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Students in Elon’s Interactive Media master’s program receive degrees

After 10 months of nonstop work, hundreds of blog posts and a fair share of failures and successes, 32 students officially became Elon’s second graduating class in the Interactive Media’s masters program on May 19.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said 40-year-old Michael Sales as he waited outside Whitley Auditorium prior to the ceremony. “It’s been the fastest 10 months of my life. We had to learn at light speed.... but it was worth it.”

He was not the only one who felt that way.

“I started this program with one goal: to become a better designer and filmmaker when I leave – and I did,” said Michael Sales. He was one of 32 students who graduated from the iMedia program on May 19.

“Well, I have to be completely honest with you all,” said Caitlin Smith to her classmates before they crossed the stage to receive their diplomas. “I’m scared. I’m terrified that I’m going to wake up in a puddle of my own drool because I’m not really here and I’ve passed out asleep in the lab and this is just a dream.”

“But this is not a dream,” she continued. “We actually did it. We survived.”

Not only did they survive the past 10 months, but in the process became experts in what commencement speaker Matthew Polevoy referred to as the “brave new, world” that is the digital media landscape of today.

“Everyday I go to work... and use the skills and tools you’ve been trained on here,” said Polevoy, social media producer for CBS News. “You’re about to step into this world and help define what it’ll become.”

Polevoy, who graduated in 2006 from Emory University, said the digital shift the media world has experienced in recent years has torn down the walls of the old one-way communication model and forced it to not only interact with but also answer directly to those whom it serves.

“Call it the democratization of media, if you will,” he said.

Using examples from his career with CNN and now CBS, Polevoy said media networks are constantly looking for ways to provide users with real time information and interaction in the digital world. And because this world is changing and advancing every day, there are plenty of career opportunities, he said, adding that youth and ambition are valuable assets.

“The door has never been opened wider,” Polevoy said. “You’re at the right place, at the very right time… You, the Class of 2011, are going to be the ones to execute all of these big ideas.”

Throughout the ceremony, students were encouraged to be bold as they enter the next chapter of their professional lives.

“In the fields that we’re entering where innovation, new ideas and flat out gumption are the drivers of success we need to be ready to fail and fail often,” Smith said. “How we leverage failure into meaningful experiences is what determines our success.”

Smith drew cheers and applause from the audience when she jokingly said she had toyed with the idea of asking the iMedia faculty, who were sitting in the audience, to take some time after the ceremony to do what they as students had been asked to do countless times: “ Think about today’s event and just write a quick blog post synthesizing what you’ve learned while layering in, of course, your own thoughts and personal experiences.”

Instead of handing out the assignment, Smith thanked them on behalf of her peers for their guidance throughout the past year.

“Your support, your openness, your time, your patience and your encouragement have had a great impact,” she said. “You will never fully realize how much of an impact you’ve had on us.”

Throughout the ceremony, students were encouraged to be bold as they enter the next chapter of their professional lives.

During his charge to the graduating class, President Leo M. Lambert spoke to the students not only in his capacity as president but as the father of one of their peers.

“I have witnessed how hard you have worked and understand what an intense master’s program you have completed,” he said.

Lambert went on to encourage the students to not only take advantage of the opportunities their new careers will offer but also be mindful of the responsibility they now have to lend a hand to those less fortunate. He also encouraged them to be resilient regardless of the circumstances.

“The communications technologies that you’re experts in and advancing, have sent autocratic leaders packing, connected human beings in previously unimagined ways, forged new communities, social movements and forms of commerce,” he said. “Have faith always in the promise of new beginnings and new opportunities.”

Sales was ready to take on the challenge. After working in traditional media for 10 years, he said he realized his journalistic skills alone were not enough to have a successful career.

“I like to use a sport’s analogy: When the clock reaches zero, I don’t want to leave anything on the court,” Sales said. “I started this program with one goal: to become a better designer and filmmaker when I leave – and I did.”

Keren Rivas,
5/20/2011 12:48 PM