Featured Photography Program: Nashville State Community College

By PhotoVideoEDU staff
Published by PhotoVideoEDU

Associate Professor Emily Naff talks about the Nashville State program's mix of technical and creative education, its diverse student body and active student groups, and the opportunities it offers for internships and study abroad.

For more information about Nashville State Community College, and to see photos of the campus, visit the school's profile.

PhotoVideoEDU: What is distinctive about your program?

Emily Naff: The Photography program at Nashville State has an excellent reputation within Nashville’s creative community. We pride ourselves on providing our students with a strong foundation in the technical and creative aspects of photography. While our program is focused on teaching the most current digital photography, we continue to teach courses that require the use of black-and-white and color film. We believe this gives our students a deeper understanding of photographic principles, which will stay with them for their entire career. Laying this foundation of understanding and ability to think critically about the technology and image-making process gives our students the ability to continue to learn and grow after they graduate from our program.

PhotoVideoEDU: What kinds of students does the program attract?

Emily Naff: The diversity of students in the classroom is one of my favorite aspects of teaching at a community college. Students range from 18 to 80, with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. While we do serve traditional college students, a large percentage of our students are considered “non-traditional.” We offer both day and night classes, allowing us to attract a large percentage of working adults and students with family responsibilities. Our digital photography and lighting courses are so well respected in the Nashville area that it is not uncommon to have working photographers enroll in our courses in order to update their skill set. I truly believe that having this range of experiences in the classroom enriches the learning experience for everyone.

PhotoVideoEDU: What kind of campus does your school have, and what is student life like?

Emily Naff: Nashville State Community College is a pretty typical community college in a growing city. Our school has over 10,000 students enrolled and in the last few years we’ve expanded to offer courses at several campuses around Nashville and Middle Tennessee. The Photography courses are all offered at our main campus, where we have a lot of services to offer our students. Since our students tend to have very busy schedules, we’ve recently made it a goal of our program to “increase the sense of community within our student body.” This goal has been embraced by the leaders of our student organization. The Society of Photography Students is a very active student group that works to provide networking and career-oriented activities for our students. This year their planned activities include a weekly photo contest, multiple guest speakers, and community service.

PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have required courses or final requirements?

Emily Naff: You can read about the requirements for our associate's degree and technical certificate on our website. We regularly consult with our advisory committee to make sure that our curriculum is up to date, and meets the needs of our students.

The capstone course for our students is Portfolio Practicum, which requires the students to complete a professional portfolio with a cohesive body of work. A panel of industry professionals reviews these portfolios, providing valuable feedback from an objective point of view.

PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students do internships?

Emily Naff: Students may participate in internships for up to three credit hours and can count them as their technical elective. Many of our students work as assistants for area professionals while they are in school.

PhotoVideoEDU: Do you hold special events for photography students?

Emily Naff: The Society of Photography Students plans most of our extracurricular activities. As faculty advisor for the organization, I encourage the students to use planning activities as an opportunity to network with professionals in the area. Over the last few years, the students have brought in a wide variety of guest speakers, hosted workshops, and gone on group shoots together.

It's not really a special event, but we also offer study abroad opportunities for our students. Each summer I teach two levels of photography through the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies. In 2014, I will be teaching Basic Photography and a special topics course on Travel Photography in Japan. The program will be three weeks long, and students will take one course for three credits.

PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students get opportunities to show their work?

Emily Naff: There are several locations around campus where we display student work on a regular basis. The most popular area for students is the hallway outside our classroom, where we recently installed a gallery hanging system. This has made it possible for us to hang student work, and allowed us to change it out frequently. Students in the advanced classes are required to hang work in these galleries, and I believe that knowing their work will be displayed encourages them to work to a higher standard of excellence.

The images from our annual photo contest are also displayed at Dury’s. Dury’s is a local camera store that sponsors our annual photo contest by awarding prizes, as well as printing and displaying the winning images.

PhotoVideoEDU: What areas do graduates of your program go on to work in as professionals?

Emily Naff: The majority of graduates own their own business shooting portraits and weddings, but we also have a good number of recent graduates shooting editorial and commercial work.

You can find a few resources for more information on our website.

We have a Facebook group with over 200 members that includes students, faculty, and alumni. This has been a great resource for sharing photography related news and events, as well as providing a sense of community for students, alumni and professionals.

The Society of Photography Students manages a Facebook page that they use to share information about organization activities.

PhotoVideoEDU: Could you name a few distinguished graduates? 

Emily Naff:

Erin Parker: Emerald Coast Real Estate Photography

Rachel Moore

Derek Martinez

Mickey Bernal

Wendy O'Barr

Alyssa Valetta

Danna Haile