For most Wesleyan students, and college students in general, the pop culture catchphrase “I want my MTV!” died a long time ago. With shows like “TRL” and “MTV Cribs” pandering to the corporate music industry and image-obsessed pop stars, it’s no surprise that, except for the occasional guilty pleasure, liberal arts students thumb their noses at the mention of the network.
It may come as a shock, then, to many students that the channel offers resources to college students that range from record deals to Fulbright scholarships. Not the “Pimp-My-Ride” channel you’re used to? Well it isn’t. Opportunities like these—and many more—are at the heart of the network’s college-oriented satellite network mtvU.
“MtvU is an academic place as well as a very fun place because we deal with a lot of really important social and political issues on college campuses and worldwide,” said mtvU VJ Kim Stolz ’05 in a recent interview. “I’m hoping to move towards doing a lot of work politically on-air, as well as music.”
Most University students know of Stolz, who majored in Government, from her appearance on the fifth season of “America’s Next Top Model.” But for the past year she has been working as a Video Jockey and writer for mtvU. Stolz currently hosts “The Freshmen,” a program that plays videos from unknown or obscure artists, based on votes from viewers. The show, which features a panel of college students who discuss the videos with Stolz, is demonstrative of mtvU’s grassroots, hands-on style.
“We can experiment more,” Stolz said. “One of the first things that someone said to me when I got here was that you can go into one of the program heads’ offices and say, ‘I have a great idea for a show, and I have no idea how to get funding for it, and I have no idea how to make this work,’ but if they like it, they’ll make it happen.”
MtvU General Manager Steven Friedman, a University alum, has been working for MTV since 1998 and has created many of the network’s most successful campaigns. He created the Emmy-award winning “Fight for Your Rights” campaign, as well as managed the “Choose or Lose” voter registration and outreach campaign. Friedman spoke with passion and sincerity about the network’s goals.
“We really see the channel not just as entertainment, but as a resource,” Friedman said. “Because I know as college students, especially with me [when I was at Wesleyan], you’re there for those amazing four years and everything you do there you hope is going to lead you to an amazing next step. And if we can give college students the tools to accelerate themselves on that path, then we’re creating a richer channel. I think college students are the engine for social change movements.”
One resource that may particularly pique the interest of University students is mtvU’s Best Film on Campus program. The website (www.bestfilmoncampus.com) provides a venue for student filmmakers to share their work by uploading films to the site and submitting them to contest. The network offers exclusive prizes and opportunities to collegiate filmmakers such as state-of-the-art equipment, elite internships, and development deals.
“Certainly Wesleyan has an amazing film program,” Friedman said. “[But] we knew there’s a lot of great student filmmakers out there that have a tough time breaking it. We set up this system so that we can start giving them that step to getting an agent, getting a film deal. And I think the Fulbright scholarship is the same deal.”
Friedman is referring to the Fulbright-mtvU Fellowships being launched this year. Run by the Institute of International Education, the Fellowships gives up to four U.S. students the funding and resources to conduct a self-designed research project pertaining to international music culture and how music functions as an international source of understanding.
Stolz and Friedman speak warmly of the working environment at mtvU.
“If you’re an intern, if you’re a VJ, if you’re in production, you can come up with an idea for a show and it’s gonna be paid attention to,” Stolz said. “The network is small enough—it’s really like a family—so that everyone really does have a part in the programming. And that’s something that wouldn’t be possible by working for a huge worldwide network like MTV.”
This seems particularly true for the network’s music programming. Written and researched by Stolz, “The Freshman” seeks to expose bands from any label that send in demos and LPs. According to Stolz, the show strives to provide diversity in its videos as well as its sound. With five new artists and videos a week, “The Freshman” has given exposure to artists like The Knife, El Perro Del Mar, and Kidz in the Hall.
Friedman has translated his passions from his COL major days to his job at mtvU.
“What I loved about Wesleyan was this sense of what’s possible,” Friedman said. “We’re really passionate here, whether it’s about music or activism or politics. And it doesn’t feel like a job when it’s something you’re passionate about.”