When May graduate Brandi Sanichar landed a job as a social media and web development manager for a major Charleston hotel, she knew she’d need to brush up on some skills — and maybe even learn a few new ones. So, Sanichar enrolled in the College of Information and Communications’ inaugural Media Innovation Academy, a fast-paced summer program designed to prepare students for careers in digital media.
Held June 1-18, the academy offered a slate of cutting-edge courses students could take for credit or just for fun, including drone filming, multimedia sports storytelling and podcasting. And thanks to a partnership with creative industry leader Adobe, participants also had access to Adobe software and training.
Adobe's Todd Taylor taught a session on Adobe Spark. He encouraged the students to use the software to develop a portfolio of their work at the academy and of future experiences.
"He gave the students a great lesson on storytelling — about others and about themselves," academy coordinator Nina Brook said. "When they go looking for jobs, they'll have what employers want — concrete proof they can produce fresh, innovative content."
Sanichar chose the social media analytics course to supplement what she’d learned as a visual communications major.
“As an undergrad, you don’t really know what kind of job you’re going to get into,” she said. “I always thought I was going to be a graphic designer, but when I was job hunting I realized most jobs are so much more than that one skill. And that’s why I needed an analytics class to help me out.”
Adrienne Herr, a film major at Clemson University, took the drone filming class and enjoyed having the chance to work with specialized equipment. Associate professor Van Kornegay earned his FAA drone license to teach the class, and the CIC invested in five camera-equipped drones.
“You’re given free range to use all the equipment that’s available, and it’s a lot,” Herr said. “You learn all different equipment that you can use, you learn different shots, and you are given projects where you can figure stuff out yourself, but there are also teachers to help guide you, so it’s a really useful experience.”
The teachers weren’t the only ones guiding participants — the Media Innovation Academy also featured guest speakers who gave insights into industry trends and careers. Shelby Clayton from Twitter Sports discussed how the social media company shifted gears to keep sports fans engaged during the pandemic. And award-winning photojournalist and SJMC alumnus Win McNamee shared what it’s like capturing some of the nation’s most iconic moments as chief photographer for Getty Images.
“Seeing all these people and how they were in the same place as me and now how successful they are was very inspiring,” Sanichar said.
Site visits rounded out the experience. Students spent a morning with award-winning production company Dust of the Ground, where owners Jeremy Lethco and Austin Grebenc walked them through the storytelling process from beginning to end. At Williams-Brice Stadium, they met with Justin King, Gamecock Athletics associate athletic director for new and creative media, to learn how content is created and shared with fans. And hosts at SCETV put together a series of round-robin visits that explored the academy’s course subjects, including drone usage, podcasting, brand creation and communication.
As a sports enthusiast, junior broadcast major Connor Neiderer was excited to take the multimedia sports storytelling course with former journalist and video producer Manie Robinson — especially after a year of online classes. But most of all, he was excited for the chance to get a leg up in his career.
“You’re coming in here and working and testing your skills and that’s really what you need,” Neiderer says. “You’re building connections along the way, but then your portfolio’s getting beefed up in the process. There’s heavy value in taking this to kind of get you a leap start. The tagline is ‘enhance your skills’ and it really does.”