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BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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BG technology program one of a kind

Created with passion and determination, the Visual Communication Technology program at the University redefines the meaning of unique.

The program, formed in 1972, combines many forms of media–print, photography and video–so students are educated about the various ways to solve communication problems rather than strictly knowing one medium in depth.

Two years after arriving on campus and obtaining a doctoral degree, Gene Poor, professor of VCT, was presented with the opportunity to create his own communication program. Passing up various job offers, Poor seized the opportunity to build the VCT program from the ground up.

“They offered me to stay here and start my own communication program for probably $20,000 less than my worst job offer, and I did,” Poor said. “The opportunity to start a program on my own was really incredible and I had a lot of ideas.”

Through consultations with companies that had communication problems, Poor discovered that people would often solve the problem based on their degree. If the individual had a photography degree, they would solve the problem with photography; someone with a film degree would solve it by making a film. Because their degrees were focused on only one medium, the individuals didn’t know how to branch out solve the problem the most effective way, Poor said.

If ever given the opportunity to create his own program, Poor knew he wanted to give students the chance to have a ‘gifted generalist’s’ background. Being exposed to print, photography and video allows students to utilize their knowledge and efficiently solve the problem.

“Then [students] can walk into a company, listen to the problem and select a solution based on the audience and the budget and not on their major in college,” Poor said. “They are literally dunked in each of the technologies.”

Chair of the Department of Visual Communication and Technology Education, Larry Hatch, agrees that the University’s program remains unique in its ability to provide students with exposure and understanding of a variety of technology.

Most programs separate print technology from photography and video, but the University’s VCT program unites the various mediums to increase the students’ skills.

“The industry really needed a ‘gifted generalist’ that could use a variety of technology to solve a communication problem,” Hatch said. “They [students] have enough understanding in these areas that they can talk and communicate with a whole variety of technical people and pull together a project and do it well.”

During the first few years of the programs existence, Poor completely dedicated himself to making it a success. A challenge early on was having enough faculty to teach the classes, which is something that often happens in the beginning, he said.

“The teaching load was crazy,” Poor said. “You ended up just making do and putting things together just to get it rolling. You know what you want to do; you just don’t know how you’re going to pull it off.”

The effort Poor put into creating the program proved to be successful as enrollment rates have continued to increase since its formation in 1972. In the beginning, about 100 students were enrolled and numbers have reached to almost 500 students this year.

Set up to provide students with a real understanding of the industry, the program is constantly updating technology to resemble the ‘real world.’ And a requirement that VCT students must fulfill before graduation is the completion of three co-ops. It has grown into one of the largest technical co-op programs in the country, allowing students to apply their skills outside the classroom and network with employers.

Working with the University for the past three years, Owens Community College offers students the option to work there for one semester and further build their skills. Exposure to different types of mediums increases students chance to find jobs after graduation, said Andy Woodard, marketing manager at Owens Community College.

“We look for someone with a print background, but photography would help in creating prints with eye catching designs,” he said. “The more broad ranging your skills are, the more attractive you’ll be to an employer.”

Visual communications is one of the most aware degrees and is in tune with the industry it supports and serves. The co-op aspect of the program ensures that students are directly related to what they will do at a real job, Woodard said.

“People are being asked to do more with less and if they have the skills to wear all those ‘hats’, it will make them more of an asset,” he said.

Also affiliated with the University for about one year, Lou Manna, a commercial photographer in Manhattan, believes that the VCT program at the University well-prepares the students for the working world.

“The real-life experience is invaluable,” Manna said. “They’re picking up not only educational information, but also practical skills on how to deal with clients, which is extremely important.”

The requirement to obtain three co-ops before graduation may seem overwhelming to some, but University sophomore and VCT student Brian King said it’s just difficult to make yourself work hard enough to find them.

Although finding the co-ops is sometimes a challenge, King believes that the experiences learned through them are essential.

“It gives you the ability to go into one [co-op] and maybe work in a photo place and might not really like it,” he said. “At the second co-op, you’ll have more education behind you and have a better idea of what specialization you want to have. And then that gives you the ability to decide where you want to be and allows you to network with professionals.”

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