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Lens Collective Conference Brings Digital Media Collaboration to Campus

By Je’Von Franklin
for Hottytoddy.com

As journalism students study their craft with their peers and professors, they also have the opportunity to learn from other students and professionals from time to time. This week, the School of Journalism & New Media will host its third annual Lens Collective Conference from Oct. 23-26 at the University of Mississippi to help pair students with professionals from other universities for a collective digital project. 

Lens Collective poster. Photo provided.

Lens Collective is an in-depth multimedia workshop that focuses on cultural preservation through digital storytelling, according to Alysia Steele, assistant professor and Lens Collective founder.

This year’s theme is “The Land Through Our Lens.” Students will document their surroundings for a day and spend the next day editing and producing content, as well as listen to presentations by speakers. 

During this intense four-day workshop, students have the opportunity to enhance hard skills like interviewing, writing, and audio and video skills. They also have the opportunity to work with and be mentored by professionals in the industry.

Steele said she wants students to take away three things from Lens Collective.

“I want students to be able to have collaborative spirits with the community – to understand that they’re not just subjects, they’re people. (I want them to) appreciate cultural differences and to verbally communicate just a little bit more, and in-depth, and better because I think we rely on mobile devices to text and email,” she said.

Steele began the annual event in 2017 through inspiration from a similar “Dawn to Dusk” program at her alma mater, Ohio University. Students were tasked with documenting a story for a day, which would then be published that night.

Cheryl Hatch, an Allegheny College professor and an Ohio University alumna, added to the concept, including more universities and community partnerships. 

Steele combined the two ideas and added her own twist, creating a four-day workshop that usually has around 60 participants. In 2017, the focus was blues music. Last year, Steele chose to highlight civil rights stories. This year, it’s all about land.

Many students will be involved in this year’s conference. Students from Alcorn State University, Ohio University, Ball State University, Hampton University, Middle Tennessee State University and Penn State University have confirmed they will be in attendance.

Alcorn State Senior Amari Ferguson said she’s looking forward to the professional experience.

“I’m eager to network and share this journey with like-minded innovators,” she said. 

This year will feature an impressive list of mentors including:

• Nine-time Emmy-winning photojournalist Eric Seals of the Detroit Free Press,
• Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Smiley Pool of The Dallas Morning News, and
• Akili Ramsess, executive director of the National Press Photographers Association and an award-winning photo editor

“I plan to take a lot away from Lens Collective, but the most important one will be learning to work with different students from different campuses to make this conference successful,” said Artez Gibson, an Ole Miss junior.

For more information regarding Lens Collective visit www.lenscollective.org.

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