George Mason University

News at Mason

From the Inside Out: Communication Student Video Project Tells Mason’s Story

July 22, 2013

By Tara Laskowski

The videos demonstrate that every Mason student has a different experience.

The videos demonstrate that every Mason student has a different experience.

There is no one better able to tell student stories than students themselves. So thought the staff in the Office of Communications and Marketing when they partnered with communication professor Cindy Lont to help produce video profiles of the typical, yet not typical, Mason student.

Throughout the spring semester, the undergraduate and graduate student team from the course Visual Communication worked on developing a concept, scouting story ideas, shooting footage, editing and producing the videos. Their goal was to find students at Mason with unique stories that exemplified the diversity of the university and highlighted the different reasons that students are attracted to, and happy at, Mason.

Lont has been teaching this course in one form or another for more than 20 years.

Nontraditional students bring life experiences with them.

Nontraditional students bring rich life experiences with them.

“It started out as a traditional graduate course, then I made it into a partial distance course — one of the first — in the early 1990s,” says Lont. She later added undergraduates to the course, and in 2005 began to work directly with nonprofits to give students valuable experience working with an actual client. “It has gone through some interesting transitions as the needs of the students and the direction of media education has evolved.”

This year, with Mason as a client, the students were working in familiar territory — and yet that didn’t make it easy.

“For the five to six minutes shown, there were many, many more hours of creative work we decided were not high enough quality to represent Mason,” says Lont. “That is one of many lessons the students learn.”

The final product certainly is high-quality. The students produced six fast-paced video profiles of students from different majors and backgrounds — all telling their Mason story.

The students found themselves intrigued by one another's journeys.

The students found themselves intrigued by others’ journeys.

“The stories the students have to tell are intriguing,” says Jake McLernon, a master’s student in film and video studies who did a lot of the camera and audio work for the project. “I enjoyed continuing the work I do to show how special Mason is. I already work in Student Media, but to work directly for Mason was an honor.”

“Many of us poured our hearts into this project…finding that happy medium where everyone’s skills were successfully utilized in one way or another was the biggest challenge to overcome, and after seeing the final product, I think we did a pretty good job with that,” says Ted Gulyas, BA Communication ’13.

The students in the videos capture all areas of the Mason IDEA: a civil engineering major interested in innovation in the classroom, a government major attracted to the diversity of cultures, an entrepreneurial BIS student who created her own major, and a working mom coming back to school for her degree because Mason is so accessible. A foreign language student interested in teaching around the world and a film and video student with an exciting internship round out the series.

Theresa Coates, a BIS major at Mason, was excited about participating in the video project.

“George Mason University has opened so many doors to my future, so I was excited to share my experience,” she says. Coates came back to college later in life, after raising a family and starting her own business. “Showing that transition from home to college to home promotes the concept that a nontraditional student can interweave educational and personal needs successfully.”

As both a sustainability and theater major, Bria Woodyard hoped that her story would be appealing to a Mason student looking to develop his or her own degree.   “The ability to have such flexibility in my degree was what initially drew me to Mason — particularly considering the diversity between the two fields,” she says. “I felt that was something that prospective students would appreciate hearing from a current student.”

Whether the videos appeal to incoming and new freshmen students or nontraditional students at Mason, Coates offers perhaps the best perspective on the Mason story: “There is no age in college. Motivated students all have the same plan — to graduate. No matter what the backgrounds are in this highly diversified campus, we are all in it together.”

Watch all six of the video profiles on Mason’s social media web site.

This Vine video captures the students filming.

Visual Communication Team Members

Executive Producers: Kate DeNardi, Cambria Lee Scriptwriters/Researchers: Victoria Burns, Timothy Grant, Hyun Kyung Oh, Mark Schwartz, Sarah Williams Videographers: Desman Grain, Charlie Hall, Clifton Jackson, Daniel Lauchu, Jake McLernon Music/Graphics: Sadea Ramsey, Ted Gulyas Editors: Ted Gulyas, Chris Ross Gaffers: Mark Schwartz, Damarea Timmons