$100,000 Challenge Will Grow Film and New Media Studies

Trustee emerita Caroline Campbell Edwards ’70 P’07, a longtime supporter of the arts in practice at Wheaton, has pledged $100,000 in challenge funds to spur continued growth of the Department of Film and New Media Studies. This Challenge is part of the College’s new Giving Circles initiative—a group philanthropy effort that pools donations for greater impact.

From its inception in 2011, Film & New Media Studies at Wheaton has provided students with the knowledge and skills required to achieve their goals within the creative industries. Today, the Department encompasses all aspects of the evolving landscape of digital storytelling and filmmaking. Students explore the convergence of print, photography, cinema, radio, and television—and how new media are shaping our culture and society today.

“One of the challenges of our growth has been to effectively meet the demand of student interest in production courses,” says Patrick Johnson, Associate Professor and Chair of Film and New Media. “First-year students want to hit the ground running and jump right into those courses, but we don’t always have the capacity. On the flip side, we have majors who have taken all the production courses by the end of their junior year and desire more specific and advanced options.”

The ability to effectively tell stories, whether it’s a story aimed to entertain or connect with an audience, your own personal story, or the story of a company or organization, is an incredibly marketable skill. As film and digital media increasingly dominate the way stories are told today, students have gravitated towards learning how to improve their skills and understanding of how these media work. 

“It has been amazing to see not only the individual work students are doing, but the communities that they are forming,” says Professor Johnson. “Faculty in our Department have worked hard to cultivate a vibrant and inclusive community within our classrooms.”

Outside of the classroom, students have organized their own club, The Film Collective, to produce films, network, and build a community of filmmakers. Cinema lovers gather together to watch movies in Wheaton’s Film Club. Additionally, students with shared interests in these fields can live together in the Media Arts Discourse (MAD) Theme House.

The Department of Film and New Media Studies strives to make production equipment accessible to all Wheaton students, not just those enrolled in film production courses.

“There is little value to the Wheaton community if this equipment sits unused on the shelves,” says Professor Johnson. “As the major has grown, it has been challenging to scale the equipment checkout process, spread word of the amazing resources available, and have an easily accessible place to acquire these tools. This gift from Cary Edwards, and the matching support it will generate, will allow us to create a proper film/video equipment center that will benefit the entire Wheaton community. Having more equipment available will also allow us to offer more production courses in a single semester.”

Faculty in Film and New Media Studies are deeply committed to supporting students, whether it’s finding them resources to make a film, giving feedback on papers or scripts, connecting them with alumni for career advice, providing opportunities such as the Filmmaker in Residence Fellowship or Film Festival Submission Fund, or developing new courses to meet their interests. “We’re constantly thinking about how to grow and improve our program,” says Professor Johnson.

Gifts to Film and New Media Studies at Wheaton will be matched dollar-for-dollar, providing an immediate impact:

  • Greater variety of courses both in studies (genre and filmmaker specific courses) and production (cinematography/lighting, virtual production, sound for film).
  • More opportunities for students to interact with working professionals in ways that help them gain insight into career planning and industry practices: e.g., site visits to area studios and production companies, campus visits from film and media practitioners, structured internship experiences, and so forth.

Anyone in the Wheaton community can help the Department of Film and New Media Studies earn this matching gifts challenge by joining the giving circle.