Fast Forward Workshop connects students to professionals at UNI



Eric Braley (left) and Christopher Cook (right), producer of “Kinnick: The Documentary,” discuss how the documentary came to be.

EMMA KOEHLER, Managing Editor

Participants of the Fast Forward Digital Media Workshop 2022 received four well-rounded sessions on Nov. 4, 2022. Speakers of each of these sessions were midwest media experts who discussed news coverage, creative content, on-air skills, broadcasting, sports media and long-format media. Additionally, the opening session was speaker and UNI alumni, Christopher Cook, producer of “Kinnick: The Documentary” and the closing session explored drones among other latest media technology. 

“The two biggest things are learning from these experts but it’s also networking as well. To be able to go up and introduce yourself to someone who is an expert in this field and make that connection is so valuable,” said UNI communication and media professor and workshop co-coordinator, Eric Braley.

The workshop was free to attendees and lunch was provided, thanks to sponsorship by UNI’s Department of Communication and Media along with the Iowa Broadcasters Association Foundation. 

A bonus to the workshop was a showing of “Kinnick: The Documentary” on Nov. 3 in the Lang Hall Auditorium. The documentary explores the life of Nile Kinnick, whose name labels the University of Iowa’s football stadium. Producer Cook graduated from UNI in 2008 with a bachelor’s in electronic media. 

“People were crying. They loved the film so much and it was a really cool thing to connect with the community,” said Braley.

It is estimated that about 130 students attended the event, two-thirds of those being UNI students from several different departments and one-third of those from outside colleges. 

“Our estimates for how many people we might draw were guarded because we didn’t know what to expect coming out of the pandemic,” said Chris Martin, the workshop’s other co-coordinator and UNI communication and media professor. “This really did exceed our expectations,” he said. 

Braley agreed and said, “[The turnout] surpassed my expectations. I was blown away by the willingness, every single person I asked said yes to be on a panel. I was hoping to get 75 students to attend and to have that number doubled is really incredible.”

“It was a great way to listen to and learn from professionals in the media field,” said UNI student attendee and junior communication and interactive digital studies double major, Jessa Loges “Since there is such a wide range of opportunities within the field, this conference gave me the ability to hear from individuals that I otherwise never would have been able to learn from!” she said. 

“The biggest takeaway I got from the conference is to keep honing your skills to make you a more suitable candidate in the working world,” said another UNI student attendee and junior digital media production major, Jacob Butler. 

Previous to this year, the workshop was virtual due to the pandemic. It was a refreshing change to bring the event back in-person. 

“It was wonderful to bring this conference back in-person after COVID,” said Martin. “Nothing is as good as being in-person and be able to have students shake hands and have discussions after the panels,” he said. 

As the two coordinators for the event, Braley and Martin split responsibilities to ensure a successful workshop. Braley organized the panels, working with multiple schedules and making connections with experts and other colleges to attend. Martin focused on promotion and marketing by developing a webpage and writing press releases. He also implemented schedule details such as lunch on campus within Maucker Union and communicating the event’s success to sponsors. 

“We always have the students’ best interest in mind,” said Braley. “We spoke with them and talked about what specific areas they wanted to learn from. After taking that information in, we looked at what experts were available and willing to come back to campus to share their experiences,” he said. 

Martin also added, “A number of the professional speakers are graduates of UNI and they were so happy to come back after us not seeing them for a few years.”

Braley and Martin look forward to another conference in 2023. They hope the momentum only continues to build and even more speakers and attendees can connect at UNI. Braley anticipates inviting other experts outside of the midwest to share their expertise.

“I am raising my expectations to a higher level for next year, because building on the foundation that was set in 2022,” said Braley.