Niki Nolin is passionate about Columbia’s approach to teaching and learning. “It is an active and participatory process open to ideas, and we’re not afraid of criticism, or risk, or failure,” says the associate professor in Columbia’s Interactive Arts and Media department (IAM). “We value the person, out in the world making their difference, living their dreams, defining success as an integrated life, full of discovery.”
When off campus, Nolin is a media artist in three separate collaborative groups. “I teach exactly what I do as an artist,” she says. “I love the ability to blend motion, image, interaction, and story that the technology provides. I love that the medium does not stay still; that you are always learning new methods. I think it is very important for artists to be actively engaged in the direction and formation of new media.”
She’s just as passionate about her students’ work as she is about her own. “I love to see students connecting knowledge,” she says. Integrating books they love and history and mathematics—whatever interests them—to their ideas for projects in new media. I love to see them jump right out of the box and learn the tools they need to convey their vision. I love the feeling of a plan coming together, when they truly see their own possibilities.”
Her devotion to her students was officially recognized this year, as Nolin was named 2010 Columbia College Chicago Distinguished Faculty Teacher, an honor she counts among her most memorable moments at the college. “The provost almost never calls me—I thought I was in trouble!” she recalls.
Far from it. Her work teaching motion, imaging, and experimental story design using technology as the medium has been invaluable to Columbia and its students, and was instrumental in the School of Media Arts receiving approval for its first B.F.A. degree program, in Interactive Arts and Media.
As you might expect, Nolin has high hopes for both her artistic discipline and her students’ futures. “I hope for sustainability,” she says. “I hope for holding a whole computer in my hand. I hope all the components of new media become recyclable. I hope that technology continues to foster conversation across all kinds of perceived boundaries.” She continues, “Our students grew up with technology, and they are multitaskers. They have seen so much change. It is so optimistic – the feeling that anything could happen, and probably will.”
I Am Occupied by Niki Nolin
Poem: Nancy Graziano; voice: Rebecca Rhine-Stone