Ridgewater College Photography 50th Anniversary Celebration!
October 28, 2023
1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Willmar Campus, B42 Photography Department
The Ridgewater College Photography department is having a 50th Anniversary celebration!
Join your fellow photography alumni as we commemorate five decades of passion, creativity, and dedication to the art of photography.
There will be refreshments & hors d’oeuvres, a photo booth, door prizes & tshirts, trivia, an alumni photography slideshow, and more!
If you were enrolled in photography classes or graduated with a photography degree, be on the lookout for an invitation to join!RSVP Here!
About the photography department
The photography department has undergone significant changes in the way it serves students in recent years. We removed prerequisites from classes to allow students to choose courses that align better with their career goals. When Covid hit, our department transitioned from hybrid to fully online learning, which was a blessing in disguise. We observed benefits in terms of enrollment and student satisfaction, which led us to increase our inventory of equipment available to students. Our classes now include equipment that we check out to students for the entire semester, ensuring that the program remains hands-on. We have received positive feedback from students about video recorded lectures that they can replay and learn from any location. This shift has increased enrollment, including non-traditional, part-time, and working professional students. The move to an online asynchronous format has also expanded our student reach from rural Minnesota initially to multiple states within the United States.
New degree offerings
The program initially offered a professional photography technology diploma and AAS degree, but has expanded award offerings in recent years through collaboration with other departments. These include a 29-credit photography certificate, a 54-credit photo and design diploma, a 60-credit photo and design AAS, and a 27-credit Ag Marketing Communications Certificate with three core classes included.
We have made some physical changes to expand our presence on the Hutchinson campus in addition to the curriculum changes. A large space has been transformed into a Photography lab and office. Currently, we are in the process of transferring equipment inventory so that we can have the required equipment on both the Willmar and Hutchinson campuses. Some of the equipment will be available for students to checkout and pick up from the Hutchinson campus.
At our industry-leading college photography program, our mission is to provide an exceptional educational experience that empowers our students to become proficient, innovative, and creative visual storytellers. We are committed to fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community where all students feel welcomed, valued, and respected.
At Ridgewater, we strive to provide personalized and relevant education to a diverse range of learners, empowering them to achieve their full potential and enrich their lives. Our learning environment is inclusive, accessible, and supportive, fostering a sense of belonging for all students.
One of our primary objectives is to nurture students who can represent the visual communications industry in a manner that is both diverse and inclusive. Our program achieves this through various means, including portrait and video sessions, as well as assignments that prioritize inclusivity and racial representation.
We understand that access to high-quality equipment is essential for our students’ success, and we provide all the necessary equipment to help them achieve their goals. Our program is dedicated to staying at the forefront of industry technology, and we ensure that our students have access to cutting-edge cameras, lighting, and other equipment to create outstanding photography and video.
Amy Pawelk holds an AAS & Diploma in photography, as well as a diploma in graphic design (formerly known as communication art) from Ridgewater College. Following her graduation, she worked for a local agriculture industry where she was responsible for capturing photos of their machines and parts, creating a parts catalog, and producing local and international advertising for magazines, online ads, and handout brochures for trade shows.
After gaining experience in the industry, Amy established her own business located in Willmar. Her studio catered to clients in various genres, ranging from seniors, weddings, newborns, families, business headshots, preschool photos, to corporate events. For eight years, she successfully ran her business full-time. Now, as a full-time instructor at Ridgewater, she stays up-to-date in the industry by networking and communicating with other photographers and industry professionals.
Wade began pursuing a Master of Science degree in Educational Technology at Minnesota State University Mankato in 2017. Over the next three years, he worked to earn his degree while also earning three graduate certificates in the field of educational technology and online delivery.
Wade’s passion for photography, combined with his extensive knowledge of educational technology, with a focus on inclusivity and diversity, Wade’s courses quickly became popular among students, and he quickly established himself as a respected and accomplished photography instructor.
Both Wade McDonald and Amy Pawelk have been nominated by their students multiple times for the prestigious Board of Trustees: Teachers in Excellence award. In the academic year 2022-2023, Wade McDonald was selected by the committee to represent Ridgewater College at the state level. In 2018, Amy Pawelk was awarded the Golden Apple award from Phi Beta Kappa, representing Ridgewater College.