MU faculty hope to establish digital storytelling degree program

Friday, December 16, 2011 | 4:29 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A proposal to establish a digital storytelling degree program at MU is in the works by several faculty members, and they are seeking student support. 

"It (digital storytelling) is using ancient practices of storytelling in a multimedia environment," Patricia Okker, an English professor, wrote in an email. "The major we are proposing develops a hybrid set of skills — in writing, visual communication and design, and production."

Okker wants to get the proposal approved on a campus level, she said. After going through this process, she said she hopes they can bring the proposal before the UM System Board of Curators as early as summer 2012. 

Any proposal for a new degree program requires the UM System's Board of Curators vote of approval. With their nod, it would then go to Missouri's Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

Since initially talking to faculty from the School of Journalism and the Department of Communication about digital storytelling almost a year ago, Okker said involvement from faculty has now reached approximately 10 departments campuswide.

Those faculty members are hoping to garner student support and feedback through their Facebook page.

Okker said prospects for graduates with digital storytelling degrees are good within Missouri.

"We have consulted with industry leaders in the state, and based on these conversations, we're optimistic that students with this hybrid set of skills will be quite marketable," Okker said.

More than 10 universities across the country feature digital storytelling workshops, classes or degrees, including Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California-Berkley. 

If the program is put in place, MU would be the first university in the state to offer a digital storytelling degree. Missouri State University's digital storytelling institute "What is Digital Storytelling?" was held this past summer. At this time, the digital storytelling institute is the only event of its kind in Missouri.

Charles Davis, an associate professor of journalism at MU, is involved with the digital storytelling summit, which will be held on March 5 and 6, 2012, in Columbia, following the True/False Film Festival..

A digital storytelling major at MU would fill in the educational gaps that majors like English, journalism and film studies don't, Davis said. 

"There are kids coming in who want to do this, but they fall between the cracks," Davis said. "We're trying to build a bigger platform — something multimedia-based that combines elements of film making, information technology and narrative."

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