With the beginning of its Bicentennial year, Colgate University will launch its 56th and newest major: film and media studies (FMST).

The major, designed by film and media studies faculty members, was created to be “truly interdisciplinary,” according to Mary Simonson, associate professor of film and media studies and women’s studies .

Majors will be able to collaborate with their academic advisors to determine a focus area in which they are most interested, and will then have the option of enrolling in up to two courses from other departments in their chosen area. This approach will train students in aesthetic, visual, and aural analysis skills needed to understand narrative structures at play while providing the space to gain a broader understanding of digital and social media and the ways in which to decode media.

Students can look forward to taking courses like Global Cinema, Narrative Screenwriting, History and Theory of Photography, and American Popular Culture. Film and media studies students can also take their learning outside of Hamilton with the Performing and Media Arts in Hong Kong extended study program.

Art history professors John Knecht, Lynn Schwarzer, and Mary Ann Calo, alongside Christina Farronato, professor of Romance Languages, integrated film and media studies into the university’s minor curriculum 18 years ago.

Back in 2000, courses including photography, video art, and Italian and Russian cinema were taught independently. Knecht and Calo began to consider film and media studies as independent disciplines and decided to group these classes in order to develop a film and media studies minor program.

The minor proved popular as it evolved to become one of the biggest minors on campus, graduating an average of 22 students yearly.

Vanessa Lizana ’20 has maintained a steady interest in the film and media courses offered at Colgate.

“I always knew that I wanted to go into the film and media industry,” Lizana said. “Luckily, with my schedule, I will be able to complete the FMST major alongside English with a creative writing emphasis. I have already learned so much — no matter what path I take with FMST, I know I’ll be well-equipped.”

The popularity of the film and media studies program mirrors the growing 21st century need for “media literacy” as Simonson explained.

“Right now, media literacy is very important. We’re living in a moment of fake news and a growing distrust of the news media,” she said. “We’re interested in students understanding why the media is important, how the media industry functions within a democracy, and making sure our students, who are inundated with media all the time, know how to process and understand it.”

 

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