On May 17, the evening before their Commencement ceremony, 14 graduate students in Elon University's Interactive Media master's program shared their thesis projects with professionals, faculty and staff, family and friends.
During their 10-month exploration of new avenues in interactive and digital media delivery, the members of the 2022 Interactive Media master’s program have discovered new technical skills, new passions and new career paths.
To illustrate the knowledge they’ve obtained since last summer, the 14 graduate students hosted the program’s annual Capstone Exhibition on May 17, unveiling thesis projects utilizing mobile applications, interactive videos, virtual reality and gaming. Project topics included a VR exposure therapy program, a video game about queer identity, a parallax website explaining AI bias and a diversity and inclusion education mobile application for the Elon community – more on that below.
Photos from the exhibition are available on the School of Communications’ Flickr page.
The Capstone Exhibition is a culmination of a 10-month educational journey where students push themselves beyond their previous limits, while investigating a subject they care about, said Associate Professor Derek Lackaff, who serves as director of the Interactive Media graduate program.
“These capstone projects allow students to use and further develop their technical skills to engage with an audience or topic that has personal meaning to them,” he said. “Each project reflects a bold vision, a rigorous research agenda, and many technical challenges overcome. In the end, each student has developed a new capacity for independent learning that will carry them through their professional careers.”
For Kerrie King, her interactive documentary video storytelling project, titled “Off-Script,” is a subject close to her heart, where she tells the stories of women who have moved beyond self-limiting beliefs to live their fullest lives. Additionally, she also developed an interactive video magazine to make their wisdom and insights more accessible.
“As someone who is passionate about people and promoting growth and authenticity, I spent the last few months researching and conducting interviews with women in their 30s, 40s and 50s to educate and empower women to move beyond self-limiting beliefs to live their fullest lives,” she said. “This topic hits very close to home as someone in her 40s making a career pivot after a long and successful run as a public high school educator.”
King explained that she’s pleased with her finished project and its scope, and that “sharing the stories of inspiring women for others has also made me proud.”
Ana Martinez-Valles’ capstone project is also deeply personal, combining her love of fitness and her interest in how native speakers learn a different language. Those two interests led her to develop MásFit, a Spanish-language interactive app prototype designed to help Latina women achieve their fitness and health goals. It integrates a range of content, including recipes and workout demonstrations created using motion capture animation.
“When doing research on fitness apps, I found that there was no app that was targeting Spanish speakers,” she said. “I not only made my app all in Spanish, but it also includes 3D video motion capture as well as cultural dishes. All my users who tested it enjoyed my app, and that honestly made me very happy that they could interact with it without having to translate it. It is made for all my Spanish speakers.”
Martinez-Valles said she was inspired to complete this project following her study-away experience with her cohort in Puerto Rico. Now, at the conclusion of her Interactive Media experience, Martinez-Valles has her sights on becoming a product designer, building on her love for UX/UI design as well as graphic design.
“In my application, I took all my skills – graphic design, videography, UX/UI – and meshed it together,” she said.
Christy Marchand’s capstone project shares similarities with both King’s and Martinez’s, melding her interest (skiing and snowboarding) with an obvious need (health and safety). She developed a website and mobile app, titled “SafeSki,” that provides access to ski patrol anywhere on a mountain by the click of a button.
Marchand explored how two different user interfaces – one for skiers on the slopes, and one for ski patrol in their HQ – could be integrated to support a single important process.
“This topic appealed to me because as a snowboarder myself. I have seen and known many people who have gotten injured on the mountain,” she said. “I wanted to find a way to not only help injured people but also improve ski patrol processes for the better. Why not use technology to do so?”
Marchand said her capstone was “instrumental” in her graduate program experience, allowing her to combine her skills in UX/UI design, technology, coding and project management into a single product.
“I am very proud of my project because it took a great deal of research and grit from start to finish,” she said. “Not only am I proud of how the product has turned out, but I also believe in this product and its ability to save lives.”
Lastly, Doo Lee utilized his capstone project – Elon Together, a diversity, equity, and inclusion educational mobile application – to build on a strength he saw on Elon University’s campus. He expressed his appreciation for the institution’s DEI education and development plan, supported by numerous organizations, programs, and activities to promote the value of diversity and inclusion on campus.
“For this reason, I wanted to create an interactive platform and content that can help DEI education be more interesting and engaging for young college students,” he said. “I believe Elon Together can benefit Elon and help young college students understand the value of DEI on campus.”
As part of his project, Lee conducted research, usability testing, data analysis and met with on-campus DEI leaders to discuss the needs of a mobile application for DEI education. He said he relished the capstone requirement because it provided him with a chance to learn and understand the entire application development process. “I strongly believe iMedia prepared me very well, so I can be a UX/UI designer and visual/graphic designer,” he said.
Lee credits the entire campus for his mobile application coming to life, noting the strong support he received in the planning stage from Laké Laosebikan-Buggs, director of inclusive excellence for graduate and professional education. With her backing, Lee was able to connect with other DEI campus leaders to share his idea.
“I made great connections with many organizations including Inclusive Excellence, CREDE, GLC, Unity in Communications, Asian-Pacific Student Association, Black Student Union, El Centro, etc.,” he said. Without the people I met here at Elon University and their support, I wouldn’t be able to complete my capstone project successfully.”
Lackaff commended Lee for a project that reflects “an impressive and diverse skill set, and focuses on an important and timely theme.” The director also applauded Lee for seeking out additional educational opportunities, including submitting his work for peer review and presentation.
Overall, Lackaff said the 2022 cohort is memorable for its collegiality and maturity.
“Our program is intensive and can be stressful at times, but the camaraderie, professionalism, and good cheer of these students was remarkable,” Lackaff said. “I’m excited to follow their next steps and to welcome them as the newest members of our incredible alumni community.”
With a moment to reflect, Martinez-Valles said she will deeply miss her cohort, a group of talented individuals willing to help and assist one another. “We all work very well together, and I think that is what made iMedia an amazing experience,” she said.
Kerrie echoed those sentiments, adding that the program challenged her while also supporting her. She credits her faculty members and peers for establishing “an environment where risks are encouraged and creativity is valued.”
Lee concluded that he will miss the classroom dynamic he shared with his fellow graduate students, noting the strong bonds he has developed during the past year.
“My cohort is now my family,” Lee said. “We learned from each other and grew together. Everyone in the cohort was very dedicated and supportive. I wish them the best in their next journey. I know they will do something great as alumni and communications professionals.”
Class of 2022