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Studying Media Studies in America w/ Rhode Island College

Is Media Studies a subject worthy of being studied abroad? Nancy Bockbrader, Director for the Graduate Media Studies Program at Rhode Island College in the States answers these questions and more...

Studying Media Studies in America

What would you say to critics who consider Media Studies a “soft subject”?

‘I believe “soft subject” to be code for “unfocused,” and perhaps “no job,” so I will answer this question on those terms. Our graduates enroll in the Media Studies program to enhance critical thinking, artistic, design and technical skills in the media arts. We live in a media saturated world—humans communicate via a diverse set of delivery systems (film, broadcast, web, magazines, etc.), therefore media studies should be thought of as “interdisciplinary” rather than “soft.” Employers want creative employees who can identify and solve problems, adapt, and communicate effectively—there is no one “hard subject” that is a direct line to those skills.’



Why is it important that programs like Media Studies exist in the 21st century? What skills do they teach students?

‘Media Studies invites individuals to take a critical look at culture — which is evolving exponentially. Students learn to understand the location of various forms of media in terms of historical significance and implications for the future. We ask questions such as “How does media design impact culture?” and “How does culture impact media design?” Message, meaning, language, aesthetics, etc. are concepts that will continue to evolve and have the power to ignite social change, persuade, entertain and communicate in the 21st century and beyond.


The Media Studies program at Rhode Island College is an interdisciplinary program that allows individuals to conduct research in a diverse range of topics such as media aesthetics, media culture & theory, digital art, graphic design, information design, communication, animation, photography, web design, film-making, writing, and music composition. Our graduates are working as artists, animators, graphic designers, web designers, blog authors, filmmakers, artists, producers, directors, writers, editors, composers, and teaching at the college-level. Some have used this interdisciplinary MA program as a stepping stone to MFA and Ph. D. programs.’



What are some of the burgeoning discussion points in media today which will likely shape the field in the next few years?

‘Media designers and theorists are very interested in how information delivery systems evolve — the web, social media, cell phones, texting, e-tablets, the iWatch, urban digital displays, advertising, news media, etc. and how this evolution will continue to impact culture. We also discuss the power of media design as a catalyst for social change and cultural self-awareness.


Behavioural psychologists have theorized that social media, gaming, etc. have become an obsession in our society. One of our recent graduates, Dan Tacey, designed and produced a 3-D stop-motion animation that considered this topic in a very engaging, entertaining way. His thesis project offered the viewer an abstract character that suffered from distractions and obsessions — at one point willing to literally sacrifice its flesh (after finding it had no coins) to continue playing an electronic game.’



What kinds of modules and areas can students expect to study?

‘Media Studies graduate students complete 4 core courses in media design, media aesthetics, and media cultural and theory. They may then select from 2 options: Design & Production or Critical Studies. The design & production candidates create a thesis project and exhibit it in one of the College’s art galleries. The critical studies candidates conduct research and write a master’s thesis. Subject, form and content vary as students may research any socially relevant topic in media studies that interests them. Each student is provided with a custom plan of study, with courses that will enhance and inform their research. Thesis advisers may be professors in a variety of departments including (but not limited to) Art, Philosophy, English, Communication, Film Studies, Theatre and Music. Our Art Department faculty include researchers in Graphic Design, Digital Media (2-D & 3-D animation, digital video art, 3-D printing, etc.). Photography, Sculpture and other areas of the fine arts.’



What are the average requirements for an international student applying to a Media Studies program? What do admissions staff look for in their application?

‘The requirements for international students are similar to those for American applicants. The College may be flexible on the requirement to submit Graduate Records Exam (GRE) scores, and may offer the option to complete additional course work instead. We are looking for creative individuals who are interested in media theory, media forms, and media design, and ready to conduct research and design at the graduate level. International applicants must also be able to speak and write in English.’



Is there a practical element to the Media Studies courses you teach?

‘Yes! Although concept and cultural relevance are critical, practical skills are necessary to create forms that will deliver meaning with maximum impact. Software use, visual literacy, typographic theory, understanding image resolution, etc. are among the many practical elements in the courses we teach.’



Why should international students choose to study Media Studies abroad, in America?

‘For the same reason Americans participate in study abroad programs — exposure to other cultures and a diverse range of experiences. More specifically, a smaller College in America with a new fine arts facility! The Media Studies program at Rhode Island College is centred within a new facility with two dedicated computer labs, seminar room, 2-D & 3-D printers, 2-D & 3-D modelling, animation, movie editing, design, image editing and web design software, student gathering spaces and student art gallery. The Media Studies program also offers academic freedom, exposure to a world-class faculty from a diverse range of research areas, a half-time graduate assistantship, and relatively low tuition.’



Is it true that networking is very important for Media Studies grads and it’s more a case of “who you know” that will help them find that first grad job? What support do you provide to international students to help them find work experience?

‘It does indeed help to be referred by someone in the profession or faculty from the College. We also encourage students to network using social media and though organizations such as AIGA, The Professional Association for Design, and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS). We are connected with individuals in these organizations and other colleges, and can assist students in finding employment or academic opportunities with letters of reference or referrals. It must also be emphasized that faculty at Rhode Island College can help make connections; however the rest is up to the student or graduate of the program. They must work hard to develop skills in order to flourish outside the academic environment.’



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About Author

Studying Media Studies in America

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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