Surrounded by family, friends and Elon faculty and staff, 25 students in the Master of Arts in Interactive Media program's Class of 2017 celebrated the completion of the program during a ceremony May 18.
PHOTO GALLERY: 2017 Interactive Media Commencement
Members of the Class of 2017 in Elon’s Master of Arts in Interactive Media program heard words of encouragement and empathy from one who had been in their shoes just a few years ago.
Michael Sales, who received his iMedia master’s degree from Elon in 2011, walked through the frustrations he felt and challenges he overcame on the path to earning his degree, and then a role as director of design for NASCAR Digital Media, as members of this latest class of graduates nodded knowingly and offered laughs signifying they had been there, too.
”I’ve been gone for six years, but I can still say this was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” Sales told the 25 members of the graduating class. “If you are sitting out here now, you did it. You might have some wounds and you might have scars, but you made it.”
Ten months ago, these students came together at an introductory boot camp from a wide variety of backgrounds — some already steeped in digital media, and others making a first plunge into learning cutting-edge technology. Among those were Maggie Boulton, who had earned her degree in exercise science, and Kelly Dunville, who holds a psychology degree and had been teaching second grade before joining the program.
Boulton and Dunville said they were “the poster children” for the interactive media degree program, in that they started with very limited knowledge and skills in digital media, and now emerge entertaining multiple job offers with what amounts to more than a year of experience in the fields of web development, design and coding.
“Honestly, the hardest thing to learn was to gain confidence in ourselves,” Dunville said.
Boulton said finishing their capstone projects and presenting them to the public this week was one of the most rewarding experiences of the program. “That was very exciting to see people look at our capstones and tell us how awesome we were for making it because we have had that insecurity throughout the year,” Boulton said. “We feel like we’ve made it.”
The program is designed for those new to interactive media, as well as working professionals in the field looking to retool or new communications graduates looking to extend their interactive media education. Noah Buntain, who entered the program with a background in digital media and will be pursuing his doctorate in mass communications at Syracuse, described the program as “challenging, incredible and life-changing” during his address during commencement. He talked about how important his classmates had been to his journey during the past 10 months, and encouraged them to “be easy with themselves” as they pursued their careers, and to show courage, compassion and curiosity.
“True success comes from surrounding yourself with terrific and talented people who will push you beyond your own boundaries,” said Buntain, who was selected by his classmates to deliver the address. “Your diverse talents made our projects better. Your work inspired me to make my own work better.”
Sales, drawing from his own experience as a student in the program and now a professional in the field, offered his own words of encouragement for the students as they move forward.
“Don’t run from failure and frustration — run through it,” Sales said. “You an learn great lessons in that space. I learned that skills matter, but relationships matter more.”
In his charge to the new graduates, Elon President Leo M. Lambert encouraged them to use the skills they have learned to help restore public trust during a time when it is lacking, noting Elon’s motto — Numen Lumen — which are Latin words denoting spiritual and intellectual light.
Lambert recounted scandals and broken promises involving churches, automakers, banks, universities, government and health care that have left public trust at a low point. People are skeptical, and many believe that society has always been like this, and will be so going forward, he said.
“The only way for us to reverse this course is for you to step into this chasm of distrust,” Lambert said. “You are about to go into the world to assume positions of increasing responsibility, influence and power. You must each take responsibility for acting with integrity in your professional pursuits. You must play a role in repairing our society and rebuilding trust in our institutions.”
Lambert reminded these new graduates that with advanced degrees, they are some of the most well-educated people in the world, and in the years ahead, how they conduct themselves will reflect upon themselves, their families, their communities and Elon.
“How you conduct yourselves will determine now only your personal success, but whether or not we choose collectively to build a society in which people have trust in each other and in the fundamental institutions required to maintain democracy, prosperity and social order,” Lambert said.
The Master of Interactive Media program Class of 2017:
Ashley Nicole Anderson
Kasey Symone ́ Austin
Margaret Eleanor McAfee Baker
Bria Nicole Bass
Maggie White Boulton *
Marquita Denise Brown
Noah Kenneth Buntain *
Katherine Leigh Carpenter
Drew Martin Dimos
Kelly Rebecca Dunville *
Carmen Nicole Erdie
Evan Lavelle Gaskin
Travis William John
Amanda Hilary Jones
Jazmin Nicole Lucky
Virginia Anne Merrill
Ryanne Breana Murphy
Beth Anne Pandone
Sydney Ellen Plovsky
Kristen DeAnn Rivera *
Bridget Elizabeth Sheffler
Samantha Kristine Solomon
Darrien James Staton
Jordan Michael Edwin Wade
Kara Lynne Wagner
*Denotes Phi Kappa Phi