The Hostos Media Incubator (2014)

Professor Matthew Bethancourt & Professor Rees Shad Co-PIs

In the last four years the media design programs at Hostos have engaged in a service learning initiative called the Hostos Design Lab.  This involved a select group of students taking on the role of College Lab Assistants (CLAs) in our collaborative labs where they work with fellow students as tutors and assist the College Lab Assistant in maintaining the facilities.  In addition to these duties the CLAs are afforded the opportunity to work on design projects for the college community deigning posters, and brochures, filming and editing video shorts, and developing rudimentary web sites.  On occasion these projects have involved outside non-profit groups as well.  The Design Lab provided students with important professional experience designing for a client, iterating these designs until the client is happy, and important time management experience as they worked to balance the time spent on these projects with the rest of their student load.

As our student body has grown, our CLAs have needed to focus more of their time on tutoring than designing for the Design Lab.  The amount of time necessary for our faculty to devote to the mentoring of these students has also become an issue.  Sadly the Lab has taken a back seat to the rest of our endeavors. 

Our media faculty all agree that the idea of service learning based design intensives are important, and our student’s need for professional development is continually brought up at our weekly meetings.  From these conversations came an idea of creating an incubator modeled on one Professor Shad had witnessed while at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 

The concept for the Hostos Media Incubator will be a facility emulating a professional design company with common work areas, conference/presentation room, reception and waiting area, all overseen by an office/production manager.  Here selected alumni of our program who have developed a business model for a media company in BUS101 Intro to Business for the Digital Entrepreneur, may utilize the facility as a testing ground for their endeavor in exchange for dedicating time to leading community projects involving current students.

The incubator model sets the groundwork for a philosophy of creating graduates set to be employers as well as employees, and developing media companies with a richer more diverse make up based her in the our community.  At this point, Professors Bethancourt and Shad have helped write a 20/20 grant with representatives at Professor Mary Pearl (who is the primary grant writer) at Macaulay Honors College and Michael Ferraro at Lehman College - the grant will involve a certificate program between the three schools, and funding for our incubator.  The space has been allotted in the Bronx Terminal Market, the space has been built, and budgets outlined.  In late July of 2014 we got word that the grant had been accepted, and we now have funds to outfit the space with furniture and equipment.  The college has agreed to fund the necessary personnel, and in the coming year we will be up and running.

Designing Futures With Games (NSF/ATE Proposal Fall 2011)

Professor Catherine Lewis & Professor Rees Shad Co-PIs

The Game-Framed Math & Science (G-FMS) initiative will support existing digital media curricula at Eugenio María de Hostos Community College by increasing students’ understanding of STEM-based subjects. Framing math and science within game design will serve as the foundation for programming-centric courses and provide students with the skills to pursue careers in game design as well as interactive media.  It will reimagine how fundamental concepts in math and science can be engaging to digital learners.  These goals will be achieved through a redesign of current remedial and college level math and science curricula, through the implementation of G-FMS curricula in a Summer Games Institute for secondary school students, and through professional development workshops for college and secondary school educators interested in mirroring our pedagogical approach.

Over the last four years, a thriving program in digital media design and production has expanded career pathways for students at Hostos Community College in the South Bronx of New York City.  Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the college has worked to equip students with the twenty-first century skills necessary to more effectively compete in the increasingly technology-driven workforce.  With a majority of the student body comprised of minorities, Hostos has aimed to provide students with these vital skills in order to increase their representation in industries where they are currently underrepresented. The Associates in Applied Science (AAS) programs in Digital Music and Digital Design & Animation have had substantial success in recruitment (100% growth in the last year alone) as well as retention (70% in the same period). These media design and production offerings have recently been expanded with the addition of an A.A.S. in Game Design.  This degree path is the first of its kind at CUNY and explores game theory and development in order to help students recognize and pursue a wider variety of technical career paths.

Intellectual Merit: The media design programs at Hostos have the opportunity to stimulate student interest in computer science by capitalizing on students’ interest in gaming.  By framing STEM-oriented studies within the context of game design, it is believed that the information will be perceived as immediately applicable to the students’ career trajectories. With this clear connection to their goals and increased understanding of STEM concepts, students will then be open to and more prepared for a wider academic experience of intellectual merit. A collaborative group of professors has been assembled from a wide array of disciplines including mathematics, physics, the natural sciences, design, and education in order to develop courses based on this game-framed pedagogy.

Broader Impact: This curriculum will form the foundation for the computer programming-centric courses within the Game Design program. The initial audience for this endeavor will be Hostos Game Design, Digital Design & Animation, and Digital Music majors working toward their A.A.S. degrees, but in the second year, the program’s broader impact will extend to the communities of the South Bronx and Harlem through a Summer Games Institute for high school students in the hopes of inspiring them to establish trajectories for higher education as well as careers in technical fields.  The third year of the project will culminate in educating secondary school teachers within the communities of the South Bronx and Harlem about the G-FMS approach with a goal for propagating the pedagogy.

Project Web Site


Conversations From The Green Room: COBI Proposal Spring 2010

Professor Catherine Lewis & Professor Rees Shad Co-Directors

Conversations From the Green Room is a project that works to develop a hybrid course introducing students to film history by breaking down the different roles involved in film production.  We will create a series of videos of roundtable discussions with working professionals from the industry where we discuss their filmmaking roles as well as critique a selection of films from the last 100 years.  These discussions will be video taped for online access and will give students insight into the collaborative process of filmmaking as well as the many career paths open to them in this industry.  We believe that making students aware of these many different opportunities will encourage persistence in their pursuit of degrees in media design.  

This hybrid class will involve film screenings and discussions in the classroom while weekly roundtable videos will be viewed online and correspond to the primary film being shown that week. Students will write reaction papers to these online discussions and do research projects into the various roles that we introduce them to.  This research will be presented to the rest of the class online. The course is geared for “screenagers,” appealing to their media consumption habits, their online social networking tendencies, as well as the particular homebrew media production style that sites such as YouTube have made popular. By addressing these interests we hope to spark greater investment in the pursuit of media careers and in so doing inspire greater interest in their academic careers as well.


Get Your Game On!: COBI Proposal Spring 2009

Professor Christine Mangino & Professor Rees Shad Co-Directors

The ‘Get Your Game On’ project is a collaborative endeavor between the Education Department and Digital Programs here at Hostos Community College to lead students in both programs through the process of developing an on-line computer game for use in teaching 6th grade science lessons. Through this process students from both disciplines will gain a greater understanding of the possibilities for intersecting game design and education by way of a process that will sharpen skills in communication, collaboration, project evaluation, and analytical thinking, as well as iterative and communication design.  Upon completion of the project, students will also have a remarkable addition to their CV or resume, and a greater awareness of the rapidly growing field of gaming in educational technology.

Grant Phobia

There were all sorts of elements of Academia that felt daunting and impenetrable to me when I shifted careers from being a musician to becoming a educator.  Interestingly enough, the majority of my fear had to do with stage fright. One would suspect that a musician who had toured the world pouring his heart out to groups of strangers night after night would have no issue with standing up in front of a bunch of college students… but one would be wrong.  I was terrified… until I started lecturing and realized that unlike my singing career – where my own lyrics were often forgotten night after night – I could actually use notes!

But then there was the concept of writing grants… I had heard of lots of folks over the years who had taken classes in grant writing, and I figured I would end up taking one of the classes eventually.

Hostos Community College, however, is an incredibly supportive environment for a young professor, and the college’s Committee for Beautiful Ideas (COBI) program helps professors to outline and develop mini-grant projects for cross-disciplinary ventures.  My work with Professors Christine Mangino and Catherine Lewis were enlightening, but I was still considering a grantsmanship course when my CUNY mentor Jerry Cohen plopped a folder from the National Science Foundation on my desk and told me to get to work.  I immediately wrangled Catherine Lewis into the project, and we – lowly media professors that we are – began looking around for a STEM related issue that we could apply ourselves to.