DCB revamps photography program, hires new studio manager

Bottineau — Dakota College at Bottineau is revamping its CTE (Career and Technical Education) photography program. Newly re-hired photography department chair and instructor, Clint Saunders, is excited about the changes.

“Many people don’t realize that professional photography is a trade, and as such, it doesn’t fit into a traditional educational model. When students earn a bachelor’s degree in photography, they receive a bachelor’s level education while taking a handful of photography classes. In the end, the students are well educated and understand fundamentals in photography, but they are not trained to work as professionals. In photography, like all other trades, if students want to become a plumber or an auto mechanic, they don’t get a bachelor’s degree. They either go to a trade school or work as an apprentice for a journeyman or master in their trade. Professional photography is no different. If people want to succeed in the photography industry, they must first learn the trade. With this in mind, we transformed the program into more of a trade school model instead of trying to make the program fit into a traditional educational model,” he said.

There are only a few changes to the program, but Saunders feels they will have a profound impact on a student’s ability to succeed in the field after graduation. Some of the changes to the program include hybrid courses for online and on campus students, photo labs, live video lectures, and more. The biggest, and what Saunders feels is the most beneficial change to the program, will be the addition of hands-on projects (labs) that the students will participate in daily.

“We are now running our program like a professional studio,” said Saunders. “We are treating Dakota College as the community in which we live and run our studio. As such, we fulfill all of the photographic needs of that community.”

With the combination of labs and practicum courses, the photography students are working as campus photographers fulfilling the photographic needs of the college while doing other projects such as portraiture, product photography, documentary photography, food photography and more.

“We run the program just like a professional studio. The students are working in an actual, productive photo studio, just as they will when they leave college and enter the work force. This enables them to learn how to work in this environment, builds their knowledge, skills, confidence to work in the industry, and gives them their first two years of work experience while earning their degrees. Employers want a degree plus two years of experience, so that’s what we give them,” said Saunders.

For this new program to work, DCB needed a studio manager and hired Leslie Ostreim to fill the position. Ostreim is from Rolette and is an alumnus of Dakota College at Bottineau where she earned her AAS degree in photography. Ostreim also holds an AAS degree in graphic design from Moorhead Community and Technical College, so she is no stranger to CTE programs.

“We had many qualified applicants for the position including former graduates from our program. The competition was tough, but we felt Leslie’s qualifications and personality made her a perfect fit with our mission for the program,” said Saunders.

Along with her duties as studio manager, Ostreim is also a teaching assistant to Saunders, the lead campus photographer, and the in-house campus graphic designer. Ostreim is happy for the opportunity and enjoys her new position stating, “With the photography program I was able to not only find something that I enjoy doing every day, but I also found my passion.”

Saunders is thrilled with the new program and the hiring of Ostreim. “Our goal is for DCB Photography to become the premier photography program in the United States, and Leslie has the knowledge, skillset, and work ethic we need to move this program to where we want it to be. Everyone on campus is extremely happy with Leslie and what she brings to the program.”

The new program started with the beginning of the fall semester in August. Saunders is happy with the progress of the program and the results so far. “We are definitely on the right track. Our student photographers have produced more work in the last seven weeks than in the previous two years. They are active in a variety of hands-on, practical photo shoots every week, which challenge them, teach them new skills, and build their confidence.”

For more information about the DCB Photography program, contact Clint Saunders via email at clint.saunders@dakotacollege.edu