Anthony Salas happened to notice an email that arrived late one evening announcing a partnership between the United Negro College Fund, also known as UNCF, and the Walt Disney Company.
The Kingsport native went to work. He connected with professionals on LinkedIn, applied for an internship, interviewed for a post and ultimately learned that he would be a member of the inaugural class of 2021 UNCF Disney Corporate Scholars.
The East Tennessee State University student, set to graduate this spring, has gotten experience that even seasoned film producers could envy.
He has done production and development with ESPN films. He attended a film premiere in New York. He will also serve as a mentor to the next group of scholars.
A major perk: Salas already has a job in film production lined up with Disney when he graduates.
“My instructors here at ETSU have given me tremendous guidance and mentorship,” said Salas. “They view our classes as not just academic learning periods but times to get you ready for a professional environment.”
Preparing students like Salas to be ready for the workforce is one of the chief goals of the Department of Media and Communications at ETSU.
Investments made by the department confirm it. Students have access to $1.5 million worth of experiential media facilities. More than 40 industries have partnered with ETSU to provide collaboration, training and internships. Dozens of professional advisers offer consultation to students.
“We work hard to make sure that students not only learn critical new skills but know how to apply them once they leave our campus,” said Dr. Andrew Dunn, chair of the department. “You learn soft and hard skills. As a media and communication student, you will learn best practices. You will also have the chance to apply what you’ve learned through internship opportunities or through working for student-run media like BucTV, The Edge radio station, the East Tennessean newspaper and Overlooked in Appalachia magazine.”
Salas’ involvement on campus makes clear the possibilities for students in Media and Communication.
He was the 2020-2021 president of Alpha Sigma Iota, a group that performs community service activities and promotes department events and facilities to the larger campus. He is part of BucFilms, a club that creates video content and competes in film competitions and events. He has been an arts and entertainment reporter for the East Tennessean, the university’s newspaper.
“Anthony is a curious, engaged learner who has studied film, journalism and Black American Studies and engaged with innumerable on-campus entities and activities,” said Dr. Shara Lange, an associate professor and program head for Radio/TV/Film at ETSU.
For students like Salas who want to do film work, critical skills and experiences are needed, Lange said.
“My passion is supporting student voices and helping them cultivate the stories they want to tell, but in learning the language of film, students are getting an indispensable skill that can be applied in numerous ways,” she said. “Most of our students leave our program with a general video production skill set, which includes understanding and operating digital video cameras, audio recording and editing, exposure to broadcast radio and television, storytelling fundamentals and familiarity with Adobe Premiere.”
When Salas graduates in May and begins full-time work with Disney, he wants one message to be clear to potential students interested in studying Media and Communication.
“I don’t want to be looked at as an outlier,” Salas said. “This is an attainable goal for many people if you are willing to work hard. Our department wants you to succeed, and the instructors will do all they can to help you.”