Exploring Innovative Approaches to New Media Arts Education Through Benilde’s Benchmarking Initiative

27 May 2024

Manila, Philippines – De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) continues to advance its educational landscape by embracing innovative methodologies and learning environments. This commitment was exemplified during the recent U.S. Benchmarking trip from April 20 to 30, 2024, where Maria Sharon Mapa Arriola, Dean of Benilde’s School of New Media Arts (SNMA), explored top institutions in the United States, aiming to integrate the best practices into their curriculum and infrastructure along with Chancellor Benhur Ong; Magdalena De Leon, Dean, School of Arts, Culture, and Performance (SACP); and Ar. Harvey Vasquez, Dean, School of Environment and Design (SED).

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) – Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia

SCAD, renowned for its cutting-edge approach to art and design education, presented several innovative practices that could be integrated into Benilde’s programs. Dean Arriola noted the sophisticated use of LED Volume studio production at SCAD. This technology offers real-time rendering, efficient light management, high-quality video recording, and cost-effectiveness. It is a valuable tool for virtual production scenarios where traditional filming is impractical or expensive. Dean Arriola remarked that implementing similar setups could significantly enhance the learning experience of Benilde’s SNMA, SACP, and SED programs.

The delegation began their tour at SCAD Savannah on April 22, visiting facilities such as SCAD Savannah Film Studios, Adler Hall, and Gulfstream Center for Design. They discussed their plans with SCAD management, including Amber Ylisto, Associate Director of Educator Outreach, and Erin Findlay, Associate Director of Admission.

The tour continued at SCAD Atlanta last April 24, where they explored the SCAD Atlanta Fine Arts, Fashion, Library, Digital Media Center, LED Volume Stage, and SCADFASH Museum of Fashion + Film with the guidance of Pelesino Ane Kevichusa, Executive Director of Admission; Dilip Padath, Associate Director of Admission; Adrian Ferma, Assistant Director of Admission; Liping Song, Head Librarian; Kent Knowles, Associate Chair, Fine Arts; Dejan Agatonovic, Associate Dean; and Jud Estes, Associate Dean.

SCAD’s new media labs were particularly noteworthy, featuring circular layouts with working tables in the middle and computers facing the wall. This design facilitates a collaborative environment, fostering creativity and interaction among students. Additionally, SCAD’s approach to displaying students’ works along corridors and common areas creates a dynamic and inspiring atmosphere. “D+A Campus can be embellished with curated works following the approach of SCAD,“ Dean Arriola mentioned.

The film studio is another venue in SCAD that caught Dean Arriola’s eye. It is a fully-equipped film and television production facility with various set buildings available for diverse productions. Each building is furnished with furniture, appliances, and decor to create realistic interiors for film and TV sets. She believes this kind of studio provides a practical approach to film and multimedia content creation and can also be offered to students in Benilde.

Finally, there’s SCADStory, a 4D immersive reality experience that narrates SCAD’s establishment and four-decade journey, combining 2D animation, projection mapping, sound design, special effects, and production design to create a captivating storytelling experience. “This innovative marketing approach can be emulated at Benilde, leveraging SNMA and SCAP programs to craft a similar immersive 4D storytelling experience,” she says.

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) – Rochester, New York

The delegation met with key RIT figures last April 25-26 including Prabu David, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs; James Myers, Associate Provost, RIT Global; Thomastine Sarchet, Assistant Dean, Director NTID; Chris Jackson, Senior Associate Dean, College of Art and Design, Qiang Tu, Senior Associate Dean, Management and Information Systems; Clyde Eirikur Hul, Professor, Management Department; Edwin Torres, Department Chair, Saunders College of Business; Michael Yacci, Associate Dean for Academics Affairs, College of Computing and Information Sciences; and Fran Flaherty, Director, Dyer Arts, Center RIT/NTID.

A significant milestone of the trip was the formal signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between DLS-CSB and RIT last April 25. This agreement aims to strengthen and expand the mutual contact between the two universities, promoting academic collaboration and cooperation across various disciplines. It will remain in force for ten (10) years. The MOU outlines a comprehensive framework for faculty and student exchanges, joint research projects, and other collaborative initiatives, including the following:

  • Faculty Collaboration and Exchange: Initiatives such as short and long-term teaching and seminar development, focusing on shared curriculum and teaching methods.
  • Student Partnership Programs: Degree programs, student exchanges, study-abroad opportunities, and academic field trips to enhance the learning experience.
  • Exchange of Academic Information: Emphasizing Deaf Education, Access Technology, and related research, reinforcing the institutions’ commitment to collaborative discovery and innovation.
  • Joint Seminars and Conferences: Hosting joint academic meetings to foster a global perspective and academic excellence.

They toured the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), Saunders College of Business, Global Program & International Partnership, Center on Access Technology (C4 Captioning Demonstration), Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, College of Art and Design, and College of Engineering Technology, observing the innovative setups and engaging in productive discussions on potential collaborations.

“RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences offers comprehensive programs in BFA and BS, alongside a Master of Fine Arts in Photography and Related Media,” notes Dean Arriola. “Their BFA program, with options ranging from advertising photography to photojournalism, emphasizes the creation and presentation of images in various formats, while their BS program prepares students for specialized careers in healthcare, forensic, and imaging technology fields. Observing their curricula, facilities, and inclusive teaching methods, particularly for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, provides valuable insights for SNMA’s program development.”

Dean Arriola added that RIT’s Animation and Film Programs are incredibly thorough. “The Animation BFA covers everything from AR/VR to sound design, emphasizing production and screenwriting. Their BS in Motion Picture Science blends engineering with artistic innovation, and their Film Production BFA nurtures creativity in cinema. Additionally, their MFA offers specialized tracks in 2D and 3D animation, production, and screenwriting. These programs will guide SNMA as we seek to enhance our own offerings and stay ahead in the field.”

Furthermore, she also mentions that RIT’s approach to elective courses and co-op experiences is exemplary. “Their diverse electives enhance student learning, while their structured co-op programs ensure that students gain practical, hands-on experience relevant to their majors. This model is something SNMA can adopt to better prepare our students for their future careers.”

She found RIT’s Student Hall for Exploration and Development (SHED) remarkable. “By combining technology, art, and design under one roof, SHED creates a dynamic environment that fosters creativity and collaboration. This flexible, interdisciplinary space concept is inspiring and could greatly benefit our campus.”

Command+g, RIT’s student-run design firm, provides its students with invaluable, real-world experience. “Operating within the Graphic Design Program allows students to manage client projects, gaining practical insights into the workings of a professional design firm,” says Dean Arriola. “This hands-on learning model is something SNMA could integrate into our programs to enhance our students’ practical skills and career readiness.”

Finally, she is impressed with RIT’s commitment to circular entrepreneurship and social enterprise. “Their work with ASEAN partners on circular economy principles, supported by the U.S. Department of State, is a model of international collaboration. This project, focusing on sustainable business practices and environmental stability, offers valuable lessons for SNMA as we expand our circular economy and social enterprise initiatives.”

Pratt Institute – Brooklyn, New York

The Benildean delegation visited Pratt Institute last April 29 and met with key personnel, including President Frances Bronet; Stephanie Cook, Vice President for Institutional Advancement; Jessica Tallman, Interim Vice President for Institutional Advancement; Donna Heilland, Provost; Chris Sula, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs; Anita Cooney, Dean, School of Design; Jorge Oliver, Dean, School of Art; Quilian Riano, Dean, School of Architecture; Maria Jose Soares, Director, Study Abroad and Internationa Partnerships; Ella Maric-Cleaver, Program Coordinator, Office of Education Abroad; Tue Tran, Director, Alumni Engagement; and Kristin Oberheide, Director of International Affairs.

“Pratt Institute is enthusiastic about creating collaborative opportunities that enhance student and faculty mobility,” notes Dean Arriola. “They are interested in short-term educational tours, undergraduate dual degree programs, and visiting faculty initiatives. Pratt’s faculty can engage in activities like participating as panelists in student capstone presentations, conducting workshops, and offering portfolio reviews. These collaborative efforts, including roundtable discussions and joint production, will foster creative synergy and knowledge sharing between our institutions.”

Dean Arriola is proud to share that Pratt Institute’s leadership is particularly impressed by Benilde’s dedication to cross-cultural exchanges and advocacy for marginalized communities. “They appreciated our focus on the vibrant heritage of Philippine indigenous traditions and our commitment to sustainability and community engagement. Pratt’s Provost remarked that Benilde’s vision aligns with Pratt’s mission to foster a just and humane society through inclusive and innovative education. Both institutions aim to integrate professional practice with promoting human dignity and the common good, working towards a sustainable future for all.”

After this successful benchmarking trip, Benilde’s immediate action plans include integrating advanced VR, AR, and MOCAP technologies and establishing new media labs modeled after SCAD and RIT’s setups. These plans are in place to enhance the new media curriculum. Long-term-term plans involve developing a dual degree program in Multimedia Arts and Animation, creating a comprehensive student mobility program for international exposure, and setting up an in-house film production studio for academic and professional use. These steps are expected to elevate Benilde’s educational offerings, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared for the evolving demands of the new media art industries.

For more information on Benilde’s undergraduate programs, contact us at (63) 2 8230 5100 local 1801 or admissions@benilde.edu.ph. You may also visit our website at www.benilde.edu.ph.

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