To Jeff Hinkelman, Video Collection Manager at Carnegie Mellon University Libraries, visual media connects everything. 'People who use the video collection come from all over the university. You'll see students and faculty from various disciplines, such as art, drama, humanities and social sciences, and the Libraries act as a way to connect these in an interdisciplinary manner.' Jeff also serves as Faculty Co-Advisor and Instructor for the Film and Visual Media Studies Minor, and has been instrumental in the creation of the newly formed Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies (BAFVM) being offered this fall.
'For me, visual media is extremely important,' Hinkleman said. 'We all carry devices in our pockets and we all receive information via a visual medium of some kind. It is how people communicate. It's embedded in everything that we do as a university. We are constantly processing it, so we don't think about how visual media influences us or how it works. Yet this is the way most of us get our notions of our political ideas, how history works and our ideas of what's appropriate or inappropriate culturally. It affects every aspect of our lives. So to me, one of the main goals of having a major is to encourage others to think about visual media and not only what it does for us but to us, and to be more aware of visual literacy in general.'
While the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences has offered a minor in film and media studies for many years through the Department of English, this is the first time a bachelor's degree has been introduced through the curriculum. The Bachelor of Arts in Film and Visual Media (BAFVM) offers a comprehensive look into both the theoretical and creative competencies of visual language, and can be taken as both a primary and additional major. The Video Collection, located on the second floor of Hunt Library, is a point of activity for the program. The collection houses nearly 18,000 titles for classroom use, and the room itself is home to various activities related to academic programs.
'I try to gather the students from the major and minor together about once a month,' Hinkelman said. 'We might watch and discuss a film from the collection, or we watch films we ourselves are making, which really helps, because we can show a work-in-progress, which gets others to collaborate. This way everyone knows one another and can participate in each other's projects. We've also held film contests, such as the one we held for the Libraries' Frankenstein celebration, which has been beneficial to students, not just as a way to gain experience, but also in building demo reels for graduate school applications. The prizes are usually film-related, including funds for sending the winning films to other national film festivals.'
As the program progresses, Jeff hopes to see value placed not only on theoretical concepts but with hands-on experience as well.
'I think the importance of the major is getting people to think about the way visual media works, and one of the best ways to do that is to make something. That way you are quickly disabused of any romantic or uncritical notions about how media is produced. Critical analysis is crucial, but having hands on experience helps to temper your understanding of both the limits and possibilities of visual literacy. You get your hands dirty and it changes your perspective on things.'