During the May 16 event, the graduate students in Elon University’s Interactive Media master’s program presented their thesis projects to professionals, faculty, staff, family and friends.
As part of their 10-month exploration of interactive and digital media, members of the 2023 cohort of the Interactive Media master’s program discovered new skills, new passions and new career paths – all of which were on display during the program’s annual Capstone Exhibition.
To highlight the knowledge and skills they’ve obtained, the program’s 10 graduate students invited professionals, faculty, staff, family and friends to Long Building on May 16 to share their thesis projects delving into mobile applications, web design, animation, UX/UX design, video production and 3D modeling.
The projects included an animated series dedicated to introducing children to personal boundaries (Olivia Archer G’23), an interactive social media platform for sport creatives (Abby Lachance G’23), and an interactive app prototype that helps Black women living with breast cancer to connect and build community (Courtney Simmons G’23), among other innovative undertakings.
The Capstone Exhibition is a culmination of an educational journey for these graduate students that saw them 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.
“We talk about the capstone as an experience that integrates three types of expertise: a content area that the student is passionate about, a design process that reflects best practices of user-centered design and project management, and a production process that allows the student to develop a mastery of the technical tools relevant to their chosen career paths,” Lackaff said. “These students have demonstrated immense personal and professional growth since they arrived on campus last August.”
A steady stream of visitors walked through Long Building’s first floor during the exhibition. Among the popular stops was Lachance’s editing suite, where she highlighted her Sport Creative Hub, an app she developed for creative media producers to build a professional community. A sports photographer herself, the graduate student sees real value in the app’s potential.
“I was interested in creating a social media platform for sport creatives because I wanted to give a specific community their own platform to give and receive feedback,” she said. “During my research, I found others appreciate comments on their work in progress from those within the same industry. It helps us creatives grow and produce even better work.”
Admittedly, Lachance experienced a lot of doubt throughout her process. She said she had concepts in mind, but it took some time to set limits on how in-depth she wanted to go.
“I can thank my professors and peers for helping me to overcome many mental blocks,” she said. “I learned how driven I am to complete tasks on time. I knew I was good at reaching deadlines before, but this project showed how I can take my passion and put it into action efficiently. It was a lot of work looking at from the bigger picture, but I got it all done.”
For Michaela Zeno, her new app, Inclusive Reads, was about fulfilling an obvious need – helping readers discover and enjoy diverse literature.
“I was interested in creating Inclusive Reads because it shouldn’t be a hassle to find diverse literature,” she said. “I want to read books with main characters that look like me by authors like me – especially since I’m a published author.”
Zeno’s project originally started as an app prototype, but it eventually transitioned into a real app. As part of her project, the graduate student taught herself Swift UI software, a fact she proudly noted.
“The most difficult part was trying to learn the Swift UI software. I had never heard of it and I’m not the best coder – and it consisted of a lot of code,” she said. “Through this process, I learned that I can achieve anything.”
Lackaff commended the cohort for its collaborative nature, working well with one other and across campus. He noted that Archer and Shaina Catchings G’23 both worked with Elon faculty outside the graduate program, and Hana Sedivy ’21, G’23 focused her project on the Elon Dance Team, Title IX and NIL.
The director also noted the great creativity on display in the final projects. This included projects from Maya O’Neal G’23 and JaRiah Morris G’23, who created a personal finance and life readiness app and an interactive storytelling docuseries highlighting the children of pastors, respectively.
“I’ve enjoyed working with this cohort, and they have clearly enjoyed working with each other,” Lackaff said. “Their spirit of collaboration and camaraderie has carried them through all of their challenging experiences and projects, and they are headed into their next adventure with great portfolios, confidence in their skills, and an expansive professional and alumni network.”
2023 Interactive Media Cohort