July 10, 2017
A group of hand-picked rising high school seniors from the Philadelphia School District are on campus this week learning to connect their online creativity with social change. From Sunday, July 9, through Saturday, July 15, 25 young gamers and media developers who are excited, motivated, passionate change-makers are invited participants in the University's iCamp, a new Summer Media Academy.
iCamp – Interdisciplinary Culture, Arts, & Media Production – offers sessions with WCU faculty who are experts in four broad areas of media: film and video production, game development, audio and podcast production, and web development. Students participate in structured media production lessons, hands-on workshops, and collaborative open lab time, gaining significant skills to match existing interests and talents.
The camp has partnered with Philadelphia-based organizations Fab Youth Philly and the Advocate Center for Culture and Education, as well as WCU's Academic Development Program (ADP), to be "clients." Representatives from these organizations are here discussing their missions and goals one-on-one with the students, who are developing relevant projects for those clients. The week concludes with a July 15 "media launch party" celebrating the students' work.
Explains Laquana Cooke, iCamp's program director and WCU assistant professor of English, producing projects to benefit society is "making media that matters. Our passion is working with youth to effect social change. … The academy coordinates community, industry, and academic relationships for students to develop college-level social, academic, and technical literacies that are vital for college and beyond."
As they explore solutions to community issues in the University's computer labs and classrooms, these young media developers are sampling college life. They're rooming in the residence halls, eating in the dining hall, and enjoying evening activities as well as making new friends, just like WCU's enrolled students. The residential experience, supportive environment, and academic challenge are incentives to encourage them to apply themselves to seeking solutions – and to apply to college.
Cooke will provide instructional support for participants in the game design and development track. She was a catalyst for the camp's development, suggesting iCamp be modeled after the Games for Change (G4C) Student Challenge in New York City, where she worked while pursuing her doctorate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The challenge is a game design competition in three cities (NYC, Dallas, Pittsburgh) that invites middle and high school students to create digital games about real-world issues impacting their communities.
At WCU, she teaches game design and development and has been active in the Youth Empowerment & Urban Studies (YES) program. Her iCamp co-director Randall Cream, assistant professor and director of the University's Digital Humanities & New Media program in the English department, will oversee instruction in two tracks: game design and development, and web development.
Other English department faculty who are instructors are Ben Kuebrich, Michael Burns, Andrew Famiglietti, as well as communications studies' Rajvee Subramanian, all assistant professors.
The inaugural iCamp Summer Media Academy, which is free to participants, is made possible through the support of WCU's College of Arts and Humanities (CAH) and School of Interdisciplinary Studies. Critical support was provided by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Dean of CAH. Campus partners include the Academic Development Program (ADP), YES Program, and the departments of Communication Studies, English, and Art + Design.