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Making the Most of a Good Situtation

Trscy Biga MacLean

If you walk down the corridor of Avery Hall’s second floor, your eyes will surely be drawn to the posters on her door: The 51st Robert Flaherty Film Seminar; Lost Film Festival; Barry Schwabsky: Film and Video in London; Announcing a New Course—From Icons to the Internet: Russian Visual Culture; Media Studies Welcome Back Reception. As these posters suggest, Tracy Biga MacLean, academic director of Intercollegiate Media Studies (IMS), is there to get the word out, whether it be announcing new media studies courses or visiting speakers, or helping to publicize and organize major events such as the prestigious Flaherty Film Seminar.

“The Flaherty Film Seminar was a big event with 170 participants from six continents,” MacLean said. “I was really happy about having the opportunity to do that and I think it shows how much we were able to do, even in our first year. It helped publicize to the filmmakers, scholars, curators and other attendees what we do [at the Claremont Colleges] with media studies because we have really good programs.”

With all five of the Claremont Colleges offering a variety of media studies courses, Intercollegiate Media Studies was established in July 2004 as an administrative home that formalizes and enhances the coordination of media studies courses, faculty and resources across the Colleges. On an informal level this coordination had been taking place for several years, but IMS provides the logistical framework for more efficient planning, organizing and programming as well as information and resource sharing. The two major components of IMS are the Academic Office and the Production Center located at Pitzer College. As academic director, MacLean, with the guidance of the IMS steering committee, organizes and coordinates media studies curriculum planning, internships, study abroad opportunities and programming.

Before being appointed academic director of IMS in July 2004, MacLean completed her Ph.D. at the University of Southern California, School of Cinema-TV. In addition to her current administrative duties, she teaches one course per semester. This semester, that course is History of American Broadcasting at Pitzer College.“The students are really fluid. Right now in my class I have students from all five Colleges,” MacLean noted. Pitzer and Pomona offer a media studies major, and students from Scripps, Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd can elect to complete either the Pitzer or Pomona major. Students at Claremont McKenna also have the option of completing a dual major with film and another subject. A combination of courses from many disciplines fulfills the media studies major and students are encouraged to enroll in courses across these disciplines and the campuses

“Each of the colleges makes its own decisions about its majors and its programs certainly, so IMS doesn’t really replace what’s going on at the individual campuses, but it really helps centralize things so that students and faculty are aware of all of the possibilities,” MacLean said.

IMS also works hard to create and maintain the possibility of media studies internships for students. In particular, MacLean has been focusing on the standardization of internship requirements to ensure that students’ practical experiences are integrated clearly and significantly with their academic studies. She has also been developing a database to record students’ successful internship experiences or employment opportunities for students at the Claremont Colleges. In looking ahead toward the future, MacLean is especially committed to fostering more possibilities for media studies students by developing IMS-approved study abroad programs.

In addition to advising and supporting students through such initiatives as the media internship course, IMS has instituted a curriculum review and committee so that media studies faculty can review classes included in the media studies section of the course catalogue. “So far I have six new courses that are really interesting, potential media studies courses such as ‘Life On-Line,’ which is a course about blogs,” MacLean said. “These are classes that faculty members decide to teach and maybe in the past they wouldn’t have been listed as media studies. With five colleges and more than a dozen departments, it’s difficult to know everything that’s going on. Organizing and distributing that information is a big part of what I do.”

Reflecting on a recent IMS committee retreat, MacLean recalled, “I felt that having the structure of IMS, not just the academic office but the production center, has allowed faculty members to contemplate new possibilities. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that because I think that’s what the program was always intended to do.”

—Emily Cavalcanti

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