News

April 19, 2010

College Approves New Major in Film and Media Studies

An interdisciplinary major in film and media studies gives students a new option to pursue in the creative arts at Lafayette.

The major was brought about due to increasing student demand and a diverse spread of new courses developed and offered by faculty in several academic disciplines. It is also a large step toward fulfilling the goal in Lafayette’s strategic plan of strengthening core programs in the creative arts and making the arts an essential feature of the College.

“The emphasis of the program is on integrating theory and practice–that is, connecting what goes on in the classroom to research and other ‘hands-on’ creative work outside,” says William Bissell, associate professor of anthropology and sociology and chair of the film and media studies committee.  ”There are many directions that this can take: internships, working on local or regional projects here in the Lehigh Valley, community-based initiatives — linking with, say, Technology Clinic — or gaining experience with film and media groups and projects in New York and Philadelphia. A key aspect of the program is to build links to film and media work both regionally, nationally, and even globally.”

The faculty recently approved the major and several new courses, including a special topics seminar, an integrated capstone course, independent study, and honors thesis. More courses are being developed. Students can declare the major starting with the incoming Class of 2014, and a minor starting with the Class of 2012.

The interdisciplinary program will focus on the history, theory, and practice of film and other forms of digital visual and audio media. It will build upon collaborations between departments already offering film and media courses, such as English and art, as well as upon less obvious collaborations that include American studies, anthropology and sociology, computer science, engineering, foreign languages and literatures, philosophy, music, and theater.

Award-winning, New York-based independent filmmaker and television producer Nandini Sikand has taken a new, tenure-track position with the program. She will join the faculty in the fall as an instructor of film and media studies with expertise in world cinema, South Asian film, and documentary filmmaking.

“Many of the problems or issues we confront are complex–cutting across different fields, demanding diverse approaches and the capacity to entertain different frameworks and methods,” says Bissell. “Interdisciplinary work raises issues about how we draw boundaries around our areas of research and then go about exploring them and proposing answers.”

This addition means the College now offers 33 fields of study in which students can receive a Bachelor of Arts degree and nine fields of science and four in engineering in which students can receive a Bachelor of Science degree.

Bissell also stressed that the new program will help draw more students focusing on the arts to Lafayette.

“This is going to dramatically enhance our offerings in ways that complement our existing strengths. I’m already fielding inquires from students in this incoming class, and the program is just getting started,” says Bissell. “We live in a media-saturated world, where critical media literacy and the capacity to move between different media platforms is absolutely an essential skill.  The program will bring students together from different fields ranging from arts to social sciences and engineering, serving as a model of inventive interdisciplinary collaboration.”

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