College of Communication to lead nationwide student film project

College of Communication to lead nationwide student film project

Through a $200,000 grant from the Wyncote Foundation, the College of Communication will lead a nationwide effort among five colleges and universities to produce documentaries and social media campaigns focusing on sexual assault on college campuses.

Grant from Wyncote Foundation to fund student films on sexual assault

For more than a decade, radio/television/film (RTF) students at Rowan University have produced award-winning documentary films that have focused on societal issues ranging from binge drinking to heroin addiction to abuse of the drug ecstasy.

Now, through a $200,000 grant from the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation, Rowan will lead a nationwide effort among five colleges and universities to produce documentaries and social media campaigns on another important social issue: sexual assault on college campuses.

Led by Rowan RTF Professors Ned Eckhardt (the grant's author and principal investigator), Keith Brand and Diana Nicolae, the Collaborative Documentary Project will bring together professors and student filmmakers from California State-Northridge, Northern Illinois and Framingham State universities and Western State College of Colorado to produce short form documentaries addressing the problem of sexual assaults at colleges and universities.

The documentaries-five in all-will be original films produced by students for students. When the project is complete, the films will be distributed across the country through the resources of Security on Campus, Inc., a national, non-profit organization focused on promoting college and university campus safety through educational awareness, policy and advocacy about sexual assault.

"We believe that the documentary form, when produced by students under faculty supervision, can create powerful stories that can change potentially tragic behavior patterns," says Eckhardt, noting that the $200,000, two-year grant is the largest ever received for a student-based project in Rowan's College of Communication.

"Students are the ones who need to design the message and create the story. They're the ones who can make a difference in the minds of their peers."

Staggering statistics

The statistics about sexual assault on college campuses are staggering:

· One in four college women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate (Department of Justice);

· College students are more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other age group and 75 percent of those students were under the influence of alcohol (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network);

· 90 percent of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows (American Association of University Women).

"The work by our five institutions," Eckhardt says, "will make an impact on the national campaign to prevent rape and sexual assault on college campuses. We want to become a source of preventative media that young people, their families, their relatives and friends will listen to."

In addition to the 10-20-minute documentaries, which will be produced by students at each university next spring, the grant includes development of a social media campaign incorporating additional documentary footage, expert commentary, a website with student and teacher resources, social media sites, webinars, and college radio documentaries and public service announcements (PSAs).

"These student-produced media will become important tools for all colleges, high schools, dorm advisers, campus police, fraternities, sororities, rehab centers, hospitals and counselors," says Eckhardt.

This month, professors from each university will gather at Rowan for a three-day confab, where they'll strategize about the technical and practical issues of documentary production, explore the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, and chart strategies for implementation. The confab will be held June 7-10.

The film at Rowan will be produced by students in Nicolae's "Documentary Production" course. Additionally, Brand's students will take the lead in producing the radio PSAs. Rowan also will lead development of the social media campaign and web site.

"The students in each of the universities will have their own non-traditional approaches to storytelling," says Brand. "Having five different schools focusing on the same subject will push students to approach their projects in very different ways."

Award-winning program

Nicolae's former film students already have a history in producing an award-wining film on the subject of sexual assault. In 2008, her students produced "Sexual Assault: It's Not OK," which won a prestigious Gracie Award. Gracies recognize exemplary programming created for women, by women and about women in all facets of media and entertainment. The film also received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Greater Philadelphia Student Film Festival. On YouTube, "It's Not OK" has generated more than 22,000 hits.

The Rowan tradition of creating award-winning films focusing on pressing societal issues will continue-and expand-with the collaboration among the five universities, according to Nicolae.

"Producing a documentary film can be one of the most unique experiences a student can have during their college career," says Nicolae. "Adding a component of social consciousness can make that experience even more meaningful to the students. It gives their work a chance to live on beyond graduation and to have an impact on the larger community."

Adds Eckhardt, "We're hoping this will be the first of many opportunities for both the RTF Department and the College of Communication at Rowan to take a leadership role in using student-created media to make a difference in the daily lives of students and the general populace."


Below is information about each of the collaborators on the Collaborative Documentary Project:

Ned Eckhardt (project manager)
Rowan University
Over a 30-year teaching and production career that includes Emmy-nominated programs for broadcast television, Eckhardt has created 16 documentaries. His students' socially focused films have won more than 100 awards and have been distributed to more than 10,000 schools nationwide. His book, Documentary Filmmakers Handbook, was published by McFarland Press last year.

Diana Nicolae
Rowan University
Nicolae is an associate professor of television and documentary production at Rowan. In her professional career, she has worked as a television news reporter, a writer for the BBC, an advertising copywriter and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Nicolae's films have screened internationally and on PBS. Her students' documentaries have screened in film festivals nationally and have won many awards, including best student documentary at College Broadcasting Inc.'s national competition and the prestigious Cine Golden Eagle Award.

Keith Brand
Rowan University
An associate professor in Rowan's RTF Department, Brand teaches courses in radio production and sound communication. He is the host/producer for "Sleepy Hollow," an eclectic weekend morning music program on WXPN-FM in Philadelphia. He also has contributed stories to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and "Weekend Edition Saturday." Brand also has created music and sound installations for local museums and theater performances.

Thelma Vickroy
California State University at Northridge
Since 1982, Vickroy, an associate professor in the Cinema and Television Arts Department, has produced more than 60 public affairs and special events programs for cable and broadcast networks. Her directing credits include Academy Award consideration for "Extraordinarily Ordinary." Vickroy founded a documentary studies and production program, "DOCS ROCK," for middle and high school students in Los Angeles Unified School District.

Laura Vazquez
Northern Illinois University
An award-winning documentarian, Vazquez is an associate professor of documentary production in the Department of Communication. Her films often address social problems through the use of historical events. Vazquez is the founder of the successful student documentary film festival, "Reality Bytes Film Festival," held annually in Illinois.

Robert Johnson
Framingham State University
An accomplished documentarian and teacher, Johnson's own documentaries include a series on the history of science that has aired on Public Television, three biographies made for the African-American National Biography and "No Short Climb: ‘Race Workers' & America's Defense Technology," his most recent award-winning film. Johnson is a former member of the CINE Board of Directors and served many years as a jury chair for the annual CINE Golden Eagle Awards.

Jack Lucido
Western State College of Colorado
An Emmy-award winning director of documentaries for KEET-TV in California, a PBS member station, Lucido also is an award-wining filmmaker. His documentary on autism spectrum disorder, "Jackson Sandwich," won the CINE Golden Award and was broadcast on Public Television. He's currently completing a documentary focusing on the sustainability of ranching.

The mission of Wyncote Foundation is to support efforts that strengthen and
enrich culture, community and the natural environment. The Foundation provides grants in a broad range of areas. Currently, public media and journalism is an area of special focus for the foundation. For information about the Wyncote Foundation, visit