2016 Interactive Media master’s class charged to become 'change agents'
Angela Connor, an executive vice president at Capstrat, a leading strategic communications firm in Raleigh, shared her personal and professional insights with members of the Master of Interactive Media Class of 2016 during a May 19 graduation ceremony.
When Tyler Parrott ’15, one of 36 members of Elon University’s Master of Interactive Media Class of 2016, realized his parents were double-booked for May 19, the evening the program’s graduation ceremony, he told them to skip the pomp-and-circumstance celebration.
Parrott insisted his parents attend his younger brother’s high school senior dinner because those memories can’t be relived. On the other hand, his Interactive Media Commencement could be. At least virtually.
To make this happen, Parrott mounted a GoPro 360-degree virtual reality system—a device with six cameras simultaneously recording—between himself and fellow graduate Tereza Novotna, capturing the ceremony’s speakers, audience members and memories in every direction. Coincidentally, Parrott’s capstone thesis project focused on 360 virtual realty experiences, and Professor David Copeland had actually asked him to record the ceremony before his parents’ scheduling issue arose.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a final video where it feels like you are sitting there with the graduates,” Parrott said. “Obviously, it now seems pretty fitting that I get to use the same technology I used for my capstone for Commencement.”
Much like Parrott has embraced 360-degree production, a new, developing medium, Commencement speaker Angela Connor charged the entire Interactive Media class to became change agents during her keynote address in Whitley Auditorium.
“We are in the middle of an industry earthquake,” said Connor, an executive vice president of media and audience engagement at Capstrat. “The iMedia program is a product of that earthquake. Created out of necessity so that people like you could acquire the skills needed to compete in this highly fragmented, ever-evolving media environment we live in today.”
During her address, Connor, a member of the School of Communications Advisory Board, encouraged the iMedia graduates to embrace change and emerging technologies, noting that individuals, “the learned,” as she called them, who oppose change often fall by the wayside.
Drawing from her own professional experiences, Connor recalled how it now seems absurd that her one-time newspaper supervisors openly mocked a visually unappealing website invading their advertising monopoly. The website? Craigslist. “But you, Elon iMedia Class of 2016, are learners,” Connor said. “Your program is all about growth and change. You’re ready. I’ve seen your work. I’ve seen your work ethic. And you are going to go out there, stay current, keep learning and shake things up.”
How does one thrive in an industry where profound change is the norm? “It’s simple,” she said. “You become a change agent.”
Besides Connor, the graduate candidates also heard from classmate Hunter Barnhardt, selected by the class to represent them during the ceremony.
Barnhardt opened by reading a series of inspiring texts. The first was a closing excerpt from “Walden,” a book penned by noted transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. The passage touched on the idea of transitions. Barnhardt then, amusingly, highlighted a “great Twitter philosopher,” also known as Assistant Professor Brian Walsh. Three of the communications professor’s pop culture references were then shared, drawing laughs from those in attendance.
In their own ways, the two authors provided insight and inspiration, which were surely needed at times during the program’s intense 10 months, Barnhardt explained. In addition to his iMedia professors, his classmates also gave him strength and direction along the way. “We are all invested in the personal growth of each other,” he said. “Turning to each other is ultimately how we were able to succeed.”
While their new technical skills will make them employable, Barnhardt noted the program’s “true value is the knowledge the class has received.”
“We graduate with resilience, tenacity and imagination,” he added. “We know what we know and what we don’t. And we know where to go for answers.”
Elon President Leo M. Lambert, too, challenged the class to stay connected, especially to their new alma mater. “As you prepare for the next chapter of your lives, I hope you will think of yourselves as lifelong members of the Elon family and full partners in the future success of this graduate program, the School of Communications and Elon University,” he said. “We need your great ideas and leadership here as we plan the next chapters of Elon’s exciting history.”
Since arriving on campus last summer, iMedia graduate Tarah Holland explained she’s felt an immediate connection to the Elon campus, receiving both the technical skills and personal support she desired.
“From day one, it has been everything that I hoped it would be. I came here to obtain Web development skills, and I received so much more,” she said. “I definitely feel a part of the Elon family here. That is something I will miss. I will miss being on campus, under the oaks. The spirit of being a Phoenix is something I’ve really embraced. I know can rely on Elon, even after graduation.”