University transitions: New colleges, degree and film studio

The digital motion picture film program at Dixie State recently acquired this 14,000 square-foot hangar to be utilized as a production studio | Film reel background Nasared/iStock/Getty Images Plus; Foreground photo of hangar courtesy Phil Tuckett; image composition St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Big changes may be coming to Dixie State University with the university receiving word Friday that two major transitions – new colleges and a new degree –have gained their first steps towards approval.

On the campus of Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, April 6, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Campus of Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, April 6, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The first shift, upon approval, is for all of the various “schools” within the university to be renamed as “colleges.” For example, the School of Visual and Performing Arts will be renamed the College of the Arts.

The second shift, pending approval, will be changing the digital film emphasis to a digital film degree and moving the program from communications studies to Dixie State’s College of the Arts.

The changes were approved during a meeting of the Utah State Board of Regents Friday.

DOCUTAH logo | Image courtesy DOCUTAH, St. George News
DocUtah logo | St. George News

Jeffrey Jarvis, dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts, said the changes at Dixie State are a long time coming.

“We’ve been working for about a year and a half re-creating the arts at Dixie,” Jarvis said. “We feel like we’re at a place where we can begin to tell our story in the community.”

One of the changes coming to the new college is a merging of what Jarvis called “the professional division with the academic side.”

The professional aspect of the college entails aspects such as the concert series at Cox Performing Arts Center and O.C. Tanner Amphitheater, DocUtah Film Festival and the Sears Art Museum Gallery, all of which will now fall under the jurisdiction of the College of the Arts.

 Dixie State University students work with instructors while filming on location as part of the university’s digital film production emphasis program. The university received approval Friday from the Utah State Board of Regents to begin offering a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Digital Film this fall | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News
Dixie State University students work with instructors while filming on location as part of the university’s digital film production emphasis program. The university received approval Friday from the Utah State Board of Regents to begin offering a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Digital Film this fall | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

Another change announced is the addition of a new Bachelor of Science degree in digital film. Previously, students enrolled in the film program received their degree in communications with a specified emphasis.

Approval for the new degree was granted Friday, Jarvis said, but full implementation — following approval by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities — will not take place until early 2017.

Dixie State University is in an exciting time, he said, and not just due to the changes in the art department.

“The excitement’s all over Dixie,” Jarvis said, “it’s just spilling over. Some of it’s the mascot, some it’s the university status, some of it’s the enrollment growth that we’re going to see this fall.”

Phil Tuckett, assistant professor of communication and director of the Dixie State film program, said he is pleased to see the program receiving recognition. Tuckett is also the executive director of DSU Films and executive director of DocUtah.

The digital motion picture film program at Dixie State recently acquired this 14,000 square-foot hangar to be utilized as a production studio | Photo courtesy Phil Tuckett, St. George News
The digital motion picture film program at Dixie State recently acquired this 14,000 square-foot hangar to be utilized as a production studio | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University professor Phil Tuckett, St. George News

One of the big differences between having the film program be an emphasis compared to a degree is how much money the state allocates.

“The trickle-down effect of state money when you’re an emphasis and not a degree, it squeezes pretty tight,” Tuckett said.

With the program’s upgrade to degree status, the school will now place digital film on equal footing with other degree programs at the university.

The digital motion picture film program at Dixie State recently acquired this 14,000 square-foot hangar to be utilized as a production studio | Photo courtesy Phil Tuckett, St. George News
The digital motion picture film program at Dixie State recently acquired this 14,000 square-foot hangar to be utilized as a production studio | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University professor Phil Tuckett, St. George News

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of growth to the arts department — and the film program — is the acquisition of a 14,000 square-foot hangar at the Ridge Top Complex in St. George, which will be utilized as a film studio. The hangar, which Tuckett called “shovel ready,” will be turned over to the film program Monday.

“Right now you could do a feature film in there,” he said. “It’s big enough, the ceiling’s high enough, plus there’s six offices for all of our staff and three conference rooms.”

Classes will be taught in the hangar starting in the fall term, and within two years, he said, the entire program will be based out of the building. Tuckett said:

I just always had my eye on that hangar. So I kept saying to the president — President Nadauld and then President Williams — ‘look, this is the home we need to grow the program.’ They agreed, then we had to make a deal with the city, who owned it.”

Tuckett said he is hopeful that the naming rights, both to the degree program and the hangar itself, will eventually be sold to a film industry heavyweight, which will infuse the program with funds to keep the technology up to date.

“Those naming rights are crucial to the financial well-being as we get bigger,” Tuckett said, “especially in our field with all the burgeoning technology; you can’t use last year’s camera and say that you’re teaching the students properly.”

“The degree gives us all that flexibility, that profile,” he said. “The possibilities grow exponentially as we get bigger and move into our new home.”

Tuckett is a 30-year veteran of NFL films, winning 30 Emmy Awards for his projects. He has also produced and directed numerous documentaries and music videos.

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