New master's program in social documentation at UC Santa Cruz

A new master's program in social documentation at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will teach students to translate academic knowledge into visual, audio, and print media that will have an impact on the world outside academia.

The program, approved by UC President Robert C. Dynes, is a first in the University of California system. UC Santa Cruz will begin enrolling students for fall 2005.

Unlike other graduate programs in communications and visual arts, the UCSC program will integrate rigorous social scientific analysis of people's lives and cultures with the development of tools that will enable students to reach nonacademic audiences.

"Social documentation, in all its forms, can be a powerful tool for social change," said Mary Beth Pudup, chair of the UCSC Community Studies Department, which will offer the new master's program. "We want to prepare students to produce the highest-quality documentaries by emphasizing rigorous social and historical analysis. This program is a way to bridge the gap between the ivory tower and social activism by recognizing the power of documentary media to integrate the two."

Specifically, students on the path to a master of arts degree in social documentation will engage in critical thinking about social problems and prepare documentaries suitable for presentation to broad audiences. In addition to documentary films and videos, students will produce oral histories; audio productions; photographic essays; historic presentations; Internet; CDV and CD-ROM programs and digital archives; and written ethnographies.

In an April 1 letter to UC President Dynes recommending approval of the new program, former UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood referred to media trends that "rely heavily on social documentation."

"Media has consistently become a part of education, politics, public policy arenas, and community services," wrote Greenwood, now UC provost and senior vice president of academic affairs.

Among the acclaimed documentarians students in the program will be working with are award-winning filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña and historian Paul Ortiz . In addition to department faculty, the program will feature visiting faculty who are outstanding professional documentarians.

Enrollment is expected to peak at 24-30 students in the program's sixth year, said Pudup.