomas Bangsted and wrote an essay for the catalogue focused on the idea of pattern disruption and the destruction of identity. I have also worked with the Tang through my students. Tang visiting artists have visited my classes for critiques and I have held class at the Tang and arranged tours for my students with the curators. For the past two years my students have shown their work at the Tang Art Party, projecting large animations on the side of the museum and setting up a virtual reality experience in the courtyard. This summer I worked for two months with one of my students at the Tang as a Tang Summer Mellon Faculty Collaborative Research Fellow. We explored the Archiv collection by Joachim Schmid and created pieces that responded to the collection. The grids we developed and an interview between myself and my student will be featured in a new Tang publication Accelerate in October.
My interest in interdisciplinary collaboration has led to other opportunities to work with people across campus in different fields. I have participated in conversations about media, technology, pedagogy, innovation, entrepreneurship, and making on campus. Several of these conversations led to my participation in a group investigating the Digital Liberal Arts at Skidmore. As a group we talked with colleagues at other institutions, visited facilities at Middlebury College, and developed ideas for different approaches to research, teaching, and scholarship using digital tools. Some of these conversations have also led to pedagogical crossovers with faculty in different departments. I have guest-lectured or guest-critiqued in a number of colleagues’ courses, including Archival Storytelling, Science Communication, and Documentary Projects. I participated in Open Classroom Week as both and a host and visitor. I have coordinated collaborative student projects that connected Meg Estapa’s Geoscience students with my Digital Foundations students and Adam Tinkle’s Audio Documentary students with my Motion Graphics and Animation students, producing conversations and collaborations among students that cross disciplinary boundaries. Some of my most rewarding work at Skidmore has been mentoring students who are also interested in interdisciplinary study. In addition to the students I have mentored in my own department, I have mentored a New York Six Think Tank Fellow and advised two Self-Determined Major students.
In my third year at Skidmore I was offered the incredible opportunity to help lead the IdeaLab, an initiative that foregrounded interdisciplinary conversation within the larger dialogue around innovation, pedagogy, and making. In my second year on campus I participated in the preliminary conversations that shaped the IdeaLab Planning Grant proposal for the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. When we were awarded the grant Beau Breslin asked me to be the co-Primary Investigator on the grant with him. In our first year of the two-year grant we focused on three main areas: educating ourselves about background and implementation of makerspaces at other colleges, trying to map and learn more about the landscape of making at Skidmore, and proposing and supporting bold new forms of pedagogy at Skidmore.
One of the first things we did as the IdeaLab Steering Committee was attend The International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces at MIT. While we were there we met faculty at other colleges and learned how to create makerspaces, make them safe, and invite different communities to use them. We were so energized by what we learned at the conference that two members of the IdeaLab Steering Committee proposed creating an experimental makerspace on campus. Their proposal grew into a student-led class in the spring semester that designed and built a makerspace in one of the trailers on campus. We also spent the first year researching other institutions and how they have developed makerspaces and integrated them with innovative pedagogy. Our research led us to Hope Ginsburg, a faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University, who created a hybrid space called Sponge HQ and experimented with new and interdisciplinary ways of teaching in the space. We invited Hope Ginsburg to campus as a consultant and scheduled a variety of different conversations and interactions so that she could write a report about the current state of making at Skidmore and propose some directions for the future. Our research also led us to Smith College’s Design Thinking Initiative which we visited in the spring.
Another area of our research was to look inward at our own community—we talked with faculty, staff, and students to better understand the making that is already happening on campus. We started by planning several conversations with faculty and staff interested in makerspaces and the IdeaLab. We followed these conversations with a walking tour of the facilities on campus with the people who run spaces where faculty, staff, and students are makers. We also helped Beth Dupont facilitate a conversation among faculty currently working with three-dimensional printers, a central tool of makerspace work.
The third component of the grant focused on the creation and delivery of innovative pedagogy. We spent the fall researching and brainstorming types of learning experiences that were new to Skidmore. As a group we presented our ideas to the faculty and invited them to use our models or propose new models for learning experiences. We selected five proposals for courses that will be taught in the fall of 2017. A member of the Steering Committee became a mentor for each approved course, helping the faculty get the syllabus approved in Curriculum Committee, advertising and recruiting students, and supporting them as they delivered their new course. We also collaborated with the CLTL to host two conversations about innovative pedagogy for our new IdeaLab faculty and other interested faculty. The most meaningful part of this grant for me has been the conversations it has prompted with faculty across campus. In my role as co-PI I have had conversations with many faculty interested in proposing new ways of teaching, I have spoken with new faculty through the CLTL, and I have served as an outside faculty member on the Harder Chair Search in the Management and Business department.
Service to the Community
In several of my courses at MCCC my students worked with community partners including the Liberty Science Center, The New Jersey State Museum, and Autism Awareness, creating websites, short videos, and animations for them. One of my most significant achievements at MCCC was receiving the Resolution of Appreciation from the Board of Trustees at a board meeting in 2009. The resolution was inspired by a presentation that I had made at an earlier board meeting about the website my students had created for the New Jersey State Museum Planetarium. The educational website was composed of more than sixty pages that my students had researched, written, illustrated, animated, and coded for their Web Design III course. I have been looking for similar ways to work with the community in my courses at Skidmore. In the fall of 2016 I worked with an independent study student to create a website for the Sixfold Symmetry exhibition at the Tang Museum, and I would like to work with more digital media students to do this same type of work for the community.
In the fall of 2016 I taught a pop-up course responding to the 2016 election titled “What Now?” The idea for the course came out of an IdeaLab Steering Committee meeting and I worked with Ian Berry, Beau Breslin, and Corey Freeman-Gallant to make the course run in just under three days. There were many remarkable things about the course—it was a pop-up, it was student-led, it was enrolled in 45 minutes—but the most transformational element for me was that we invited the community to participate in the course. The first class meeting was a six-hour hack-a-thon hosted by the Tang Museum where more than a hundred people spent the morning discussing the election with facilitation by Sarah Goodwin and the afternoon organizing into groups around topics or ideas that we wanted to explore more. Over the course of the five-week class every week we had visitors from the faculty, staff, students, and the community—the furthest afield group of visitors was a group of students from Williams College. Standing in front of all of those people on the first day of that course was probably one of the most terrifying and rewarding moments in my teaching career. It is also a moment that stands out as a model for the work I would like to do in the future.