In mid-July, Blis DeVault donned a long black evening gown and spent her birthday weekend in Lexington, Ky., away from home and family. She wouldn’t want it any other way, because she was doing what she loves—celebrating her students’ success.
“The reward for me is to go to my students’ screenings and see them bring their projects to fruition.”
The associate professor of arts and innovation and director of the Television Center was attending the 51st Annual Ohio Valley Regional Emmy Awards, a showcase of college students’ work in all forms of filmmaking. Three 2015 Xavier graduates who majored in electronic media won production awards for their work—Erin Kirby for commercial, Jack VanderToll for director, and Allie Martin for short-form non-fiction.
DeVault says their success—they’re also all employed—illustrates the program’s commitment to excellence. It wasn’t always so. When she arrived in 2008, the Television Center was old and its equipment out of date. Students in the Electronic Media program were challenged to produce their weekly news and sports programs. It was difficult to promote the program to prospective students.
But the center now boasts the best in modern equipment: new high-definition cameras, lighting, audio mixing board, soundproofing, new computers for students and all the software needed to complete a film.
Now called Digital Innovation Film and Television, the program requires students to develop technical skills as well as the ability to write well, work in teams and think on their feet. It’s the kind of multidisciplinary approach that drew DeVault to Xavier in the first place. “I’m interested in how story-telling can affect change,” she says. “I teach students to have a social justice theme in all they do.”
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