Anonymous donation made to FTDM department

Department of Film-TV-Digital Media students have had more opportunities to meet film industry professionals because of a large, anonymous donation made to FTDM for a student experience fund.

Elizabeth Selzer , regional director of development for the university, said the two purposes of the fund are to bring film industry experts and FTDM alumni to the university and to send FTDM students to film festivals and workshops.

As a result of the grant, students have already met Rusty Mahmood, the assistant director of “The Office.”

Selzer said the donor wanted the gift to have an immediate impact on FTDM students. The development of the gift had been in the works since November 2008, she said.

The specific amount of the donation could not be released at this time, Selzer said.

Taylor Wright, a senior FTDM major, said he looked forward to attending more guest lectures and workshops. He said he thought meeting film experts would strengthen students’ chances for success in the film industry.

“It is always an awesome experience when getting to introduce myself and talk to alumni and industry professionals about any and every concern or question that I have about the industry,” Wright said. “It’s things like this that gives me hope for my future career path.”

Julie Harrison, a sophomore FTDM major, said she thought having more money for hands-on experiences would benefit students.

“The things you learn in the classroom are extremely important, but there’s a lot of valuable information you can get outside the classroom, as well,” Harrison said. “Being able to have more workshops to participate in, meet past alumni to network with and attend film festivals will provide so much knowledge and insight for our students.”

Richard Allen, department chair of FTDM, said the donation was the biggest gift FTDM had ever received.

Allen said FTDM used the fund to bring in Mahmood and his wife, Kara Harshbarger, a university alumna. The department also used the fund to bring in another university alumnus, Allan Schwegmann, who is a producer for “The Bachelor” on ABC.

FTDM officials planned to bring in more guest speakers for the spring semester, Allen said.

Mark Mourer, assistant dean for development in the College of Communication, said guest speakers would show FTDM students that a career in film or television was possible.

“When I had people come back and talk to me in undergrad … that was something for me to say, ‘Alright maybe there’s hope after graduation,'” Mourer said. “If the students are smart about using the networking opportunity that, thanks to this fund, has been put in front of them, then they will have success when they get out.”