FHSU Takes a Hands-On Approach to Media Education

At most media education institutions, students have to wait until sophomore year to start creating—but not at Fort Hays State University (FHSU), a leading public university located in Hays, Kansas. The school takes a hands-on approach from day one, allowing freshman students in the Informatics media department to start creating and producing content using industry-standard equipment almost immediately. The university also constantly updates and refines their curriculum to reflect the media industry’s rapidly changing workflows, techniques, and technology. These factors have resulted in growing enrollment numbers, and a recent ranking as the #5 best-value university by U.S. News & World Report.


In order to best prepare students for successful careers after graduation, FHSU recently embraced Avid Everywhere™ by outfitting a new $10 million media production building with an end-to-end workflow built upon the Avid MediaCentral Platform—the industry’s most open and extensible platform. FHSU is also an Avid Learning Partner school, and students can graduate with certifications in Pro Tools, Media Composer, and soon, iNEWS. By partnering with Avid, FHSU is providing a unique combination of hands-on training and industry-recognized certifications that help students stand out in a crowded and competitive job market.

We recently went to California to visit a professional facility, and one of the editors sat with the students. I asked her what she would advise them if they want to enter the professional world. She said ‘learn Media Composer—forget everything else.’ That was very inspiring to the students.


A hands-on approach to learning

FHSU employs a “teaching hospital” paradigm in which students work on professionallevel projects in a fast-paced production environment right alongside faculty. After freshmen spend a few weeks learning the theoretical aspects of production, they immediately begin working with the same cameras and studio equipment that are used in the professional world. A low student-to-teacher rate enables the faculty to work closely with students as they learn these new workflows, and students are able to use the production labs any time they choose. FHSU places an emphasis on teaching rather than research, which means professors—not graduate teaching assistants—teach all of the courses.

“Over the four-year program, students are given every opportunity to develop their skills, make mistakes, and get their hands on equipment in their first or second semester,” says Dr. Melissa Hunsicker Walburn, chair of the Informatics media department at FHSU. “Students leave Fort Hays with over three years of production experience and a reel they can show to potential employers.”


Fort Hays is a member of the MIAA Division II athletics conference, and the FHSU Tigers participate in a wide range of sports. The media department broadcasts 20 MIAA games per year, reaching 2.5 million homes in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. In order to produce higher-quality content and train students with cutting-edge broadcast solutions, FHSU outfitted its new production facility with an integrated broadcast workflow made up of cutting-edge Avid solutions, including Media Composer, iNEWS, Interplay | Production, Avid ISIS shared storage, and MediaCentral | UX. The new Avid workflow serves as a central hub for FHSU sports broadcasting, and provides students with valuable hands-on production experience.

Students work hand-in-hand with faculty that includes seasoned industry veterans like Tobias Yoshimura, an awardwinning television producer who has 22 years of experience working as a television producer for acclaimed shows like The Amazing Race and Criss Angel MINDFREAK. Now an associate professor of media studies at FHSU, Yoshimura says that using industry-standard Avid workflows in a real-world production environment is an incredible learning experience for students.

“It’s the real deal—fast-paced, ESPN-style sports programming, produced live and on location,” says Yoshimura. “There are two types of people in TV and film—those that talk and those that do. I want my students to be the ones that do.”

Since Avid solutions and workflows are used by major broadcasters worldwide, FHSU students are gaining the training and experience they need to stand out and succeed in a crowded job market.

When I tell parents the rates for reality TV assistant editors, camera assistants, and audio editors—and show them that Avid certifications are key for these jobs—they realize that their child will be able to leave college and start earning a living immediately while they work on that great screenplay.


A toolbox of skills

As an Avid Learning Partner school, Avid certification coursework and exams are built into the core curriculum—there’s no need for students to take extra courses or pay additional costs to get certified. Enrollment in certification programs has risen 30% in the last few months, and has helped FHSU attract students from around the world—including a large number of Asian students who plan on using Avid certifications to get work.


“For our Media Composer class, the final is the certification exam,” Yoshimura explains. “All students pass the class certified in Media Composer. This sets students apart and shows potential employers that they not only have the talent, but also the skills to contribute immediately. They know the platform back and forth. In the real world, there’s no time to train, so our students enter the job market ready to contribute immediately.”

Avid certifications also help the FHSU professors reassure parents that their children will leave college with marketable, real-world skills.

FHSU is currently in the process of virtualizing its entire media program using the Avid MediaCentral Platform as a foundation. This will enable students and faculty to collaborate beyond the school’s walls and work on content from any location worldwide. As the school moves forward, FHSU will continue to partner with Avid to provide students with the skills and training they need to succeed.

“Our industry changes rapidly, and we don’t have the luxury of teaching from the same books every year,” concludes Hunsicker Walburn. “Students come here because they want to learn the skills needed to get real jobs. By using an all-Avid workflow, we’re giving students a toolbox of skills that will help them get where they want to go.”

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