In a remarkable milestone marking five decades of artistic excellence, the Photography Department at Ridgewater College celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday, October 28.
The anniversary festivities brought together alumni, current students, faculty, staff, and the community for an afternoon of reminiscing, trivia, prizes, and more. Alumni spanning from the class of 1975 to the most recent 2023 graduates shared memories, insights, and experiences, creating an atmosphere of nostalgia and camaraderie.
“It was fun to see so many alumni running for hugs, laughing, and having fun,” said Wade McDonald, one of Ridgewater’s Photography instructors.
Over the course of 50 years, the Photography Department has undergone significant positive transformations. First, it adapted to student needs by removing most course prerequisites, allowing tailored course selection.
“Then we shifted to an online format during the COVID pandemic, and it ended up enhancing student satisfaction,” said instructor Amy Pawelk. “Students from near and far have appreciated increased availability of equipment through semester-long checkouts of state-of-the-art digital and mirrorless cameras and lenses as well as studio lighting.”
Video lectures have offered course flexibility, attracting diverse student demographics, including more part-time and full-time nontraditional students by age and working professionals. This transition has expanded the program’s accessibility and nationwide reach.
Another significant improvement in the program has been educational collaborations with other programs to better prepare students for broader career opportunities. Students can now earn an online Photography and Design degree as well as an Agriculture Marketing and Communications certificate that includes digital photography and editing through Adobe Lightroom.
“One of the trends we’ve seen over the years is the expectation that more than just professional photographers can benefit from having photography skills,” McDonald explained. Many people working in industry will confirm that.
“We are so grateful to all anniversary attendees who made our celebration a success,” Pawelk said. “We look forward to shaping the next generation of visionary photographers and pushing the boundaries of creative expression.”
For more information on the Photography department, visit www.ridgewater.edu/photography.