With so many people wanting to write for a magazine or direct their own films, media is becoming a competitive field. However, a relatively new program called Media Sandbox in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences is designed to help students compete with the best of the best.

“It’s a hard world to get a job in, and media jobs are even harder to get because they are so popular and desirous,” said David Wheeler, the new Director of the Media Sandbox.

Created in 2011, the Media Sandbox is a four-year program that teaches students about integrated media arts. The program embraces four disciplines: advertising, journalism, cinematic arts, and game development. It is geared towards freshman and sophomores.

Students play with lights at a Media Sandbox photography workshop

But how do you know you’re in the Sandbox? If you are a student in advertising, journalism or media and information, you are eligible to take Sandbox classes. These classes include CAS 110, 111 and 112, as well as CAS 201-208.

The Media Sandbox encourages students to be creative while also teaches the fundamentals of different software that will be used in the future. As a student moves up in the program, most classes become projects based on his or her selected major that are intended to mimic industry work.

Senior Josh Drzewicki said that said that a lot of what he has learned is based around the programs that are used to create this high-caliber material.

“I have learned many professional programs that are used out in the real world such as Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and even some Dreamweaver,” Drzewicki said.

The intention of the Media Sandbox is to provide these integrated courses so that students get hands-on work early on, which is an idea unique to Michigan State.

“We require all of our students to buy a Mac laptop. On the other hand, we don’t require books and students get to use very sophisticated technology which we provide,” said Professor Bob Albers.

Beyond technology, the only skill required for Media Sandbox students is passion.

“I don’t believe I have special genes that make me creative, it is just a passion I quickly realized when I took my first creative class,” Drzewicki said.

CAS 112: Story, Sound and Motion, taught by Albers, is one of three introductory Sandbox classes. The story part of the class is about narratives, techniques and theory, while the sound portion is about how to gather sound, manipulate it, and use it properly. Lastly, the motion part is about editing the moving image.

“Everyone has to tell stories at some point in their career; they are just conveyed in different ways such as film, writing, or advertising,” said Albers.

Advertising senior Kaitlyn Filipp said that one of the greatest driving forces in the Media Sandbox is the way the program keeps up with the latest trends.

“Communication and media are taking the world by storm,” she said. “There are so many different ways that information can be shared, so having a program that keeps up with that is extremely helpful.”

One of the benefits of the Media Sandbox program is students get to work with twenty experienced professors, many of whom are internationally recognized or have won numerous awards. For example, graphics editor in residence Karl Gude was the graphics editor of Newsweek for ten years before coming to Michigan State.

“Every professor I have worked with has taught me so much about the changing world of media, how I can get involved and how I can even be one step ahead,” Drzewicki said.

Albers said Media Sandbox is much more than taking a few innovative classes. He said the program is also focused on becoming a creative community in which students and faculty come together and work as a team, despite being from different disciplines.

“We’re trying to create this boiling pot of creativity,” said Albers. “The more we develop the Sandbox and make people aware of it, the more people will realize what a great thing it is.”

There are many student organizations within the Sandbox. One of these is a special group of students known as the Media Sandbox Street Team. With guidance from professors, the Street Team creates their own projects using knowledge learned from the program.

“At the beginning of the year, we had people apply to be street team leaders and ended up choosing them based on their skills, passion and portfolio,” said advertising senior Shelby Robinson, who is also the social media coordinator for the Sandbox.

The student-led group has recently gotten into doing more charity-based work.

On Nov. 17, the eleven members of the Street Team traveled to Detroit and spent the day helping out a nonprofit called the Georgia Street Community Collective, giving the organization a creative revamp in ways such as designing brochures or enhancing their website.

Robinson said the Street Team was currently developing a longer trip that also helps nonprofits called MSU Out of the Box.

“We will be road-tripping to the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas over spring break and helping out five different nonprofits along the way in Indianapolis, Nashville, Memphis, Dallas and Austin.” Robinson said.

Throughout the year the program also offers several competitions for monetary prizes. Teams of students can currently enter in the Media Sandbox Creative Challenge where they have to compile research and then create a six page magazine layout and a two minute video.

Wheeler said the theme this year is 60/50, since is the 60th year anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education case and the 50th anniversary of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

The actual display and exposition of work will happen at the Lansing Center in April where the judging will also take place.

Although Media Sandbox is relatively new, much is being done to make sure people know about the program. The idea is that in the next couple of years it will be recognized nation-wide.

“Everyone that is part of Media Sandbox is really passionate about its potential and I think that is the most important way to attract students,” said Filipp.

To find out more information, talk to an academic advisor or visit the Media Sandbox website.

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