Making Media, Making Change: Digital Technologies, Storytelling, and Activism

Program Structure

Class meets twice a week for seminar-style discussion and practical skill-building sessions in the "digital laboratory." Students begin work at their internship placement sites during the second week of class and can expect to spend 10-20 hours per week at their site. Students can choose from a 4 credit internship with hands-on practice and learning in film and technologies, communications, and storytelling, or an 8 crdit internship that also includes mentorship and support for a film that is either self-designed, or created in collaboration with their internship site host.

Topics and Themes

Storytelling in social movements, social impact film and video, media justice and community media, the politics of representation, video activism in the digital age.


St. Paul Neighborhood Network, St. Paul, MN

Terms and Dates:
Fall 2020: September 8 - December 18
Spring 2021: February 1 - May 14

12 or 16

$9,200 (16 credit)

Program Overview

Narrative is the lens through which we see the world and a tool we can use to shape it. Stuents spend the semester exploring the ways in which media and film can either reinforce dominant stories or disrupt them, amplifying different perspectives and possibilities. As an active learning community, they ask: What sotries are we seeing, and why? How can film play a role in organizing for change? By the end of the semester all students will have the skills needed to produce films that inform, inspire, and activate. Making Media, Making Change is taught in collaboration with the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), a community media center that puts cameras into the hands of historically marginalized producers. Students of all experience levels have the opportunity to hone their artistic and creative voice by produing three original films, including a final work created in collaboration with a local nonprofit. In addition to hands-on training, students meet artists, community leaders, and activists committeed to creating media that matters. Student work is situated in the context of growing movement to make media accesible, relevant, and reflective of diverse voices. 

Staff and Faculty

Raechel Anne Jolie is a writer, educator, and media maker committed to using her skills in the service of social justice and liberation. Raechel grew up in a working-class community in Ohio and became involved with anti-war organizing in high school. Since then, Raechel received a BA and MA from DePaul University in Chicago, where she continued to organize with anti-war groups, labor unions, and prison reform and abolition organizations. In 2013, Raechael received a PhD from the University of Minnesota in Critical Media Studies and a minor in Critical Feminist & Sexuality Studies. Her dissertation was a participatory action research project that explored the relationship between the US labor movement and the LGBTQ workers. Raechel was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Merrimack College from 2013-2017, and has since taught at Tufts University and Normandale Community College. 

Raechel's writing has been published in numerous academic journals as well as various popular press sites (Teen Vogue, Bitch Magazine, In These Times, and more). Her memoir, Rust Belt Femme, is forthcoming from Belt Publishing. Raechel was also the co-host and co-producer of Feminist Killjoys, PhD (2016-2019), a podcast designed to bring feminist theory and analysis to broader audiences. Raechel has continued her activist and organizing work with groups like Black & Pink, IWOC, the Massachusetts Bail Fund, and is also a volunteer yoga teacher at a women's prisin in MN. 

In her teaching, writing, and media work, Raechel is guided and inspired by the words of activist creator Toni Cade Bambara: "As a cultural worker who belongs to an opporessed people, my job is to make revolution irresistable." 

Joua Lee Grande (she/her) is the Program Manager of Media Education at St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN). In this role, she co-teaches MMMC, with Raechel, and also teaches a 15-16 week summer program called DocU (for beginning filmmakers who are underrepresented in the industry), New Angle Fellows (a program for emerging filmmakers), and she supports various workshops and programs at SPNN. In addition to her role at SPNN, she is also a filmmaker.


This course is a critical exploration of the role of storytelling and media in social change efforts. Students examine the ways that story is both a lens through which you understand the world and a tool you can use to shape it. Students have the opportunity to learn about and evaluate media-based activist strategies in the context of competing theoretical perspectives on media and society. Students use theory and field experiences to reflect open and hone your own digital practices as an effective agent of social change. 

This course is focused on the development and production of compelling videos. Students' videography is expected to demonstrate both innovative content and high quality production. As part of this couse, sudents will be trained by SPNN staff in camera operations, aesthetics of video production, shot composition, audio, lighting, and editing. Students' work will be graded with t heir growing skill set in mind. The grading rubric assesses both technical improvement and improvements in story-telling ability. This reflects MMMC's focus on media that catalyzes social change. By the end of the semester students will be able to produce video suitable for public broadcast. 

This internship is a minimum of 100 hours and takes place at SPNN or other internship site placements around the Twin Cities based on student interest and skill level. Students may:

  • Build on Digital Laboratory skills to create programming
  • Produce professional-level videos for community clients.
  • Assist in the daily work of the organization such as communications, youthwork, or fundraising.
  • Teach community producers basic video production skills and act as a resource for community programming.

All students will meet regularly with program faculty and classmates to reflect on their work, integrate the internship with program content, and receive support toward accomplishing individual learning goals. HECUA interns are able to explore multiple skills while taking on their own independent film projects during the second half of their internships.


Below are details of a few recently completed internships and projects. Note that all internship sites in Making Media, Making Change are hosted by community partner SPNN. Internship site placement can change semester to semester in response to the needs of the organization, and when possible, in response to the specific interests of students in the program.

The HECUA intern worked with CTEP at SPNN, a program that works to close the digital divide for new immigarnts and low-income communities in Minneaplis and St. Paul. The HECUA intern was the production manager for four CTEP Americorps technology civic engagement videos. One example of the videos they created was to highlight "Stop! Animate!" a three-week stop-motion animation camp for the youth at CLUES. 

Two HECUA students spent the summer as production interns with the Community Productions department at SPNN. One student helped coordinate and schedule guests for the SPNN forum series. She played a big role in seeking out speakers, scheduling and prepping the shows, and even interviewing guests on a few occasions. The other student received special permission based on his technical experiences and skill level with filming, and completed an 8-credit, 200 hour internship with the Community Productions department at SPNN. He was every quickly treated like a staff member in the department, operating the camera a community events like the Saint Paul Forum and at a number of community parades. He also worked on graphics, and in post productino and spent time filming episodes of Candy Fresh, an original live music and dance show highlighting local artists in front of a live audience. 

Line Break works with artists, organizers, and advocates to craft their stories into powerful instruments for transformative social change. The HECUA student interns spent his semester working on multiple film projects including pre- and post-production and editing work for a short animation used an an event for a Minnesota based funder, and working from the beginning to the end of a video for the Hmong American Farmers Association.