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UNM Closes in on Film, Digital Media Degree

January 29, 2009

Their goal is to become digital artists, writers, gamers, entrepreneurs, engineers, critical thinkers, scientists, film and video makers, animators, storytellers, designers, computer scientists or educators using or developing the tools of digital media. Students in the University of New Mexico’s proposed Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media Program are getting closer to achieving those goals.

During today’s meeting, the Academic, Student Affairs and Research Committee of the UNM Board of Regents approved a Bachelors of Fine Arts in interdisciplinary film and digital media. The degree will be considered for approval by the full board on Tuesday, Feb. 10.

IFDM, offering courses since fall 2007, was designed to foster near-term employment opportunities and long-term economic development while responding to the state’s call to develop a sustainable film and digital media industry.

Kirby Ann Witte, UNM sophomore and National Merit Scholar majoring in business administration, decided she wanted to work in the film industry in her senior year of high school. “I am a terrible actress, but I have a great mind for business. For this reason I want to be a producer,” she said.

After taking an introductory IFDM course, Witte added to this goal an interest in computer animation. Samples of her work in the program can be viewed at She said one over her favorite projects was “a cartoon featuring a character named Lars Honeytoast, who becomes the worst super villain ever, Mad Cow.”

Opportunities in the kinds of careers Witte and other IFDM students are interested in are growing in New Mexico. According to a report recently prepared by Ernst & Young for the New Mexico State Film Office, film production activities in New Mexico created 2,220 direct jobs in 2007, including approximately 1,670 below the line employees earning $49,500 annually and 550 actors, directors and producers.

IFDM is designed to serve growing media industries by giving faculty and students the necessary critical, creative and technical skills to apply digital technologies in innovative and productive ways. The program was created by linking the existing strengths at UNM in the Colleges of Fine Arts, Engineering, Arts & Sciences, Anderson School of Management and other schools and colleges. This interdisciplinary, collaborative approach led Sony Imageworks to name UNM as a partner in their IPAX (Imageworks Professional Academic Excellence) Program.

The proposed bachelor’s degree joins with new concentrations and a minor from three schools and colleges that are each built on an innovative core of classes. In addition to existing classes, a core of ten new interdisciplinary courses will be required for all IFDM students. The core will provide a common set of knowledge and practices that the students will deepen in their chosen major and then put to use in the concluding team-based capstone classes.

The pending B.F.A. offers concentrations in production or critical studies. Students can currently focus in the IFDM curriculum with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts in communication and journalism, Bachelor of Science in computer engineering or as a fine arts minor in computer science.

The formal approval process for the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is expected to be completed this spring.

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