CommLeader Spotlight|Carolyn Higgins, Cohort 12


Graduation date or expected graduation date: June, 2014

Area of interest (within the MCDM program or in general):

Storytelling – in all of its glorious forms. The media determines technical requirements, but the principles of good storytelling are the same.

What exactly do you do professionally or what are your professional goals?

My ultimate professional goal is to create a degree of awareness about the state of our planet that moves people to work together to preserve it. I’m doing freelance work in digital storytelling, concentrating on issues of sustainability and human rights, which I think are ultimately inseparable.

How are you directly applying knowledge from the MCDM or MCCN program in your daily life?

There are so many ways I apply principles of the core classes we took, as you would expect. For example, when writing for online publication, I never push the “publish” button without mentally ticking off copyright law principles. There are so many other, deeper things, though. I look at media in a very different way now; I find that I’m hyper-aware of design and artifice. And I continue to learn and research the topics that interest me in the field.

As a full-time or part-time student, how have classes worked into your schedule?

I’ve done the bulk of the program in two years, and for the first year was a full-time student with a half-time job – a management job, which meant that the half-time line was constantly blurred. My evening class schedule made it possible to juggle everything. Being able to take five credits outside of the program also made it possible to take advantage of fascinating classes in other departments such as Human-centered Design and Engineering that happened during the day, when they worked with my work schedule.

Which classes have had the most impact on you personally and professionally?

Every class has added something significant to my life, but Anita Croft’s Leadership class stands out because it really made me think about what is important to me in my career and in my life as a whole. It opened my mind to the possibilities that exist for teams of people to accomplish huge goals together.

What’s your favorite Comm Lead experience?

Contributing to and editing Flip the Media has to go down as my favorite Comm Lead experience. It was an amalgamation of roles and situations for me – from joining as a contributor, slogging through technical issues and research, putting teams together to cover events, and covering SXSW (South by Southwest Interactive Festival) where I photographed and wrote about topics as diverse as surveillance and privacy to Neil Young’s Kick-starter for his Pono music player.

Career-wise, what is your ultimate digital media goal?

That’s something of a moving target, because as I’m contemplating the future, it’s changing – seemingly at the speed of light. I also don’t believe in using technology for technology’s sake. But I can say that I’m aiming at the general area of using digital media to improve the lot of people in what we call the less developed parts of the globe.

What digital trends are you most intrigued by right now?

Wearable technology. I’m a fiber artist with a strong interest in design, and after the early iterations of wearable sports and fitness devices – often not gracefully incorporated into the look most of us might find desirable – I’m seeing more subtle ways of incorporating the technology into fashion. Smart fibers in fabrics are one example. That sounds somewhat frivolous, I know, but I think that there are practical, perhaps even life-saving uses for that technology. I’m fascinated by the idea that sensors in a garment could deliver important information about the health status of a person. At the same time, where will that information go, and how will we use it? I think that our attitudes and wisdom in using this technology is as important as the technology itself.

And for the sake of a silly question:

What’s the strangest food you’ve eaten and under what circumstances?

Chocolate chip cookies made of cricket flour, kindly provided by my Flip co-editor Hanns-Peter Nagel while we covered SXSW last spring. Definitely not like Grandmother made.


Ilona IdlisCommLeader Spotlight|Carolyn Higgins, Cohort 12
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