Oglethorpe opens film studies program

The state’s longest-serving college president, Larry Schall, plans to leave his post at Oglethorpe University after spending 15 years improving the Brookhaven institution. The student body has mushroomed from about 800 to more than 1,300 last fall, and he expects the incoming 2020 class to be even bigger. He oversaw the opening of the Hammack School of Business in 2019, and, as of January, a new film program. “That one we think will explode,” he said.

Katharine Zakos is working to see it does. The assistant professor of media studies joined Oglethorpe five years ago after earning a Ph.D. from Georgia State.

“I was a little surprised to see we didn’t have more courses in film and media,” she said. “One of the first things they asked me to create was a digital media lab to prepare students to create content for multiple platforms. But I kept getting more students who were interested in not just production but in theory and history as well.”

The conversation around offering a film and media studies degree went on for some time, she said.

“We spent a lot of last year planning and looking at what other programs existed,” she said. “We talked about it being a film and media major, so students aren’t prepared just to work on large feature film sets but also in advertising or digital content. And we also wanted to combine history and theory with the practice.”

The degree offering as a major and minor was approved in December and launched in January with Zakos as the program coordinator. About 20 students have already declared it as their major. They’re enrolling in classes that average about 15 members and enjoying one-on-one time with instructors and industry experts, Zakos said.

“Our goal is to do what we do very well,” she said. “Our position as a liberal arts college means we’re dedicated to teaching students to read critically, write effectively and contextualize ideas. We’re also able to offer production classes to students from different areas with no prerequisites, so students know they can get their hands on equipment the first semester they’re here.

“We also have a number of industry professionals who adjunct with us and bring a lot of experience. Some have more than 30 years in the business, and students really appreciate talking to people who have worked on sets or in the editing booth,” Zakos said.

Junior Caroline Bond signed up for the program and has already been interning at Third Rail Studios in Doraville.

“The program has given me the opportunity to see the different places it can take me,” she said. “For instance, I took an experimental video class that I’d never thought about as an artistic view, but it pushed me in that direction. Now I’m into documentaries, and I could see myself working in reality TV. I have so many more options than I knew about before.”

Information about the film and media degrees at Oglethorpe is online at oglethorpe.edu.

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Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.

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