New fund invests in media innovation in the college

MACS students filming

With the launch of the Media Innovation Fund this fall, five College of Media projects proposed by faculty members will be funded this academic year. 

"We were very gratified by both the quantity and the quality of proposals received, and are excited to be able to fund a variety of efforts that represent well our commitment to innovation in our scholarship, teaching, and service missions," said Dean Tracy Sulkin.

The new fund kicked off thanks to a generous lead gift from alumnus Jim Schlueter (BS ’80, journalism).

“I don't know what the future will bring in this ever-changing field of media and communications, but I want the students at Illinois to be at the forefront of figuring it out and leading it,” said Schlueter, retired Boeing communications director. “I firmly believe that the strength of the University of Illinois lies in the smart students who come here. I want them to have the tools they need while they are here to become leaders in our field, and I want to pitch in and help a little.”

The Media Innovation Fund supports a range of innovative activities that celebrate faculty excellence, faculty and student research, technology advancements, and cutting-edge pedagogy. 

The inaugural projects include:

Enhancing Critical Media Production Instruction with a Cinema Camera
With an increase in new courses being taught in production topics, an entry-level cinema camera will enable 300-and 400-level filmmaking courses to be taught using a more professional rig. It will better prepare students for media production in a professional setting; no other instructional unit on campus currently has camera equipment of this caliber.

Proposed by: Department of Media & Cinema Studies Lecturer Victor Font, Assistant Professor Derek Long, and Assistant Professor Jenny Oyallon-Koloski. This initiative will also receive support from the Department of Media & Cinema Studies.

Fake News? Fake Ads? Media Literacy: Exploring New Markets for Training Professionals
A study will determine what online media literacy training is available across fields, analyzing the content, and conducting market research to determine the need or want of such training across fields. If there is a need and market, then further steps will be taken to create, produce, and disseminate media literacy training. Students will participate in the search and analysis of existing materials and collaborate on the design of training materials. 

Proposed by: Professor and Head of the Department of Journalism Stephanie Craft and Professor of Advertising Michelle Nelson.

Computational Methods in the Study of Media: An Introductory Workshop & Research Symposium
A three-day workshop for students and interested faculty in media will explain how to obtain, organize, and analyze commonly available data from online sources, using computational social science tools and techniques. A symposium will feature guest speakers addressing issues of access, privacy, ethics, and confidentiality raised by the emergence of digital trace data and use of computational methods. 

Proposed by: Assistant Professor of Journalism Margaret Ng and Assistant Professor of Advertising Harsh Taneja. This initiative will also receive support from the Department of Advertising, Department of Journalism, and the Institute of Communications Research.

Student Interactions with Media Outlets
Funds will be provided for each department to subsidize one student field trip to visit alumni working in media outlets. Students will learn about the professional industry, including internships and full-time jobs, and make networking contacts. Faculty members will learn about any innovations occurring in today’s newsrooms and re-engage with our alumni.

Proposed by: Journalism Lecturer Jean McDonald. This initiative will also receive support from the Department of Advertising, Department of Journalism, and Department of Media & Cinema Studies.

Undergraduate Student Conference Support
Funds will be provided for undergraduates from all three College of Media departments to attend professional or academic conferences, with a focus on offering opportunities to students from underrepresented groups. 

Proposed by: Journalism Lecturers Jean McDonald and Alison Davis Wood. This initiative will also receive support from the Department of Advertising, Department of Journalism, and Department of Media & Cinema Studies.

Additional projects funded
Two other proposals will be funded through other college resources. These include equipping the college with Zoom (a video communication tool) and supporting a speaker series hosted by the Institute of Communications Research. 

“I think [the Media Innovation Fund] will be a difference maker,” Schlueter said. “It is one thing to say that we want our college and our students to be at the forefront of research and education in today's media world, but it's another to have strategies and programs in place to do that.”

To make a gift to the Media Innovation Fund, contact Deanne Johnson, Assistant Dean for Advancement, at 217-244-5466 or You can also make a gift online through the University of Illinois Foundation and specify that it is for the College of Media Innovation Fund, fund number 11339570.