Breath Taker: My First Film

Nathan Yessler

Nathan Yessler

One of the things I’d been wanting to do, but just hadn’t made time for, was making a film. I hadn’t done one before, and was curious as to how it would turn out under my direction. I was already working on an idea for Narrative Screenwriting, and really wanted to see something on screen. Capstone gave me the opportunity to do just that, and I started to work on a trailer for the film I had in mind. Continue reading


The End of the Pink Era

Charlotte Bellotte

Charlotte Bellotte wrote a research paper on media framing of the “female Viagra” for her Capstone project.

It’s finally over! I’m so happy to say that my final capstone presentation was on Monday, April 18th, and I could not be more proud of all my work and accomplishments this semester with this research paper. Thanks to Monica, the center panel looked great, and I think overall the look of my presentation board was neat and clean. There was a great crowd and many people took interest in my project, and felt that doing a controversial topic was an awesome idea. Overall, the presentation was very relaxed and I received great feedback. Continue reading

Making Our Memories


The spring of 2015 came along faster than I could have ever anticipated. It seemed like hardly any time has passed since I first set foot on campus at 18 years old and fresh out of high school. Now I’m 22, four years have come and gone, and I am less than two weeks from graduation from Shepherd University. I suppose one thinks of this point being so far in the future when we start on this journey of higher education, it is quite surreal when it actually becomes the present. It was this final semester that I feel I may have learned the most. I set out to do my Capstone project this final semester, and found myself trying to create a project that would be a culmination of my time in the Communication department. It was time to write the last line of the final chapter of this journey that sums everything up in a way that is fitting. Continue reading

Building an application

For my Senior Capstone Project I planned to work with the Study Abroad office a to create a website that would highlight and showcase the experiences of Shepherd students that have studied abroad. The photos and descriptions would be used by the Study Abroad Office to encourage students who have not studied abroad to do so.  It would also try to promote different study abroad options for the Office such as the SGA Scholarship and programs like AIFS and ISA in a better way than the current site does.

Screenshot 2015-04-11 20.14.09

It’s only cool because its parallax

I worked with, MapBox, Ruby on Rails, Leaflet and Bootstrap. I came up with the idea because I have studied abroad In London, and in Seoul both were the best time I’ve ever had and I wanted to do something with it. I wanted a way I could scrapbook my trips, and plan new ones visually. I also wanted to see what other people have done and be able to talk to them about it. Everyone should study abroad at least once; this is a good way for people to see all the awesome stuff that can happen then be encouraged to go themselves.

Actually building this thing was a lot harder than I thought. It wasn’t really how much I had to code because that wasn’t an issue. It was for the most part I had no idea what I was doing! RoR has a pretty steep learning curve and I ran head first into it. So that was tough. Almost everything that I thought would be simple turned out not to be! Although it was a rush when I figured something out, and its moments like that when you “crack” the problem that makes me like to do this stuff. Although at times it is awfully demoralizing when you realize you just ruined all of your migrations because you were trying to be lazy and you have to reset everything. Or  when you started something simple and everything is going as planned when suddenly you get error after error thrown at you!

Either way I finished it, and it was probably the hardest thing that I have ever had to make. It took forever, including around 3 months of almost constant research and coding. It was my life! If anyone reading this knows RoR and wants to test their hand at it, please help continue and finish this project!


Opening Hearts to Open Minds

Senior Capstone. Two of the most exciting, yet scary, words that can slip out of your mouth. Why? Well, of course you know you’1422414_10204705429854119_6974678299512176589_nre so excited to complete your final project in the Shepherd University Department of Communication. However, it’s a little scary and overwhelming because lots of time, hard work, and patience goes into this project that leaves your lasting impression as you walk out into the real world.

Capstone for me was a lot of fun–as Professor Monica Larson said it would be, at least she said so to the class, as long as we managed our time and projects in a well-mannered way–and of course choosing a project of which we are passionate about.

During my adventure here at Shepherd University, I dabbled a good bit in the Digital Filmmaking side of the COMM Department. Therefore, I decided to channel what I had learned in those particular courses and bring them forth in my Capstone Project.

With a new studio lighting kit (a Christmas gift of mine– Thanks Mom!), I was ready to set up and create a film trailer. My Church in my cozy hometown of Upper Tract, WV has been discussing the rapture and the coming of the Lord. A lot times, people in movies try to make this scary–but if you’re ready for it, it’s the complete opposite. I wanted to channel these positive feelings into my trailer called Soon. For me, it’s hard to hear others who doubt God’s existence. I mean, look at all the beautiful sights in the world! Again, that was another thing about my trailer that I wanted to make sure was highlighted. I want to open up people’s minds to God, and I know that sometimes the way to do so is to open their hearts first.

DVD Cover for My Film Trailer (Made in Adobe Photoshop)

DVD Cover for My Film Trailer (Made in Adobe Photoshop)

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 9.40.45 PM

Cheesy Laughs with Alexis (a cast member)

I’m truly blessed to have an awesome church family. They allowed me to spend several hours gathering the right footage in the church scenes in the trailer. So many thanks are in order to them, as well as my cast members. I traveled home (2.5 hours away from Shepherdstown) to gather a large portion of the footage used for the film trailer. For editing, I started in Adobe Premiere, but ended up more comfortable in iMovie. I struggle somewhat with audio, it’s the least thing I have practiced in the COMM Department, so I was back and forth between voiceovers and editing audio on WavePad.

Editing in iMovie

Editing in iMovie

Nonetheless, I’m truly satisfied and happy about my project. I got a lot of positive responses which really made me feel that I had accomplished what I set out to do. I know my awesome God is proud.

Oh! And one more exciting factor! I was very proud of myself for this– I wanted, well had to use a song by The Sidewalk Prophets. Their music inspires me so much, so I just had to incorporate them. One of the most important things that I have learned as a COMM student is the importance of copyrighted material–and permission is always important. So through countless e-mails and long time spans of waiting, I was granted permission to use a song by this talented band (However, I do have limitations for where my trailer can be placed). Anyhow, I’m very pleased that I was able to do this. 🙂

My Church :)

My Church 🙂

In closing– I can’t even begin to express all of my gratitude to the COMM Department and all of the amazing faculty members. I’ve learned so much during my time here and I feel so prepared for what is to come next. Capstone was A LOT of hard work, but it was incredibly worth it.

Asthmatics Against Secondhand Smoke

When I first started this project, I was overwhelmed as many of us are (and others will be) at how much freedom we were given with what to do. I did a BS in Communication – New Media with a minor in Graphic Design, so my goal was to merge the two fields together, since that’s kind of my dream once I’m out in the terror-filled world of job hunting. After some intense brain-storming – which was really me looking half-crazed at a wall for hours – I figured what better way to marry the two than with a Public Service Announcement campaign. On one hand, I could make posters and advertisements to satisfy the graphic design half, and also have electronic elements such as Twitter, Instagram, and a WordPress site to fill the communication half. And thus, Asthmatics Against Secondhand Smoke was born….kind of.

Back in Monica’s COM 406 class (Ads & Imagery), we did a PSA campaign project about something that was important to us. Being from the north (NJ) where there isn’t much of a smoking culture, it was quite a shock coming down here and being assaulted by just how many smokers there were on campus. I still loved the town, though, and was already moved in by the time this realization hit, so it was too late to do much about it besides try to dodge and get really good at holding my breath. By the time Junior year rolled around, however, I was pretty fed up with my asthma getting worse and worse, and the flippant attitude smokes had towards me whenever I brought it up. Above – in all their terrible typography glory – are the first brain children of the AASHS campaign, spawned from that faithful assignment.

First step was to get thumbnails drawn to see which idea I’d be going with. Through meetings with Monica, we chose the 4th one with the star next to it to be expanded upon.

My original thought was to put them in real settings, but after some deliberation, it was decided to instead go for a more studio’d look, and to shoot the posters with people in them in a way that others could see themselves  in the poster. I wanted to work with primarily Photoshop because through my graphic design minor I favored Illustrator more and wanted to expand on my Photoshop knowledge. To get these posters to work how I wanted them to, I had to learn how to put objects together that were not originally together in one picture as seamlessly as possible. My biggest challenge (or so I thought at the time) would be to create a hand out of smoke, and to create smoke in general. Turns out those were the easy bits. Below are the finished posters which I ended up getting printed on a light card stock.

There was a shift in not only the level of typographic skill from the first brain child posters to the finished capstone products. Before, I only paid attention to the effects secondhand smoke had in people with chronic conditions in general since the audience is Shepherd’s campus. However, through my research blogs I found that there’s much more on secondhand smoke, asthma, and children, so it only made sense that I include more children in my final project. It works out since there are students who are parents, and there’s also that daycare center that just so happens to be next to a prime smoke spot.

Along with the posters, there was also a newspaper advertisement measured out for The Picket.

Now I mentioned before that I wanted to merge comm and graphic design together for this project. What’s above was all the graphic design elements, so now it’s time to get into the communications part. What better way to help get a campaign talked about than to get it a Twitter? And so it was. On the Twitter, there are progress posts about the print campaign materials, as well as secondhand smoking facts under the hashtag #SHSFacts. I tried to add different kinds of content in the tweets to get people talking, since if I was to let myself go unregulated I would probably end up saying some not-so-nice things as people are wont to do when they get angry-passionate about something.

I also set up an Instagram since 1. It’s becoming the most popular social media site, 2. People like nice visuals, and 3. I wanted to make typographic posters. The Instagram operates in much the same way as the Twitter does; posts about the print ads as well as facts are featured, but the difference is the facts are presented as visually interesting mini-posters rather than just straight text. Both even use the same hashtag #SHSFacts. The most dangerous part about secondhand smoking education is that there’s almost none. People still have no idea what they’re doing to those who surround them whenever they smoke, so the hashtag helps get that information out.

If you’re aware of Instagram’s little…quirk of being solely updatable from a phone, you can understand my frustration of trying to figure out how to transfer files from my computer to my phone and back again. Thankfully, a program was introduced to me called AirDroid which works like AirDrop for Mac users, but is for Android instead. This lovely app saved me from having to email myself files constantly, thus putting the biggest project of my school career in the shaky-at-best hands of the Shepherd email system.

The last bit of my project is the site. On the posters, it gives the link to the home base of the entire project. On the site are explanations of both the print and the electronic elements of the PSA campaign, but it also houses some pages linking to centers dedication to showing people how to quit smoking as well as more in-depth information on why secondhand smoking is so dangerous. In addition, there are videos of similar information and one that has testimonials of children with asthma talking about the effects SHS has on their lives.

The communication theory I had chosen to work under was that of behavioral change. Simply put, the theory focuses on the community to try and get someone to break a dangerous habit. According to behavioral change theory, people have a grasp over their conduct if it’s a voluntary action such as excessive drinking and smoking in general, so by providing information, facts, and a way to help, you can start to make a domino effect of difference. Keeping this in mind, the centers I linked to in the “How to Stop Smoking” section of the webpage are all focused on community and group healing.

When the actual presentations came around, I was shocked. Like I mentioned before, there are many, many smokers on campus and I haven been brushed off before when I’ve tried to talk about this with people, so it was quite a shock to have people agreeing with me. I had a steady stream of people at some points asking me to explain my project, and then engaging with me by telling me their stories. Many were happy that I decided to try and bring this up to the forefront (and being stationed in front of the food turned out to be prime real estate, even if it did get cramped every once in a while), and I was even asked on my feelings towards e-cigarettes. I was honestly expecting to be glared at or at least debated with, but aside from a few uncomfortable looks from people who know how bad SHS is but decide to ignore it, everyone was very supportive!

If I could give one piece of advice after all this, it would be to go to a Capstone presentation. I didn’t go to any and I regret it because I could have gotten so many ideas from people before. At the very least, I would have known what the presentations were like beforehand. All-in-all, I’m very proud of this project and how it turned out, and am actually a little sad to see it go.

Monica Valva
Comm: New Media

Fighting the Monster Inside: How I Augmented Myself

CAPSTONE, the culmination of a student’s career at Shepherd University. An entire semester, putting as much time, effort, and resources into making one final impact on your major before graduation. Your project can have ramifications outside of your degree, it can be used outside of college to show your finest work you have done in a professional environment. It can be used as an example of what a successful CAPSTONE project is like. It can also impact its creator on a level of personal growth and understanding that can elevate them to be a better person.

My project is a radio drama public service announcement (PSA) tackling depression, anxiety, as well as the rest of the spectrum of mental illnesses in a way to make it easier to discuss and not get into a educational argument with someone over. This project is all-inclusive and doesn’t leave anyone in the dust.

I made this project to help those who are fighting through mental illnesses. I want people to know that they have support no matter where they turn, as well as to know that there are brighter days ahead in their future. They cannot let their current life situations and obstacles define the endless possibilities that life has to offer.

This project is also for those who do not understand/ do not completely grasp the concept of living with something as dangerous as a mental illness. The project is meant to show them what it is like to live with such a personal hell. It can be like a prison to those who live with such illnesses.

This project was based upon my Sound design final. The Monster Inside portion of the project was made as a personal test for myself to try my hand at trying to create an experience with sound…to create an atmosphere.

Being more visually inclined, trying my hand at audio work seemed like a good bet to personally challenge myself. The final had gone well, so when the decision to decide what I wanted to do for my CAPSTONE project came about, I was stumped for the first week of classes. It then hit me, why not build off of something that was very well received and expand upon it.

So, over the course of this semester, through trials, tribulations, and a lot of visits to Kevin, I got my project completed piece by piece and absorbed as much information and knowledge I could from each session with Kevin about how to strive and achieve a very awe-inspiring experience of sound and emotion in one piece.

Well, while working on this project, I found out some very terrible news. A friend of mine from high school had passed away. I didn’t really keep in contact with her through our time in college, but all the memories from being in classes with her came flooding to me when I saw the obituary posted on Facebook. That night and the following week were hell personally. I took her death hard and it took some time to just cope, work things out mentally, and keep my head up. Her death, however, gave me something else: Motivation.

I became more motivated to make this project the best I could. This project can reach so many people and has the chances of making an impact on someone’s life. I wanted to make sure I got this perfectly. I was not around for the person I lost, but I could help someone else not go down that slippery slope.

The Monster Inside and The Augmentation of Self became a work of love , empathy, and passion. I wanted to make sure I got this right because even one slip-up and I could ruin the whole meaning behind the piece. I could not afford a mistake.

When it came time for the public presentation, it was a day full of nerves. I was really nervous about the entire thing when I got upstairs to set up my station. My board came out exactly how I wanted it, i had everything set up in a nice and organized fashion. I had two sets of headphones attached to a five-star splitter for more than one person to listen to the project at once. I made my way over to Donald Greenwalt’s station to see his project, which was a trailer for a fan made film based upon the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise. I then went over to David Donahue’s station and we bro-hugged it out. He has been one of the best friends to me in college and we both simply said: “Holy shit dude, we survived and are about to graduate.”

I open my laptop and get the file open to listen to it one final time before presenting and my heart sank quickly. The opening to the project had chopped off a small portion of the introduction to the piece. My brain raced and I quickly had to make a trip into Audacity to make a cut to make sure the introduction sounded as good as it could given the circumstance. I export the file and listen to the project again in both sets of headphones to be safe. Everything was up and running. It was then time to listen to the noise. Time to face the crowd.

I have to say, those who visited my station were generally intrigued and curious as to what my project was about. Whenever they finished listening, every single person was blown away and we would make conversation about the piece and some side subjects involving a similar matter for a few minutes before they went on their way. I was also asked questions before and after the listeners heard the piece. I happily obliged to answer and made sure to be consistent and concise with my answering each question they had…although sometimes I could tell I was rambling for a bit.

My parents being at the presentation was a great experience. They also got to meet Kevin, which was interesting. I saw them all talking while I was talking to someone who wanted to listen to my piece, and after I got them taken care of with getting the piece started, I walked over and joined their conversation for a small bit. Kevin and I hugged and had a little heart to heart about how the whole process of making this project a reality. I hugged my parents and invited them to listen to the project after the person who was currently listening finished up.

My parents had never heard my project at all. I would tell them snippets and bits of information about it, but they never heard it before the public presentation. I think that was one of the most intense waves of nervousness I have ever experienced. I was not certain as to how they would handle my project. After they listened to it, I found my answer out. They enjoyed the experience and said it was trip. They also said that they were very proud of what I have accomplished while at Shepherd and hugged me again. They then went and sat down while waiting for the presentations to be over.

After tearing down the presentation station, I packed up my stuff with my parents and proceeded to put everything in our car and go to Blue Moon for dinner. I enjoyed my crab-cake sandwich with my parents as we talked about what the future may hold. I am simply gonna take it one-step-at-a-time and see where it goes from there. Working at WHAG will only go up from where I am at and I hope to learn and experience more from life. Paying of student loans is gonna be a pain in the ass, but in the end, I have improved myself as a person throughout my time at Shepherd and I have learned a lot. Personal growth is the best kind of knowledge you can acquire and it is often something taken for granted in life.

The monster inside my head has not won its battle with me, but it still likes to try and fight me. I have overcome it, but it gets sneaky and plays dirty at times. I just have to overcome and persevere. I have become a much more open and humbled person. I forget things and have my days where I am not 100%, but I still try and make the most out of what I have been given in life and that is all I ask for.