The University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point Division of Communication has re-opened its production studio after years of proposals and securing funds to use the area as an educational facility for students and faculty starting this fall.
The 3,500 square foot television studio has been associated with the Division of Communication for many years. A group called University Telecommunications (UT), who produced all the media-related video packages for the university controlled and used the space originally. When UT disbanded, the studio was closed and students doing production work no longer had access.
“Seven years ago there was a budget shortfall and the state was making budget cuts,” said Professor of Communication, Dr. Jim Haney. “The studio, at the time, was still using analog equipment and was in desperate need of upgrades to digital. Of course, that technology is not inexpensive and because of that the Chancellor decided to close the studio.”
The Division of Communication redesigned its curriculum to function without a studio. The Media Studies emphasis in the major has three production courses, which focus primarily on teaching students about field production. With the studio vacated for a number of years, Haney expressed his belief that the studio needed to be opened for the benefit of the students.
“As Interim Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC), I expressed that having a studio was needed for our students doing production work,” Haney said. “As head of the division, I sent a proposal to the dean of the college, COFAC and the provost to secure funds and upgrade what was originally left in the studio.
Haney’s proposal was successful. The studio is now a space used for academics and for the education of production students within the communication major and the space is now starting to be integrated into the curriculum. It is supervised by the Division of Communication and can be used by any department on campus.
The studio features a news set and desk, green screen, smart board technology and multiple high-definition remote operated cameras. Offering this technology and space, students have the opportunity to gain firsthand experience in working within a state-of-the-art television studio and to learn the basic production skills that come with that type of environment.
“We have hired Professor Chris Shofner who has a tremendous amount of experience working in a studio environment. There is also a national search for a second media professor going on right now,” Haney said.
The question in the department today is how the studio will be implemented into the media studies emphasis. Once the studio is implemented into current courses faculty will get feedback and re-evaluate the curriculum to make appropriate changes. There is a possibility that students may be able to focus on either fieldwork or studio production based on their interests.
The first class in the production track of the media studies emphasis, taught by Shofner, is made up of four projects in which students will learn to take their work from the field and apply it to the study and practice of production.
“As a trial run, students will do fieldwork for their first three projects and use what they learned and apply their skills to basic studio production at the end of the semester for project four,” Shofner said.
Shofner explained that project four involves students writing a short script, like a news story. They will then work in a way that is very similar to a professional television station, as a team, with each student rotating through all the positions.
“Everyone will learn the basics of being an anchor, cameraperson and working the control panel to do mock productions,” Shofner said.
With the significant changes in the production track of the communication major, students have an advantage and a unique opportunity to sharpen their skills in an environment that has not been presented to students in years past.