Media Tech student

Photo:  Margaret McKinney/Highlands University

Highlands University media arts graduate and AmeriCorps intern Rianne Trujillo of Las Vegas talks with Deb Novak, her mentor at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science  at a Sept. 6 tech showcase.

Las Vegas, NM — New Mexico Highlands University media arts students presented a tech showcase Sept. 6 featuring the cutting-edge multimedia technology projects they created for museums and cultural institutions across New Mexico.

The students are participating in the university’s one-of-a kind AmeriCorps Cultural Technology Program, or ACT. The program is part of an ongoing partnership between the Highlands University Media Arts and Technology Department and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

“The AmeriCorps interns are producing an immense amount of high-quality work for New Mexico cultural institutions, ranging from graphic design to video to web applications to museum interactives,” said Lauren Addario, a media arts instructor who coordinates the ACT program. “Out of 36 AmeriCorps interns to date, 28 are employed either in a cultural technology related field, freelancing, or attending graduate school. We are absolutely thrilled with our students’ success.”

Now in its fourth year, the Highlands AmeriCorps Cultural Technology Program is federally funded. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions now administers all AmeriCorps programs in the state.

“I was very impressed with the quality and professionalism of the media arts students’ work,” said Greg Scheib, a program manager with Workforce Solutions.

The media arts graduate students and program graduates created state-of-the-art work for sites like the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, New Mexico Museum of Space History, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Las Vegas Citizens’ Committee for Historic Preservation, and SITE Santa Fe. 

The students are considered AmeriCorps volunteers and receive living allowances, education awards, and training for their service.

Media arts graduate and Las Vegas native Rianne Trujillo, 24, was an AmeriCorps intern at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque as well as the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.

At the Museum of Natural History and Science, Trujillo created an interactive timeline application for the permanent exhibit Emergence A New View of Life’s Origin. She was part of the team of Highlands media arts students who created key components of the exhibit in 2011.

Trujillo also updated the website for Emergence using feedback from teachers, developed an e-book format of the exhibit, designed promotional print materials for museum visitors and educators, and more.

Deb Novak, chief of education at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, is Trujillo’s supervisor.

“Rianne’s work is very technologically advanced and she’s extremely creative,” Novak said. “She expands my world about what’s possible and has helped move the museum into new media territory we didn’t even know was possible. Rianne’s internship was a gift.

“She’s been instrumental in creating Emergence materials for teachers to access and their feedback has been very enthusiastic,” Novak said.

“It was very rewarding to develop multimedia and educational resources to help bridge the gap between the content in the Emergence exhibit and learning in the classroom,” Trujillo said. “Deb was a wonderful mentor to work with and I learned so much from her. It’s been great to use my media arts degree and build my portfolio in this internship.”

Trujillo is also enrolled in the Masters of Software Systems Design (MSSD) program media arts and technology offers onsite at the Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. She’s also a teaching assistant for the introductory programming logic course.

“This newly revamped MSSD program is designed to develop programmers in applied settings, with a strong basis in mathematics and programming,” said media arts professor Miriam Langer. “Students will learn how to develop mobile apps, as well as programming for very complex websites, games, and more.

“Rianne is an exceptional student who discovered she has an aptitude for this high-level software systems design. We’re very proud of her and Elizabeth Starks, another graduate student in our MSSD program,” Langer said.