students in computer lab

Photo: Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
Media arts Bachelor of Fine Arts senior Patricia Chavez, left, shows promotional videos she produced for a cultural atlas of New Mexico created for the state’s Department of Cultural Affairs at the AmeriCorps Cultural Technology program’s tech showcase and graduation Sept. 9.

Las Vegas, New Mexico – Highlands University media arts students helped preserve and promote New Mexico’s rich cultural heritage in 2016 by creating museum exhibits, websites, mobile apps, videos and more for cultural institutions across the state.

The students are paid interns in the university’s one-of-a kind AmeriCorps Cultural Technology program, or ACT. Their projects were center stage at Highlands Sept. 9 for a tech showcase and AmeriCorps graduation ceremony.

“The quality and creativity of these media arts students’ work is raising the bar for design and the use of technology in our New Mexico cultural institutions,” said Mimi Roberts, media projects director for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). “The impact of the projects they have completed is phenomenal.”

Now in its seventh year, the AmeriCorps Cultural Technology program is an ongoing partnership between Highlands and New Mexico DCA. To date, 128 media arts students have completed internships in cultural institutions statewide.

ACT is federally funded, with grants to Highlands totaling $871,834 since the program’s inception.

The AmeriCorps interns worked at sites like the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, New Mexico History Museum, Bradbury Science Museum, City of Las Vegas Museum, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Coronado Historic Site, Las Vegas Citizens’ Committee for Historic Preservation and Museum of New Mexico Press.

Media arts AmeriCorps interns like Allie Burnquist also introduced New Mexicans to new technologies. Burnquist coordinated a program called the New Mexico Makerstate Initiative for the New Mexico State Library.

“Maker education combines low-tech, like crafts, with high-tech, like electrical engineering, to teach STEM principles – science, technology engineering and math,” Burnquist said. “We use emerging technologies like 3-D printing to teach children how to design and engineer their own projects.”

Deanne Dekle, New Mexico State Library youth services outreach coordinator, was Burnquist’s mentor.

“Allie reached many rural and tribal populations statewide that don’t have access to this kind of technology within their libraries,” Dekle said. “Allie is so passionate about sharing STEM with children, teens and families. With her, it’s not just a boring lecture on computer circuits. It’s 100 percent hands-on learning. They loved it and want her to come back.”

Burnquist said: “With this project I was able to increase digital literacy throughout New Mexico. It was incredibly rewarding.”

“Our AmeriCorps members always deliver with the sheer volume, creativity, technical capability and positive impact they have in preserving New Mexico’s cultural heritage,” said Lauren Addario, ACT director and media arts faculty member.

Addario said the AmeriCorps Cultural Technology program also directly benefits media arts students’ career advancement, with 75.6 percent going on to professional positions in their field or investing in their future by attending graduate school.