The University of New Mexico (UNM) is known as the state’s flagship research and educational institution with a 600-acre campus comprised of 215-degree programs and 34,793 students. One thing most people may not know about UNM is inside the northeast wing of Mesa del Sol’s Aperture Center is the Interdisciplinary Film & Digital Media (IFDM) program. This four-year program encompasses a fine arts curriculum for students pursuing a degree in gaming, engineering, film, video, animation, music, computer science, art, design, photography, writing, communication, journalism, multimedia or business.
“We don’t limit it to the technical people. We look for really creative and innovative people for our program,” said Miguel Gandert, Distinguished Professor in Communication & Journalism Director, IFDM.
The program comprises 50-70 students that complete a four-year program in a cohort-style finishing with a capstone project. The mission of the IFDM program is a model of interdisciplinary education that gives students the essential tools for critical, creative, and technical skills to apply digital technologies in innovative and productive ways.
“One of the unique things about our program is we don’t have a faculty, like most conventional programs or departments. Most of the people that work with us are media professionals,” Gandert said.
“We are not just a film program; we have instructors from Sandia Labs who teach gaming, which is nice because the people who are here, are here, because they love students and they love teaching.”
The program does not offer a degree. Instead students are given the option to pursue their interests in one of four colleges: Anderson School of Management, Arts and Sciences, College of Fine Arts and the School of Engineering. This program design allows students to pick classes from different departments and decide how they would like to approach creative studies.
“Interdisciplinary is in our title and we work with four different colleges for students to obtain their degrees,” Gandert said. “We’ve created a whole set of electives where students can focus on what they want to do.”
IFDM provides the opportunity for students to bridge the gap between creativity, storytelling, and technology. In addition, the high-tech facility enhances the learning and creative environment for students.
“Downstairs we have a black box studio. It is whatever you want it to be. It is a large room with computerized film and lighting; designed for image capture, film, green screen, and visual effects,“ Gandert said.
“We also have a sound recording studio, gaming, animation, conventional filmmaking, project rooms, labs, and much more. We have more than one million dollars worth of equipment that students can use; which is pretty remarkable.”
The facility offers much more than just state-of-the-art equipment; convenience plays a large factor as well.
“I’d rather come to this facility [Mesa del Sol] because it’s easy to park, it’s beautiful, state-of-the-art, and it’s not that far from the main campus,” Gandert said.
The occupants of Mesa del Sol provide an added benefit for the IFDM program.
“We are neighbors with ABQ Studios and they use a lot of our students as production assistants or internships,” Gandert said. “We provide support whenever they need it and they help us as well.”
Through internships and skills obtained from the IFDM program, students exit with a toolbox of abilities ready for real world application.
“It’s great we have such an amazing facility for students to take advantage of in our own backyard,” said David Newell, Residential Development Director of Mesa del Sol. “We support our neighbors [IFDM] and their work behind creating such an innovative and creative environment for students.”