The evening before their commencement ceremony, graduate students in Elon University's Interactive Media master's program exhibited their thesis projects to professionals, faculty and staff, family and friends.
The iMedia Capstone Exhibition isn’t so much about sharing a thesis project, but rather a person’s interest, curiosity or passion.
At least that’s the underlining theme of this year’s annual event, said David Copeland, Elon’s A.J. Fletcher Professor and director of the Interactive Media master’s program.
On May 17, the program’s 25 graduate students publicly presented their thesis projects, inviting local professionals, faculty and friends to better understand their capstones that range from promotional websites and interactive videos to mobile applications and wearable technology. Photos from the exhibition are available on the School of Communications’ Flickr page.
“What I find really interesting is the subject matter of the capstones is across the spectrum,” Copeland said. “There are some that deal with serious topics such as Alzheimer’s, depression and looking at ways to help veterans. But then there are other projects that are just pure fun. There’s one where you can do a 360-degree view of skate parks. There’s another one that’s a game about elements of World War II. It’s really a wide variety of possibilities.
“What’s happening is the students are taking their interests and weaving them into their interactive projects,” he added. “It goes to show you that interactivity is the tool for any subject – and often times makes it easier for people to understand.”
The examples of iMedia students incorporating their own backgrounds and curiosities into their work were prevalent.
Ryanne Murphy, who attended four different high schools while following her Marine father around the country, created an educational, responsive website highlighting the stories of military children. An English major at Campbell University, Murphy crafted a platform heavy on storytelling and supplemented it with short films.
A longtime skateboarder with an undergraduate degree in graphic design, Darrien Staton developed Skatour, an app that allows users access to detailed information about skate parks in their area. Users can locate, rate and review the parks. There’s even 360-degree video available.
An Army veteran and former graphic designer, Bridget Sheffler married both her pasts, developing the website and promotional content for Red, White + Brew Festival, a one-day beer festival featuring veteran-owned breweries in North Carolina. Mark your calendars for Nov. 11!
Lastly, Maggie Boulton, who spent two years serving as a men’s basketball student manager at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, created a robust digital presence, TarHeelHoops.com, for the Tar Heels to promote fan engagement and the program’s history.
The avid sports enthusiast went so far as to call herself “the poster child for iMedia,” noting her transformation over the past year.
In 2016, Boulton graduated as an exercise and sport science major, more familiar with treadmills than the Adobe Creative Suite. Ten months later, she’s built a web-responsive site, featuring drone footage of the Dean Dome, an interactive facilities tour and a recap of the Tar Heel’s 2017 championship run, all of which are accompanied by extensive motion graphics.
While each iMedia student has dedicated months to the research and development of their respective capstone project, no one quite immersed themselves to the extent of Margaret Baker.
In February, the graduate student spent two-plus weeks traversing Swaziland, a small, landlocked country in southern Africa, to gather content for Bound Together: Swaziland Partnership, a nonprofit based in eastern North Carolina. The organization’s goal – and Baker’s mission – was to create an online platform and accompanying content to raise $500,000 to support the Baptist church of Swaziland.
Baker oversaw a complete overhaul of the organization’s messaging, content and branding, handling everything from video production and photography to interviews and even email signatures.
Baker’s most remarkable contribution is a 360-degree video, enjoyed through a virtual reality viewer and headphones. The two-minute feature can transport potential donors inside the organization’s many outreach programs to see their efforts firsthand – or close to it.
“I wanted to bring you to Africa without putting you on a plane for 18 hours,” she said. “I wanted to create, for potential donors, an immersive experience. To make people empathize with the Swazi people and to feel some emotion about what they are seeing.”
While Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world, Baker was taken aback by the residents’ unbridled happiness. “They have so much joy, and I wanted to communicate that when people see my content back here,” she said.
While the individual pieces were outstanding, the breadth of Baker’s content was what stood out for Copeland. “I thought her whole package was impressive,” he said. “The VR was really kind of amazing. You can look at a picture and you can read something, but when you can stand in a room – with headphones on and a viewer on – and be there, it gives you a completely different perspective. In terms of fundraising, it opens up an entirely new door. It is the experience of actually being there.”
Those are the emotions Baker hopes to elicit. Even now, months after her trip, she said her Swaziland footage can still pull on her heartstrings.
“This has been a labor of love,” she said. “This is not my capstone, this is my passion project.”