Kristen Grace

Students have already started applying for the new Interactive Media Studies (IMS) major, approved by the university senate in the spring of 2008.

The Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS) already offers two minors, one in interactive media and the other in game studies, as well as three thematic sequences.

The institute recently added the option for students to earn a degree in an IMS major within the College of Arts and Science, with the understanding that it is a co-major that must be paired with a degree in another field.

According to Glenn Platt, director of IMS, the major was created with the purpose of giving students a background in digital technology, allowing them to be innovative within their other fields of study.

“You can major in anything and IMS can change the way you see it,” Platt said.

The first student applications to the program were accepted this semester and Platt said there has been an overwhelming amount of interest that has greatly exceeded the 20 students the program plans to accept per year for the major.

“Our biggest problem is being able to satisfy the amount of interest shown by students,” he said.

To accommodate these growing numbers, the program has to create more classes and attain faculty to teach them.

The recent contribution of $14.7 million by Mike Armstrong, Miami alumnus and former chairman and CEO of AT&T, also stimulated the growth of the department.

Platt described Armstrong’s donation as “critical.”

With the increase in faculty and number of classes offered, the program has been able to create a unique classroom experience compared to traditional college courses.

However, even the fledgling program has been affected by the university hiring freeze.

The announcement of what Platt called a faculty “hiring slow-down” by the university, the growth of the program has slowed significantly.

According to Platt, roughly two thirds of the program’s plan for growth and their technological ventures have been put on hold because of the school’s financial stress.

Despite tough economic times, IMS students like Nick Pagon are enjoying their coursework.

“I like a lot of the classes because they are constantly changing,” said senior Nick Pagon, a current IMS student also studying economics. “The classes deal with a lot of current events, so we are reading articles instead of out-of-date textbooks.”

While the course numbers may stay the same, the content of the course changes with the technology that is created. The content of a class one semester will most likely not be the same in the next.

“IMS is a constantly changing field and has to be as flexible as possible,” Platt said.

Platt also described the program to be individually intensive. Each student in the program receives a faculty mentor and is expected to write a thesis at the completion of the major.

Platt listed a number of ventures the program has been pursuing in partnership with the engineering school, including research on virtual reality environment, creating a 3-D printer and advancements in green technology.