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The four legs of the 'infinite table'

Digitial media and design major student for new industries

On March 7, 2014

Students at one point or another have found difficulty describing exactly what it is their major teaches them, just as the Digital Media and Design ran into the problem when developing the new program. However, as evidenced by the scale and volume of projects completed in the past year, it is now clear what the major is capable of.
"Imagine an infinite table top that reaches out as far as digital media expands supported by four legs," said Tim Hunter, professor and director of Digital Media and Design. "The four legs are creative makers, business, marketing, and social media, technology and the digital humanities."
What Hunter refers to is at the heart of Digital Media and Design, the fast paced technological changes, combined with the numerous growing industries that make use of digital media. These ever expanding industries, from marketing firms to biomedical firms, need students experienced in digital media and design, and professor Hunter is hoping to have UConn students fill the positions.
 "I just had a family here that applied to the program, and they looked at five other programs as well. I said to them that our program is uniquely different, and people are kind of suspect when they first hear that, but when I described the tabletop they immediately understood the difference," said Hunter.
The past year has seen the uniqueness and necessity of digital media and design as relevant and possible, and the proof is in the projects.
One boundary-pushing project that is being worked on by students and faculty in the program is something straight out of science fiction. The idea is that of a virtual reality room that present images that can be manipulated by an entire human body using kinect sensors and LED screens. What may sound like mere postulation is actually soon to be implemented by Boston Children's Hospital by Sep. 16. The display will allow younger patients with debilitating diseases to get active and seize some semblance of control over a 25-foot environment.
The majority of classes are held in the Bishop Center basement, and although the building opens up like most class and office buildings, looks can be deceiving. In the basement, laboratory-like classes filled with students, computers and heat are buzzing late into the night. Students work hard on animations, meticulously moving the fingers and hands of the Pixar-like characters.
UConn has even already made use of the industrious program. "A group of students and faculty, myself included, worked on the public service announcement that was airing on television about UConn and what the experience is like here, and it airs whenever a game is televised," said Perry Harovas, associate professor in residence in the department of digital media and design.
Digital Media and Design has attracted many students in the past year, with 100 joining in the first year, and enrollment later jumping to 275. This year 208 applications were sent in, with 108 accepted, and 40-50 students projected to join. But even these enrollment numbers are not enough for the projected growth of the digital media industry.
Hunter constantly tracks job opportunities for students, with clients such as Exxon, IBM, and even universities like UConn trying to attract students with experience. Forty-three sections of job opportunities are currently being tracked, and in web development alone 90,000 jobs were advertised, with 8,000 experienced applicants seeking employment.
The effects of the digital media and design major have reverberated throughout the university. Even most students have seen the effects of the program, at least those students who have ever logged into Skybox, another design product of the students and faculty at Bishop. "It's better than the program we originally conceived, and we still have work to do, but it's fun," said Harovas.

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