A Message from the SMAD Director

Dr. Steve AndersonWelcome to the website of the James Madison University School of Media Arts & Design. Visitors to SMAD will encounter a first class facility, engaged faculty and energetic students who were competitively selected to be part of our program. We offer a dynamic (and popular) program with a long history of success in turning out graduates with both media smarts and hands-on skills who are in demand by employers. This is an exciting time for SMAD. Below is some information about our department and a few reasons why we are so excited about our future.

SMAD students learn how to gather, analyze and communicate information in a variety of media and corporate settings. All learn print layout, video production and web development, but choose to specialize in one of our concentrations; Converged Media, Integrated Advertising and Corporate Communication, Digital Video & Cinema, or Journalism.

Our curriculum requires writing, law, management and theoretical/analytical classes that encourage students to think critically about media and their future roles in the industry. Concentration classes take students deep into content they'll find useful in their first job and later in their careers.

The buzzword in the industry today is “convergence” - the bringing together of media skills, industries and technologies - and students are encouraged to prepare for something other than a traditional career based on narrow skills, a specific medium and a single method of content delivery. For example, journalists now find they need to write for both the eye (print/online) and the ear (audio/video). They may need to shoot stills, acquire video and assemble audio/slide presentations for the web. Advertising executives and corporate communicators need to know which media to use for which messages and how to reach customers and users via their delivery platforms of choice.

SMAD is constantly assessing its curriculum and adjusting coursework and programs to meet the challenges of convergence. (More information on our curriculum can be found at: http://smad.jmu.edu/majorreq.html).

SMAD majors go on to work as journalists (print, broadcast and online), advertising executives, corporate communicators, media strategists, video professionals (videographers, editors and producers), filmmakers, scriptwriters and screenplay writers, graphic artists, interface designers, search engine optimizers, social media managers, and web developers. They work for newspapers, magazines, websites, corporations, public relations firms, advertising agencies, marketing companies, motion picture companies, broadcast televisions stations, cable networks, commercial production houses, interactive media companies, government agencies, non-profit organizations, talent agencies, and consulting firms. They may work on the creative side of media in the production of media messages or perhaps they develop communication/media strategies for corporations to help reach employees or the public. (More information on careers can be found at: http://smad.jmu.edu/resources.html).

SMAD students are an exclusive group. Each year, we admit approximately two out of every three students who apply. To get in, a student designates SMAD-Declared for their major, enrolls in SMAD 101, takes an admission test and prepares a letter of application. (More information on the admission process can be found at: http://smad.jmu.edu/admiss.html).

Those admitted have good grades, write effectively, score well on our admissions test and are knowledgeable about our field. Many choose to double-major in diverse areas such as English, Art, Theatre, Business, Computer Science, Political Science and History. Complimentary minors in Creative Writing, Film Studies, Political Communication, Sport Communication and Telecommunications are also popular.

Students often work for the campus newspaper, The Breeze, or the campus radio station, WXJM. Many have gotten involved with our new student organization called SMAD Club. Our students have won many prestigious national and regional awards for magazine production, video productions, still photography, original scripts and interactive websites. We, the SMAD faculty, find our students to be bright, responsible, articulate and driven - in short, a highly enjoyable group of unique individuals.

FacultyAll professors have both academic and professional credentials. We are authors, writers, media historians, video producers, interactive developers, telecommunication policy analysts, corporate spokespersons and journalists who have received Emmy's and other major national and international awards. Many have worked for public television stations, large newspapers, major-market commercial television stations, web consulting firms and corporations. Such companies as the The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, Apple and The Learning Channel have employed us.

All professors in SMAD have achieved the terminal degree for their discipline. Some have a degree in the Arts (M.F.A.) while others chose the research route of a Ph.D. I can personally attest to our faculty's work ethic, commitment to students and interest in your success. This group spends long hours revising course material, meeting with students, advising and of course - writing, publishing and creating as well. To find out more about us, check out the “Faculty & Staff” link in the navigation bar at the top of this page.

SMAD houses a full digital high-definition video production facility for both field and studio production. This is simply one of the finest video facilities among universities in the United States and the world. The studio is used for narrative/cinematic productions as well as informational and news related programming.

FacilitiesA 16-station Post-Production Lab is utilized for editing and compositing and is available for students in classes and after hours. Every student learns at a dual-monitor HD station using applications such as Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects and Red Giant suites. The studio and editing lab are interconnected to an Avid Isis shared storage video server with 32 terabytes of storage.

We have labs for writing classes, interactive media production, magazine production and video editing with multiple stations that are available in classes and after hours.

Our SMAD Resource Room is an open lab for SMAD students who need access to video editing, photo printing, cross-platform web development and dubbing for class related projects. The room also provides meeting space with a conference table and computer projection. It's also a place for some downtime between classes. (More information on our facilities can be found at: http://smad.jmu.edu/facilities.html).

StaffThree highly knowledgeable full-time professionals support our facilities. They work mainly behind the scenes, but provide SMAD with the best support possible. I hope you'll get to know John Hodges (Technology Manager), Jon Wenger (Chief Engineer) and John Gruver (Network and Lab Manager).


Many SMAD students choose to do internships, though they are not required. The SMAD Jobs & Internships link provides students with information about companies looking for prospective interns.

SMAD offers several opportunties for students who wish to expand their perspectives beyond campus. Three study abroad opportunities have SMAD course components and a fourth program takes students to L.A., the entertainment capital of the world.

Ireland Ireland in Text and Image is a 6-credit summer program where students spend six weeks traveling around Ireland. The program takes students to some of the most exciting locations in Ireland with stays in cosmopolitan Dublin, laid-back Cork, the small village of Doolin, and artsy Galway. Side trips include biking and hiking on the small island of Inisheer, wandering about the ruins at the Rock of Cashel, shooting photos at the at the dramatic the Cliffs of Moher, walking the pilgrimage trail on St. Patrick’s Mountain, touring the Guinness Storehouse, and visiting to Cobh, the last port of call for the Titanic.

Urbino Summer in Urbino, Italy
This is a 3-credit, four week summer program in one of the most beautiful parts of Italy. Urbino is a World Heritage site, the boyhood of home of Raphael and one of the most historic cities in Italy, yet it's largely unknown to the outside world and relatively untrampeled by tourists. Students produce their own multimedia pieces and work in teams to create a web documentary, magazine or app on the town of Urbino, Italy. They become immersed in a town and culture by telling the stories of people involved in the life in an Italian town. Past students have produced multimedia stories on food, wine, parenting, athletics, history, tourism, music, traditions, religion, art, design and dance. This program has an applied, hands-on component that involves actual media creation. A non-credit class in "survival Italian" is part of the experience, but no previous Italian language background is required. JMU students work with University of Urbino students who serve as translators.

London Semester in London
This program is open to all JMU majors and runs every semester, including summer. Students get to experience Great Britain's capital city, in the classroom and in person. You'll study the great works, then you'll examine those great works in context, exploring how history influenced the present in Europe's most cosmopolitan city. Our professors take you there, show you, and then let you see for yourself.

Los Angeles

JMU in L.A.
This program allows students to learn about, and participate in, one of the most powerful cultural forces in our world today: The Entertainment Industry. Students enroll in two 3-credit classes and do a 2-credit internship. Students live and work in the entertainment capital of the world in Oakwood Corporate Housing. Oakwood is located in Burbank and houses professionals working at nearby Warner Brothers, Universal, Paramount and Disney studios and major television networks. The Oakwood complex includes two large swimming pools, a convenience store, an exercise facility, tennis courts and classrooms.

Maintaining our position as a leader will require support and involvement from a number of individuals who feel connected to our program. To that aim, we have established an advisory group comprised of alumni and other industry professionals to help us prepare for the future.

The SMAD Alumni/Professional Advisory Council (SMAD-APAC) helps advise us about current and future trends in the industry, as well as work on a capital campaign aimed at building our endowment. With the rising cost of a college degree, we hope to generate funds for more scholarships and student support. We also hope to increase faculty development funds to support professors in keeping abreast of changes in the industry. We hope to build even stronger connections to our extraordinary alumni through this advisory council.

Finally, we are moving toward a new administrative structure as a School within a new College of Communication, Information and Media. (We are currently within a College of Arts & Letters). This is a truly exciting prospect as this would make us the first such college in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The first phase of this transition gets underway this fall as we combine with the School of Communication Studies and the School of Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication in a Division of Communication, Information and Media. This does not change SMAD. We will continue as a stand-alone department, but it does place us among other departments who share our disciplinary roots. The plan is to change from a division to a college as soon as possible. Achieving such college status within the university will give us greater stature and visibility.

StaffPlease feel free to contact the department if you have questions. Our program support technicians,Theresa Shifflett and Christy Comer are a good place to start. They know the inner workings of the department and are a helpful and cheerful presence in the SMAD office. We are located in 0276 Harrison Hall. The main office number is (540) 568-7007.

Steven D. Anderson, Ph.D.
Director and Professor
School of Media Arts & Design

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