During its inaugural year, the Applied Theatre, Film and Television program in the School of Liberal Arts has seen unexpected enrollment success. The new program makes IUPUI one of the only undergraduate programs in applied theater in the country, according to Kristine Karnick, chair of Communication Studies and founding director of the program.
Spring of 2022 was the first semester for this major to be offered and Karnick previously estimated that by Spring of 2023, the end of its first year, there would be 15 students in the program.
Fifty students had enrolled, Karnick said.
“It's certainly a lot more than we thought we would have, given that we didn't have a website until you know, seven months ago, eight months ago,” she said. “So we're really — it's off to a lovely start.”
Students can select a specific concentration of study, or opt for a general major and take courses in theater, film and television.
Karnick describes how the applied majors allow students in the program to learn about the history and production process of these concentrations, allowing them to take the knowledge they learn in their courses and apply it to careers in media today.
Parker Taylor, a freshman, enrolled in the program as an Integrated Film and Television Studies/Production major.
“My ultimate goal is to be able to pick up any job on a set possible,” Taylor said. “I want to know everything about sound boards, lighting, camera equipment, editing, writing, casting and directing, and with the help of my minor in theater, grow my acting proficiency.”
Taylor’s dream is to be a performer and is learning skills in the program to help him achieve his goals better than he feels a degree in theater could.
“I love to perform but discovered that with the way the world is right now, it would not benefit me to major in theater,” Taylor said. “But to instead major in a similar passion that I can make a living off whilst I grow my performance resume.”
Other departments have minors in these concentrations, but previously there were no majors. Potential students had been searching for a major like this at IUPUI for years, Karnick said.
“We were told by the registrar's office that the biggest online failed search for majors at the university was theater because it was kind of buried within communication studies but there is no major in it,” she said.
The program is mostly made up of existing courses in other programs, some even in other schools including the Herron School of Art, the School of Informatics and Computing and the School of Engineering and Technology to create what Karnick considers to be a very integrated program.
Karnick feels that this program is solid for students who are interested in going into the media industry business. “You're not just learning the right software or the right camera to use, you're questioning what you're doing with them, how the forms developed, how they've improved, maybe what should be different,” Karnick said. “Because the technology will always change and getting students just technically ready is not going to provide them with what I think they need.”
As enrollment increases in the program, new courses can be created and added to the curriculum while offering courses that have not been offered in recent semesters due to low enrollment.
“We've revamped a few of our production courses, for example, and we're bringing some — there are some that have been kind of on the books but they haven't been offered,” Karnick said. “As we grow, we can offer them knowing that we'll have enough student enrollment, to make sure that the courses actually take.”
According to Taylor, being able to take these applied courses in Indianapolis is the biggest appeal of the program.
“I can easily commute to the school, as well as be close to a plethora of community theaters and artistic outlets,” Taylor said. “The business is booming in and around Indy, it would be a mistake to travel anywhere else and miss all the opportunities this school and the programs can provide me in the heart of Downtown Indy.”
Katie Wiseman (she/her) is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in Spanish. She is the Editor-In-Chief of The Campus Citizen.