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New center creates opportunities for GoHeels Productions, students and student-athletes

The Media and Communications Center includes updated studio space and technology for the newly launched ACC Network and workspace for the athletics department's communications and creative teams.

The new workspace, including rows of computers, at the new Media and Communications Center.
The Media and Communications Center makes room for more coverage of Carolina Athletics and will allow more opportunity for students to be involved.

When Carolina’s top leaders started preliminary plans for the Media and Communications Center, a lot of details weren’t on the table, but those leaders knew that it wouldn’t just be a place for athletics.

No, the MCC had to be a place for students, too.

Friday, campus members will gather to dedicate and celebrate the completion of the center, which opened at the beginning of this academic year. The project included updated studio space and technology for the newly launched ACC Network on the first floor, as well as a second floor dedicated to the department of athletics’ communications and creative teams.

But more than anything, the project has created opportunities – for GoHeels Productions, for students and for student-athletes.

Ken Cleary, Carolina’s assistant athletic director for emerging media, can’t wait to fully embrace all of the many ways GoHeels Productions and the University will be able to work together with the new center open.

“We can’t wait to have everything humming the way we want in the building,” Cleary said, “so that we can really have systems in place to find interested students, to train them, to nurture them and to give them opportunities.”

GoHeels Productions has already produced 27 events in five weeks – and four of those have included a student producer. The center will allow students to produce even more events, to where more than half of athletic’s digital productions will be completely produced by students.

It also makes room for more coverage of Carolina athletics. Last Friday, the field hockey, volleyball and men’s soccer teams all played at home at the same time. In the old space, Cleary said only two of those events could have been broadcast. But with the new studios, all three games were shown live.

As the coverage grows, though, so does the need for creative and talented people, especially students, to do the work.

Luckily for GoHeels, the department has a strong relationship with the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, which already sends many of its students across campus to work on live productions.

Charlie Tuggle, the senior associate dean for undergraduate studies at the UNC Hussman School, knows that number will only increase – perhaps even triple, he says – as more opportunities become available.

“Most of the folks who work at GoHeels are students from our school or alums from our school,” Tuggle said. “Many of the freelancers are from our school. Many of the student workers are from our school. So, we’ve had a really productive and long relationship with GoHeels, and now the ACC Network. I see this as enhancing what it already is that we’ve been doing.”

What the Hussman School – and many other schools and departments at Carolina – is doing is teaching real-life skills.

“We teach skills that people can take into various media industries, whether it’s television or magazines or advertising or public relations or marketing or any of these things,” Tuggle said. “You’ve worked on things for real clients that real people have seen in real time. That’s just part of our DNA. We teach our students how to do things.”

That’s why the existing and growing partnership with the MCC is so important, Tuggle said. It allows students to get real-life skills working in sports media, which he identifies as one of the few growing industries in broadcast.

“If you’re a student at Carolina and you have an interest in working in television, regardless of what role, there’s no better time to do it,” Cleary said.

But the opportunities for students and campus partnerships at the MCC don’t stop on the big screen. The center is all about storytelling in every form.

“This building is important to the people who work in it, because it shows a level of commitment that the University, particularly Bubba Cunningham, has for the storytelling apparatus that exists on this second floor,” said Steve Kirschner, the senior associate athletic director for strategic communications.

“It’s not just the ACC Network studios, which are fantastic and critical to what we’re going to do over the next 20 years. It’s also the second floor – the sports information directors, graphics people, social media people, the video storytellers. It is as fine a facility as there is anywhere in the country and it shows that the work that the people on this floor do is valued greatly by the University administration.”

According to Cleary, other departments outside of the UNC Hussman School are already sending students to learn at the center. He hopes to branch out from the existing partnerships and grow that reach even more. He also hopes to build a strong network of Carolina alumni who have worked at the MCC and can connect with each other in the future.

Whether it’s a department that requires internship experience from its students or a school that needs access to studio space, Cleary seeks to provide that.

“We’re a resource for anywhere on campus,” he said. “We’ve really just scratched the surface on that.”

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