Bill Barrett, professor and coordinator of Webster's photography bachelor's program, talks with PhotoVideoEDU about the program's focus on careers, its Midwestern setting, and its plans for a building renovation.
PhotoVideoEDU: What is distinctive about your program?
We're an "applied" program, focusing on careers, often studio/commercial or photojournalism/editorial. I'm surprised that no one has copied us (to the best of my knowledge), but we've also developed an optional certificate in entrepreneurship, a sequence of courses taught by business faculty in our business school. A number of majors have the certificate now, but it originated in the photo program. (Each track has classes specifically aimed at a major's content area.)
Webster University also has year-round campuses in the UK, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Thailand, China, and Ghana. Several campuses offer photo courses, and London offers a minor in photography, but the campus in Geneva has the full photo degree program, so it's the perfect place for our students to study abroad.
PhotoVideoEDU: What kinds of students does the program attract?
Can I say they're a really nice bunch of people? They really are. They come from all over, though the majority are from the Midwest. They come here to get training to be a professional photographer, but also to get a liberal arts education. Photo students tend to hang out together and work together. There are almost always some in the darkroom or studio, just being with their friends.
PhotoVideoEDU: What kind of campus does your school have, and what is student life like?
We're 47 acres in St. Louis County, 10 miles from the Mississippi. Webster Groves is a quiet community with shops and restaurants in close walking distance from campus.
I recommend you take a look at our Campus Life page
. There is a photo club called "Latent Image," and they regularly do activities together. I think it's curious that in general one of the most popular student activities is "Humans vs. Zombies," and there's a club that plays Quidditch on the quad. Seriously.
PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have required courses or final requirements?
PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students do internships?
Bill Barrett: Yes. Degree requirements are at a link on this page.
Yes, we require internships and have a full-time staff member to place and supervise them. We have more places that want our students than we have students to send. Sometimes, though not always, internships are paying. It's hard to quantify this, but about 20% of internships wind up hiring the student at the end of the internship. We only work with placements where the student will have actual real-life work experience. Making coffee and filing paperwork is not an internship as far as we're concerned.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do you hold special events for photography students?
We bring in speakers four to six times a year, often in conjunction with exhibits in our photography gallery. You can get a look at who some of them have been by visiting our online listing of previous events
PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students get opportunities to show their work?
Bill Barrett: There is one juried photo show in the gallery open to every student in the university. Photo majors get an end-of-the-year show in the gallery. There is a space adjacent to the gallery, the Small Wall Gallery, and students can propose shows of current work there. Up to eight shows a year are held in that space. We also note lots of outside opportunities to show work on our photo program blog.
PhotoVideoEDU: What areas do graduates of your program go on to work in as professionals?
Bill Barrett: Assisting is a frequent job right after college, though we also have students go into medical photography, photojournalism, and work in the gallery and museum world. Most of our graduates are members of ASMP, and there is an active local chapter. Four out of five of its board members are either Webster alumni or faculty.
PhotoVideoEDU: Could you name a few distinguished graduates?
Bill Barrett: Here in St. Louis some of the most established studio photographers and photojournalists are our alumni. These are a few of them:
Margie Barnes, photojournalist at the Alton IL Telegraph newspaper
Ursula Ruhl, photojournalist for the Webster-Kirkwood and South County Times newspapers
Robert Boston, medical photographer
PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have any important new developments on the horizon?
We're almost finished planning for a total transformation of the building we're in. We expect to expand our digital printing space significantly, add a tabletop studio and a color management teaching lab, and very likely other enhancements. Plans are almost finalized; construction is expected to begin in summer 2015.
For more information about Webster University, visit the school's website.