by: Vanessa Morton, Contributing Writer
Since its start in early 2005, YouTube has developed into an internationally popular video-sharing resource with a reputation for hosting mindless entertaining content. However, with new media’s constant evolution in the 21st century, the Google-owned company is setting sights on changing this perception by cultivating the future generation of aspiring content creators.
Columbia, in collaboration with the University of Southern California, will debut the YouTube Creator Institute program, which is an all-expenses paid, eight-week program to develop digital media skills, located in the college’s Television Department, from June 1 to July 22.
“Being recognized by YouTube is phenomenal, and we are very excited to work with them,” said Doreen Bartoni, dean of the School of Media Arts. “I think it’s a testament to our innovative approach to media arts education.
According to Wojciech Lorenc, assistant professor in the Television Department, Columbia students are not eligible to apply to the program because of the conflict of interest policy.
He said this was implemented by Google because of its previous experience with organizing other contests.
“Having experience running contests on YouTube, this rule would apply, just as any other because they are co-organizing with Columbia, and it makes sense the people associated with both institutions are not allowed to enter,” Lorenc said.
Apart from not being affiliated with both institutions, applicants who are U.S. residents over age 18-years-old and interested in the program can apply directly through the website.
The selected students will have made it through three rounds of judging by the site’s online community, professional faculty and YouTube associates.
The 10 strongest competitors will be picked to come to Chicago for the eight-week summer program and learn how to engage with new media tools, develop skills and brand themselves.
“It’s really an eight-week experience that will cover a whole variety of things that reflects what we do in our current curriculum,” said Michael Niederman, chair of the Television Department.
It was Lorenc who reached out to YouTube in October 2010 and proposed the idea to work together.
After he spent time brainstorming and exchanging ideas with Bing Chen, of YouTube Creator Initiatives and Entertainment Partnerships, it was then Chen came up with the idea of a summer program.
Lorenc said the program will correspond with Columbia’s Internet mobile media concentration, which deals with creating Web and mobile content.
He said the professors chosen for the program will come from faculty in the Television Department who have experience in the subject matter.
“We are very interested in teaching this field to the students [and] positioning them to create and get paid for it,” he said. “So for any potential participant, this could be potentially life-changing.”
While no one would disclose how much money would be used, Lorenc explained the program’s funding would come from Google, which includes expenses in travel, faculty pay, dorm living, weekly allowance and gift cards.
“It is funded by Google,” he said. “Columbia College is not paying for this. So there is definitely no concern that any of the student’s tuition money would be used.”
However, YouTube wouldn’t comment on where financial funding will come from. Although Columbia students are not allowed to participate in the summer program, Lorenc explained they benefit from it.
“The important thing to remember is the school, as a whole, benefits, so if the profile of the school rises, the perception of the college changes,” Lorenc said. “I think the goal of the school should always be to show the best we have, to raise its profile, and I think everybody wins from that in the end.”
As for YouTube, Chen agreed and said there were many great opportunities both institutions could profit from.
“We, too, think it would be a great opportunity for students to get exposure [and], perhaps, learn ways to really engage in the 21st century media landscape, both online and offline,” Chen said. “At the same time we felt so lucky Columbia College Chicago— an institution that has been innovative and not only keeping up, but almost leading a lot of this movement for transmedia opportunities reached out to us.”