Agreement opens door for film students to earn bachelor's degree

IAIA will allow SJC grads to transfer into cinema program

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
A new agreement between San Juan College and the Institute of American Indian Arts will help digital media arts and design students earn bachelor degrees in cinematic arts and technology.
  • Students who graduate with a 2.0 GPA may transfer all credits earned at SJC to the IAIA program.
  • Negotiations for the agreement started in January and quickly were wrapped up.
  • IAIA also has been approved to teach a 300-level film course at San Juan College.

FARMINGTON — San Juan College has entered into an agreement with the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe to help students pursue careers in the film industry.

The two institutions recently signed an articulation agreement allowing students who earn an associate degree in digital media arts and design at San Juan College to be admitted to the bachelor degree program for cinematic arts and technology at IAIA.

Under the agreement, students who graduate with a 2.0 cumulative GPA or higher may transfer all credits earned at the college to the IAIA program.

Luke Renner, professor of digital media arts and design at San Juan College, said when those students transfer, they will be able to start at IAIA at least at the junior level, then finish a four-year degree faster.

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Renner said it made sense to develop the agreement with IAIA because its program is known throughout the state and its campus is near the Rio Grande corridor, where many film studios are located, opening opportunities for students.

"My goal at the college is to provide a skill set where people are up and running, so that they have enough skills that they can end up with an entry-level job," Renner said.

He added the skills students learn also can help them tell stories from the Four Corners area, including those from Native American communities.

"The other thing with the digital media arts and design program at the college, we have a majority of Native American students, so this provides a great opportunity for them," he said.

Christine Wood, the director of San Juan College's Guided Pathways for Students: Career and Transfer Connections program, helped write the articulation agreement between the two institutions.

Negotiations for the agreement started in January, then advanced because both entities were open to the opportunity. Renner remains dedicated to bringing such benefits to students, Wood said.

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"Because of Luke's energy and passion for the program, it was able to move quickly," she said.

Wood added that since IAIA is in Santa Fe, tuition is paid at the in-state rate, and admission is open to non-Native students.

"If we're going to create an articulation agreement with somebody, we want to make sure that once they leave here, they're also going to be taken care of," Wood said.

A July 14 press release from IAIA cites a U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics report that careers for film, video editors and camera operators are expected to increase by 11 percent between 2014 and 2024.

The release also states that IAIA has been approved to teach a 300-level film course at San Juan College.

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Renner said that possibility remains under discussion, and the two institutions continue to examine how it integrates with the college's courses and staff.

San Juan College has articulation agreements with several other colleges and universities, including the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology for computer science and engineering, the University of New Mexico for nursing, and Eastern New Mexico University and New Mexico State University for music.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.