By Jena Howie
Joseph Kickasola, associate professor in Baylor’s department of communications, lives sixteen hundred miles from campus, but the students don’t mind. As the director of the Baylor Communications in New York program, he orchestrates a semester-long program that allows students to intern in the city while taking a full semester of coursework through Baylor.
Kickasola’s job is special because he uses the Big Apple as his classroom. Most of his teaching happens as he mentors and guides students as they embark on their professional careers in the fast-paced, cultured, media-driven empire that is New York City.
“Teaching in the New York Program is incredibly gratifying,” Kickasola said. “It’s a competitive program, so all of the students I get are very motivated and bright. I get to challenge them at their deepest level spiritually, intellectually, and professionally.”
Kickasola lives in New York City with his family, about five minuets by train from the students’ dormitory. He said it’s extremely important to live in the city year-round, because it helps everyone feel more comfortable when the students are led by someone who knows the city well.
In the summers Kickasola spends an enormous time networking in the film and media industries. As a result of his efforts, Baylor interns have landed jobs at big name companies such as CBS, NBC, and MTV.
“Dr. Kickasola has worked tirelessly to establish amazing connections in New York City,” said Susie Typher ’12, a former Baylor in New York student. “Most of the people in the program got their internship because of a connection he helped forge.”
The idea for the New York based program came out of a conversation with Dr. Michael Korpi, professor in the department of film and digital media. Kickasola and other Baylor Film and Digital Media professors have since worked together on perfecting the program. One-day Kickasola hopes to expand the program to other big media locations. Since the New York program was started in 2002, Kickasola has fine-tuned the program to best suit the fast-paced city environment. He has developed four courses for the program that directly relate to the media culture of the city.
“I wanted to create a program that was similar to a study-abroad experience, but in a big media location where students could really get out there and network,” Korpi said.
Kickasola has a deep-rooted passion for the arts and love for academia. At one point, he even aspired to be a professional musician! He has degrees in music and English from Covenant College, and a PhD in Communication with a concentration in cinema studies from Regent University. His main interests and focus for work and research lie within the film and television industry. He has worked on numerous local, national, and international productions as a director and producer. He has also done extensive research on religion and film, European film history, electronic culture, and the Polish film director Krzystof Kieslowski.
Kickasola received an award for his achievements in the film and television industry in 2006. He was given the Spiritus Award for his book The Films of Krzysztof Kieslowski: The Liminal Image, 2006’s best book at the intersection of theology and film. Prominent thinkers and filmmakers around the country vote on the recipient of the Spiritus Award.
“My greatest experience thus far in my career is not necessarily the awards. It’s having the honor to be asked to address people all around the world about how film and media are spiritually valuable. It’s about an appreciation of the art form and how it feeds what is most deeply human,” Kickasola says.
Despite all of the success, Kickasola said he felt something was lacking in his career.
“I found that I missed thinking and writing and reading,” Kickasola said. “That is what drove me into academia.”
Kickasola said he loves being a part of the Baylor community and heading the New York program. He plans to continue researching various film related topics and networking with as many people as possible in the city.
“I want to continue doing what I love to do at the highest possible level. I can’t do it all at once, but I eventually hope to do it all,” Kickasola said.