Art and Journalism Professors Join Forces to Form Creative Media Major

July 02, 2020

While Stanislaus State Art Department Chair Roxanne Robbin was attending a conference of the CSU Entertainment Alliance, learning how to prepare students for one of California’s major industries, Assistant Professor Shannon Stevens was working to expand Stan State’s journalism minor to include digital and graphic art in the curriculum.

Both disciplines fall under the College of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and when Dean James Tuedio got the two educators together, it was “magic,” Stevens said that meeting led Robbin, Stevens and Professor of Art Jessica Gomula-Kruzic, who teaches digital art, to design the new Bachelor of Arts in Creative Media that will debut this fall. Stan State is the only CSU campus in Central California to offer the major previously only available at Southern California or Bay Area CSU campuses.

Listening to speakers in Los Angeles at a conference of the CSU Entertainment Alliance, which connects CSU students, faculty and alumni to the highly competitive entertainment arts and media industry, Robbin said she was “struck by the fact the Central Valley is not a direct pipeline to the entertainment industry.” This major, though, will help ready students for jobs in that field.

That’s not where the benefit ends, though. Art and journalism students will be better prepared for their fields, but the creative media major is a multi-disciplinary program that will provide students with skills necessary for employment in almost any professional sector.

That’s why anthropology, ethnic studies, political science and marketing courses are among those subjects included in the major and the three professors will work to ensure that their students have a place in those required classes.

It’s possible that some who choose to declare the new major already are taking courses in those disciplines. The three professors anticipated the broad appeal creative media would have.

“I teach a lot of general education classes,” Gomula-Kruzic said. “We get students from a lot of different majors. They like the web design classes, because there’s programming in there. The foundation digital media class is a GE course, so students from all over the University take that and they take the documentary video class and digital photography class, which are upper-division GE courses. They find them very useful in all their fields.”

The requirements for the creative media degree program came from recommendations from Entertainment Alliance, from looking at similar majors at other CSU campuses, and from information Stevens gleaned studying prestigious journalism programs across the country.

“We met with the dean of the College of Business Administration and faculty that teach entry-level marketing classes, and they not only agreed to incorporate the classes but to make sure they had enough sections available if we ended up with a robust major,” Stevens said. “It was exciting to have someone from an entirely different college within the University be so enthusiastic and collaborative.”

The three found nearly universal support from other departments as they reached out to every discipline before proposing the major.

The pilot program added only one new course: a one-unit capstone portfolio class so students in the major will have something to show prospective employers when they graduate.

The three, particularly Robbin, who served as chair of the Art Department for 10 years, was an associate dean and has served on countless University committees during her 30 years at Stan State, understood the complexities associated with introducing a new major. They worked nights and weekends to make sure they were ready with presentations for every committee that had to approve the major, from the campus to the Chancellor’s Office.

“A lot of times if you’re going to make a new major, there are a lot of new courses that are going to come with it,” Gomula-Kruzic said. “But all the courses are in place. There’s no new funding for teachers that need to be hired. Everything is already there. It's just stitching it together differently.”

The creative media major isn’t altogether new. Students in the past had created their own special or interdisciplinary majors, Gomula-Kruzic said, combining digital media courses with business or other majors.

Now, the creative media major will do that work for them.

“Historically as a University, we’re pretty open to that sort of thing,” Stevens said. “I think the difference we’re making by creating this major is that students who wanted to follow that kind of dream and pathway had to find a faculty member who was going to help them. Having the major in place now means it doesn’t have to be a student motivated enough to seek out a faculty member and figure it out.”

Now all the pieces are in place. Initially, the three creators will serve as advisors for creative media majors.

With little advertisement done in the wake of the pandemic that sent everyone off campus, five students already have declared as creative media majors.

“I had a few students sign on when it wasn’t technically a major. It was a special topic major,” Gomula-Kruzic said. “They’re now in the process of converting over to creative media.

“It’s exciting they can see the path from the courses they’re taking to the job they want. They don’t have to move to a giant city to use these skills. These are skills used all over the place in different professions.”