The Academy for Social Purpose in Responsible Entertainment (ASPIRE) was an organization that partnered with universities, community organizations, scholars, and activists to advocate for sustainability and social justice through media-focused teaching and research. The goal was to teach digital media production to undergraduates of all majors to enhance their lifelong capacities to undertake social issue advocacy.

Between 2014 and 2017, Undergraduate Education Initiatives at UCLA and ASPIRE worked together to design innovative media production courses that fulfill capstone or practicum requirements for undergraduates of the College of Letters and Science.

Students in the first iteration of the partnership, Urban Planning/Disability Studies M164a: Documentary Production for Social Change, made the video below about the course and their experience in it:
A Case for Making Media in the Liberal Arts

College Learning for the New Global Century, a 2007 report on liberal education authored by 33 nationally recognized faculty, policy, and community leaders, called on policy leaders to expand substantially the investment in active, hands-on, collaborative, and inquiry-based forms of teaching and learning, making full use of new educational technologies. The global challenges of the 21st century demand broadly knowledgeable citizens adept at collaborating with others, innovating in practical settings to address complex problems, and adapting to ongoing technological change while retaining a sense of social and personal responsibility. There is a strong demand, moreover, for thoughtful media work within non-profit and community organizations, an arena in which university students can contribute.

Recognizing that the ability to analyze, produce, edit, and distribute digital media is fast becoming an essential form of literacy for 21st century citizens, UCLA, in partnership with ASPIRE, led undergraduate students in learning these means of expression.  New courses provided a model and framework for developing program pathways in socially engaged media practice for majors of diverse liberal arts disciplines.  In my teaching since 2017 at Miami University in Ohio, I have drawn on lessons learned from the years in which I led this program.

Teaching media practice courses within a liberal arts curriculum empowers students of diverse majors, career interests, and socioeconomic statuses to shape a socially responsible future for media culture.

See more student work from this program at the ASPIRE Lab website.


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