iMedia Students Brave New World

The sixth class in Elon's Interactive Media program features 30 students who are preparing to lead the charge into a new multimedia world. The cohort will take classes together for the next year and graduate with a master's degree in May. Please read the brief bios they all provided so that you can get to know them better.

Martina Allen was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia. As a 2013 magna cum laude graduate of Savannah State University, Martina developed a passion for television while serving as student executive producer of Savannah State’s WSSU-TV. Martina is ecstatic to become a new member of the iMedia program and hopes to gain more insight into her craft of video production and website management in order to pursue her desire of becoming a digital reporter.


Tyler Ballentine was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. From a very early age, he developed an interest in technology and storytelling. Originally hoping to work on the media team at his local church, he studied Media Ministry at North Greenville University. After graduating from North Greenville, Tyler decided to expand his knowledge and skill set with Elon University’s iMedia Program. Tyler hopes to use this experience to find a creative workplace where he can continue to learn and grow.

Gary Barber was born in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating with a BFA in Visual Communication from the University of Kansas, Gary moved to New York City, where he spent the next several years working as an illustrator and designer. He worked mostly in the advertising world and finally started working in fashion as senior designer at Liz Claiborne until he resigned to work full time as a minister, planting churches and developing ministries. Gary has been to Africa and Central America, helping to develop sustainable strategies to supply their needs. He is married and has two children, 12 and 9.

Drayton Beebe, from Charlotte, North Carolina, graduated from Elon University in 2014 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a minor in Digital Art. As an undergrad at Elon, Drayton was able to take advantage of many study abroad opportunities, including a semester in London and a month in Ghana. It was through these experiences that her love of travel and appreciation for sustainability grew. Drayton looks forward to broadening her knowledge of digital design through the iMedia program. She hopes to gain experience with this program, so she can combine her love for creativity, travel and sustainability.

Brandon Booker is a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In the spring of 2013, he graduated from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a bachelor’s of science degree in Mass Communications/Broadcasting. While at UNCP, Brandon was director of the student news show “Carolina News Today,” which aired on Time Warner Cable. Upon graduation, Brandon received a position as a broadcast technician at Forsyth Technical Community College in the Broadcasting and Production Technology division. During his tenure, Brandon earned the opportunity to be an assistant instructor. In this position, he taught Adobe Creative Suite and mentored students in the broadcasting field. Brandon is excited to get in the mode of learning again, as well as sharpening his skills. His motto is, “In order to be great in your craft, you must first master it.”  The iMedia program will provide Brandon the vital knowledge required to succeed in a changing and competitive industry.

Lauren Bourne was born and raised in South Florida. She graduated from Elon University with degrees in Psychology and Art. After spending a few years in Museum Education at an interactive gallery/hands-on studio, she transitioned to teaching Visual Art at an Alamance County public high school. In her eight years of teaching, she was awarded a grant that provided her students with netbooks, digital cameras and other technology. She also held a leadership position in the school to implement and teach new technologies to teachers. Through this experience she learned that interactive technology and media was her new passion. She is excited to start the iMedia program and explore all that it offers. Her interests include emerging trends and interactive design for education or social change.

Kendal Cinnamon is an Atlanta native, who graduated from Elon University in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in Strategic Communications, a concentration in advertising, and a digital art minor. During her undergraduate studies at Elon, she interned at both a PR firm and advertising agency, completed design work for campus events, and worked as the marketing director for New Student and Transition Programs. Her love for all things creative and interactive stemmed from an early age, and she hopes to further this passion and skillset through the iMedia program. She hopes to learn more about web and app design and development in the hopes of working in an interactive department of an advertising agency. Kendal's other interests include music, thrifting, running and bad puns.

Jon D'Amato was born in Detroit and spent most of his life in Concord, North Carolina. With a budding interest in film and video at a young age, he went on to study Broadcasting at Western Carolina University. While in school, he spent most of his time behind a camera for the campus TV station. As his interest for broadcasting grew, he branched out into both FM and online radio, but his passion was always for video. Becoming a producer of entertainment pieces, Jon began working with scripted material, leading him to intern at Comedy Ninja Film Festival in Los Angeles. While gaining valuable experience with short films and screenplays, his appetite for film production grew. With a strong background in broadcasting and the skills obtained through the iMedia program, he plans to work in production, creating new and original content for TV and web alike.

Nia Duke was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Bowie, Maryland. She graduated from Elon University in spring 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Nia’s highlights from her undergraduate experience include studying abroad in Amman, Jordan, and being a radio personality on one of WSOE’s top radio shows, “The Double Dutch Corner.” With an undeniable creative edge and a love for pushing the envelope, Nia fits perfectly in the exciting world of interactive media. She is particularly interested in graphic design and video and is eager to learn new skills that will bring her innovative ideas into fruition.

Matthew Eastman is a 2013 graduate of Elon University with a double major in Media Arts & Entertainment and Environmental Studies. As an undergrad, he combined his environment research and media production skills to promote environmental activism through multimedia. He have received awards from environmental advocacy organizations such as Focus The Nation and Planet Forward for producing environmental documentaries, and for his environmental reports on his Blog at One of Matthew’s documentaries, “Finding Balance @FincaBellavista” was filmed in a sustainable tree house community in the Costa Rican Rain forest. He was also a running back on Elon University’s football team. Matthew plans to further develop his career as a multimedia director and environmental activist through the iMedia master’s program.

Brandon Frye was born in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and raised in Carthage, North Carolina. He graduated in 2010 from NC State University with a B.S. in Technology Education. During his time at N.C. State, Brandon took multiple graphic communications classes that led to a passion for design. Since graduation, Brandon has been teaching at Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill. His classes have focused on introducing 6th-8th grade students to both engineering and design principles. In addition, Brandon has also taught 3D game design at Youth Digital Studios, a summer camp for students between the ages of 8-14. Brandon is excited to be a part of the iMedia program and is looking forward to expanding his skill set in web design, graphic design and multimedia storytelling.

Emily Gonko was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. Ever the active child, she took part in ballet, tap and jazz, as well as softball, gymnastics and figure skating. It was always her dream to be on Broadway, so she became active in the theater world. Emily graduated from Western Carolina University in 2011 with a degree in Musical Theater. Some of her more notable roles include Tzeitle in Fiddler on the Roof directed by Terrence Mann, and Lucy in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Emily's favorite role, though, was Diana Morales in A Chorus Line directed by Charlotte d'Amboise, performing the original Michael Bennett choreography. Emily met her husband, Daniel, while on tour during the summer of 2010. They were married in January 2012 and currently live in western North Carolina with their beagle, Zoey.

Sam Kahle was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He graduated From Elon University in May 2014 with a B.A. in Strategic Communications. During school, Sam was a producer at Elon’s film club while also being a part of Elon’s American Advertising Federation chapter. His other interests include movie-going, snow skiing and wakeboarding. During the summer of 2012, Sam lived in Los Angeles, where he interned at a talent agency and a management company. It was then when he also developed a natural liking for the California lifestyle. Sam is looking forward to the Elon iMedia program and hopes to use his degree to pursue a career in content marketing and creative advertising.

Henry Kean graduated from Elon last spring, majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology and communications. While at Elon, he served as a captain and vice president of Elon’s men’s lacrosse team, worked as a tour guide and served as head of sex positivity programming for SPARKS peer educators. Henry is entering the iMedia program with limited experience in the field. His previous work experience includes being a camp counselor, maintenance assistant and kitchen assistant in Dubois, Wyoming, and teaching a behavior modification course in a prison in his home state of New Jersey. He hopes to use the skills learned in the program to pursue a career in digital marketing for socially conscious organizations and businesses.

Anna Kim graduated in May 2013 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Journalism and Mass Communications (specializing in graphic design and editing) and Studio Art. While studying at UNC-Chapel Hill, she designed pages and created graphics for her school’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. After graduating, she interned at University Directories (now known as The AroundCampus Group) as a graphic editing assistant. Through Elon’s iMedia program, Anna hopes to strengthen her knowledge in order to pursue a career as a creative designer. She has a great appreciation for simplistic designs that carefully consider the use of negative space and typography.

Monique Lewis is from Charlotte, North Carolina, by way of Milwaukee. She graduated from North Carolina Central University in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication. While attending NCCU, Monique was a reporter and assistant editor of the school’s award-winning student newspaper, The Campus Echo, and student reporter for the Durham Voice, a community newspaper serving Northeast Central Durham. She also served as an editor of the new online edition of NCCU’s student literary magazine, Ex Umbra, and as the Ivy Leaf Reporter for the Alpha Chi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. She has interned with Duke University School of Nursing’s Marketing and Communication team and NCCU’s WNCU 90.7 FM Radio as a news and public affairs intern. Although she has a deep background in journalism, she is excited to be a part of Elon’s Interactive Media program to build upon her skills to become a marketable and well-rounded media professional.

Paula MacLeod saw an Interactive Media billboard on Interstate 40 two years ago and had a eureka moment. In the past 20-some years, Paula had worked as a technical writer and editor and independent visual artist. For several years before she found iMedia, Paula had been looking for professional development that could take her visual art and communications experience and push her into a new 21st century career. During her years in the creative world, Paula exhibited her fine art in juried shows all over the United States and in Ravenna, Italy. She received a Durham Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant for 2000-2001, had work published in numerous art books, was featured on Home and Garden TV’s Crafter’s Coast to Coast in June 2005, and starred as a guest on the PBS series Paint Paper Craft in 2007. Paula’s last big public art project was a cow for the 2012 N.C. Cow Parade, which now resides at Vietri Outlet in Hillsborough, North Carolina. A native North Carolinian and graduate of East Carolina University, Paula lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and family.

Tiffany Mackins was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009 with a major in International Studies and a minor in Spanish with the intentions of going into the field of international trade. After spending five years in the technical support industry, Tiffany realized she was ready to take the next step to finding a career path she was passionate about. She had always enjoyed creating web pages and printed media material for assignments throughout her time in school. Outside of school and work, Tiffany has volunteered with recent immigrants by teaching English classes. She likes traveling, painting, writing, and baking and decorating cakes and cupcakes. She hopes to combine her technical background with her sense of creativity to find a career focused on front-end web design and application development.

Nick Margherita, a native of New Jersey, graduated from Elon University in 2014 with a degree in Strategic Communications and a minor in Italian Studies. During his four years of undergraduate education at Elon, Nick traveled abroad on four separate occasions to Belize, China, Italy and South Africa, pursuing scholastic and service opportunities. Additionally, as an undergraduate, Nick interned in Los Angeles as a production assistant on the live set of “What’s Trending” (a daily show produced on YouTube) during his summer semester with the Elon in LA program. Nick enjoyed this unique opportunity to merge his passion for production and social media, while also interacting with rising YouTube and television stars. Nick is ecstatic and honored to be joining the iMedia family with hopes to further and hone his skills in photography and video production. Outside of academic walls, Nick’s interests include travel, personal photography and documentary films.

Megan McGowan grew up in Havertown, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Elon University in 2011. While at Elon, she studied business administration with a focus on international business. She spent her free time playing for Elon Women’s Rugby Club and volunteering with Alpha Phi Omega. Following graduation, Megan joined the Peace Corps and completed her two years of service as a TEFL educator in the small mountain village of Kyzyl-Tuu, Kyrgyzstan. While working as a Peace Corps volunteer, she led seminars on the benefits of interactive classroom interaction, which helped local teachers understand how to work with different learning styles. She also ran a regional summer camp to provide local students an understanding of HIV/AIDS and their roles as leaders in its prevention. In her free time you can find Megan trying to replicate Pinterest-worthy recipes or planning her next adventure abroad. Megan is excited to expand her creative talents and enhance her knowledge of interactive media.

Caroline McSwain, 22, graduated from Elon in 2014 with a major in Media Arts & Entertainment and a minor in Human Service Studies. As an undergraduate, her passion for broadcast communications and desire to gain on-air experience landed her a spot as an anchor for the student-produced television show E-Talk. She also contributed to Elon Local News and wrote feature articles for online publications such as Her Campus and Student Health 101. In her free time, Caroline loves reading mystery/thriller novels, trying out new dessert recipes and spending time with her family at home in downtown Durham, North Carolina.

Kate Robertson was born in Lumberton, North Carolina, raised in Kennesaw, Georgia, and currently resides in the northwest suburbs of Philadelphia. She is a spring 2014 graduate of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, where she majored in communication and English, with concentrations in public relations and creative writing. At VT, she was an active member of the Public Relations Student Society of America, was a coach at the writing center and worked as a technical writer in VT’s department of Technology-Enhanced Learning and Online Strategies. As a junior, Kate served as the editor-in-chief of Philologia, the undergraduate research journal of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Kate’s passion is writing. She has been a features writer for a Southern lifestyle blog called Pretty Southern for more than a year and a half. Her work has also been featured on the PRSSA national blog, Progressions. She hopes to find a career path that allows her to blend her writing skills with strategy and creativity. In her free time, Kate enjoys reading, blogging, baking and working on her first best-selling book. She is excited to return to her home state, and is very much looking forward to broadening her knowledge and gaining new experiences and insights in digital media from the iMedia program.

Ted Russell was born and raised in Maine. Following in his sister’s footsteps, he attended Elon University and graduated in 2014, majoring in communications. Throughout Ted’s undergraduate years, he focused on marketing, public relations and advertising. Ted found a new interest in media production through a summer internship with a full functioning production studio. During this internship he worked as a production assistant on promotional pieces for American Family Insurance, which used some of the top high school football players in the country. From this internship, Ted was hired as a production assistant for the U.S. Army All American Bowl. Ted also was chosen to be a production assistant for a New England Patriots-Indianapolis Colts NFL playoff game in 2014. Ted’s interests outside the classroom and work area include fishing, boating and playing sports. Ted is looking forward to the Elon iMedia program, in which he can further develop his digital communication skills.

Ryan Sampson, 22, was born and raised on Long Island, New York, in the town of Lake Ronkonkoma. Ryan attended Ashland University in Ohio and graduated in May of 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Digital Media Production and a minor in Journalism. Ryan was the student director and co-producer for the news and sports updates at Ashland’s student run TV station, AU-TV20. Ryan has worked on several productions, varying from sports to news, and has worked for many professional stations, including CBS Sports, Madison Square Garden Television and Optimum Cable. Ryan hopes to further his education and skills at Elon with the iMedia program, which he thinks will help him find employment in his passion for television production.

Brandon Thigpen was born and raised in Florence, Alabama, right next to the scenic Tennessee River. A self-professed nerd and technology lover, Brandon enjoys video games, writing and web design—he longs to build careers in these fields. After taking a media convergence class during his senior year of college, Brandon became interested in the convergence process of analog and digital media, and began to search for graduate programs specializing in this field. In 2012, Brandon received his bachelor’s of science in English from the University of North Alabama. Shortly after graduating, Brandon was hired as the web content writer for All American Swim Supply, a company specializing in professional-grade swimwear and accessories. During his 18-month employment, Brandon managed the content upload on both the company’s website and social media pages. Brandon sees Elon University's iMedia program as a chance to further his own understanding in the fields he loves, as well as to gain valuable experience. He plans to focus on web development during his stay, and he hopes to one day own his very own web development company.

Jenny Thompson has always loved stories. She is thrilled to be part of Elon's iMedia program because she sees it as the perfect place to merge this passion with her background in IT. She is also particularly excited to be moving south for the year. Born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, Jenny stayed relatively near home to complete her bachelor’s degree at Penn State. She majored in Information Sciences & Technology and Security & Risk Analysis, with a minor in English. While at Penn State, she was the webmaster for two clubs, studied abroad in London while working for a start-up, and interned with GE. Her decision to focus her studies on the use of technology in media content creation came though writing her senior thesis on a transmedia storytelling event. After learning about all of the wonderful opportunities technology continues to create for media to evolve, Jenny had to learn more. In her spare time, she loves to read, watch movies, marathon TV shows with friends and attempt random craft projects.

Maria Tran was born and raised in Winston Salem, North Carolina. She attended and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a B.A. in Media Studies and a minor in English. During her time at UNCG, Maria participated in various student film projects, helped run the Carolina Film and Video Festival at her school, and wrote several original short- and feature-length screenplays. After college, Maria worked as a production assistant on the reality television series The X-Factor and briefly was a featured author for a local construction site blog based out of Hendersonville, North Carolina. She also worked as a preschool teacher before applying to the iMedia program at Elon. What Maria is most excited about for the upcoming year is to revisit and hone in on her videography and editing knowledge. But Maria's ultimate goal is to learn and perfect every technique, software and skill the program has to offer in order to brand her name and her career for prospective clients.

Brittany Washington is from Hope Mills, North Carolina, and graduated from Elon University in May 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Since graduating, she has been working on her writing blog,, writing for Live Inspired Magazine and reading a lot of books. She’s looking forward to learning more about web design and development and other multimedia skills from the program.


Beth Williams, 29, was born and raised in Atlanta. Since graduating from Elon University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communications, Beth has been building a marketing and advertising career in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Most recently, she worked as the media and account manager for The Bloom Agency (now Reuben Rink Marketing and Advertising Co.), focusing mainly on traditional media planning and placement for a wide variety of clients. Now, Beth is thrilled to have the opportunity to return to Elon to pursue a master’s degree in Interactive Media. She hopes that her time and experience in the iMedia program will arm her with the digital media skills and knowledge necessary to take her career to the next level and offer more value to future employers and clients.

Emily Yarborough was born and raised in the small town of Lexington, North Carolina. She graduated from Appalachian State University in December 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Arts and Imaging Technology and two minors in General Business and Digital Photography. While in high school, she originally had her heart set on studying architecture through college, but her drafting instructor sparked her interest in the graphic arts and printing industries. Emily hopes to influence other people and share her love of learning by using her iMedia degree to become a professor. Her interests include decorating her apartment with DIY Pinterest projects, going to the zoo with her boyfriend and shopping with her mom.