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Elizabeth Fitzgerald is PCC’s Multimedia maven
Story by Christina Holmes.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald’s winding path to the Multimedia Program mirrors the journey many of her students take.
Fitzgerald didn’t exactly see a future in digital media when she graduated high school at a time when electric typewriters were all the rage.
A Washingtonian who grew up on a Clark County farm, traveled the world with her military husband, and later followed the Grateful Dead across the country. Once Jerry Garcia died, Fitzgerald and her husband John stopped traveling to the concerts. “So we cut our hair and got jobs,” she laughed.
It was after a layoff from the comfortable job she had in the paper industry in North Portland that Fitzgerald realized she needed a new career. “I remember driving across the Interstate Bridge and crying thinking about how we were going to pay the mortgage,” Fitzgerald recalled. “I was working on different safety committees in the community and I figured I could go to school to make safety videos for different companies. I did my research. PCC was the best place to go.”
At PCC she learned to film on three-quarter-inch tape. She was always in the lab whether she had classes or not, and started answering questions from her classmates when the instructors were busy. “I just never left,” she said.
Today Fitzgerald is chair of the Multimedia Program at the Cascade Campus in North Portland, the place where she earned her associate’s degree and the department she’s helped build into an award-winning program. Graduates typically find work as media artists, animators, art directors, graphic designers in electronic media, digital video editors, desktop publishers, web designers and specialists in mass media production.
Many PCC students and grads currently work or have worked on movie and television productions filmed in and around Portland such as “Grimm,” “Portlandia,” “Little People, Big World” and “Leverage.” They get hired by local multimedia and production companies such as Bent Image Lab, Second Story and Picture This, she said.
There are about 350 students in the program, a huge jump from the 50 students taking classes when Fitzgerald first arrived at PCC. The average age of students is 34, and they come from all walks of life and experience.
“PCC offers intimate class sizes, access to industry standard equipment and applications, and approachable instructors,” said Evan Applegate, 25, a current student who lives in Southeast Portland. “PCC has definitely helped prepare me for the industry with a comprehensive focus on technical and theoretical knowledge. There are a few things I’ve learned here that just are not studied anywhere else.”
In 2009, Fitzgerald spent a week in Hollywood as a fellow for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She was the only fellow representing a community college, impressing her university counterparts with PCC’s well-regarded model.
“I tell our students that being perfect at something doesn’t get you the job,” Fitzgerald said. “What gets you a job is being able to diagnose a problem. You need these diagnostic tools in this global economy and you need to know how to execute a plan.”
For more information about the Multimedia Program, visit pcc.edu/programs/multimedia or call (971) 722-5398