Montana State University

Popular MSU department becomes School of Film and Photography

January 30, 2009

A photography instructor in what is now the MSU School of Film and Photography arranges prints in a Visual Communications Building studio for a semester-end portfolio review. Photography and film are the components of MSU's newest school, created from a popular, 50-year-old department. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
One of Montana State University's most popular departments has a new name.

The Montana Board of Regents approved the name change for what is now the MSU School of Film and Photography. The dean of the college that houses what had been called the Department of Media and Theatre Arts says the new name more accurately describes what is studied in the school.

"The old department name really didn't accurately reflect our degree options, "said Susan Agre-Kippenhan, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture. "While we still have theatre courses, they are an integrated part of the film program. We haven't had a theatre major at MSU for many years."

Agre-Kippenhan said new students and parents, who inquired about MSU's "film school," helped to lead the university to rethink the name.

"Our alumni have also been very enthusiastic (about the name change)," she said. She added that administrators also recognized that most other institutions that offer training in film and video on a par with MSU have a film school, so the name change will help in attracting new students. She said it also lends "significant prominence to the robust photography option."

The School of Film and Photography joins the School of Architecture, the School of Art and the Department of Music as components of the MSU College of Arts and Architecture. The Masters of Fine Arts in Science and Natural Filmmaking, the only program of its type in the country, is also housed in the School of Film and Photography.

There are 550 students enrolled in the School of Film and Photography. Both film and photography are gated programs, which means there are a fixed number of student positions beyond freshmen year.

The new school has its origins in courses taught by university videographers in the late 1950s. In the early 1960s a program was created that combined the majors of photography, film and television. In 1987 theatre, which had been a program in the Department of English, was moved into the department and it was renamed the Department of Media and Theatre Arts.

The school, which provides a "hands-on" approach to both photography and film, plans a 50th anniversary celebration sometime next fall, Agre-Kippenhan said.

To see more articles about students and programs in MSU's School of Film and Photography, go to:

Susan Agre-Kippenhan (406) 994-4405,