Southern Oregon University's first Emerging Media Convention kicked off Monday, with a presentation by Ashland photographer Ezra Marcos.
Marcos gave a workshop to mostly digital media students, sharing stories about his life and the importance of networking to a career in digital media.
"Networking is so vast and wide. Use your friends to connect you to people," said Marcos, who left a career in social work to pursue taking photos.
Marcos' presentation was the first in a weeklong program of events aimed at connecting digital media students with professionals in their fields — such as graphic and web design, video production and photography.
A freelance photographer for SOU's marketing department, Marcos said that excelling in a digital media career is dependent upon your ability to market yourself without being fake.
"You have to get people to believe in you. Get people excited about you," said Marcos.
This week's convention continues with evening guest speakers and culminates Saturday with a meet-and-greet in which students can interact with professionals in their chosen field.
The convention was created by students after they realized the lack of presence for digital media careers at SOU's annual career fair, according to co-founder Chazyln Lovely, an Emerging Media and Digital Arts student.
Formed as a major in 2010, EMDA combines communication, Web and graphic design, photography and video production to create a major focused on digital media.
"I'd wanted to have some kind of event that gathered EMDA students and faculty together to talk about our careers and our lives after SOU ever since the (EMDA) program was created," said Lovely, who planned the event with classmate Amanda Denbeck as a part of Denbeck's senior capstone.
"Every event we hold is designed to give students valuable insider knowledge from our workshop leaders, who are folks who own their own businesses or work for businesses," said Lovely. "Students get to collaborate not only with each other, but with these amazing innovators and digital media gurus. We really wanted the sole focus of our convention to be about supporting the students."
EMDA students will showcase student work in an "Artist's Alley" at the Ashland Innovators Conference, a Chamber of Commerce event also being held at SOU Friday.
During his presentation Monday, Marcos offered encouragement for students pursuing freelance work after graduation.
"I have a lot of small jobs and that somehow gets me by," said Marcos, who supports his wife and three children as a photographer. "Be good. If you just have mediocre work, you're not going to get any work at all. You're going to be working at Kinkos."
Marcos told EMDA students to rely on friends to help make professional connections and never rule out cold-calling potential employers.
"Connect with people, talk with people, communicate with people," said Marcos.
Lovely said she hopes that in the future, EMDA alumni will take part in the conference to teach students about digital media careers.
"This is really designed to help the students with their careers," she said.
To learn more about the Emerging Media Convention, visit www.emdacon.com.
Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at email@example.com.