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The Communication Department at Southwestern Adventist University has some big dreams. “We’re just blowing it up,” says Mike Agee, department chair and University alumnus, speaking of the Communication Department. “We’ve got dreams, we’ve got some big plans. We’ve tripled our enrollment. So come along for the ride!”

The plans started coming to fruition with the hire of Kyle Portbury, the award-winning director of A Mountain Within, who joined the team from Australia this last summer. He also directed Beyond the Search, which went on to win 14 international awards including the prestigious CINE Golden Eagle, and the recently released Tell the World. The department is no stranger to awards. Communication department chair Michael Agee, who is also the General Manager for KJRN The Journey radio station, won three Dove Awards (and several others) at his previous station. The Journey just recently placed #20 out of the top 50 Christian radio stations in the nation and has grown to over 85,000 listeners weekly. Veteran communication professor Glen Robinson has written 20 books, more than 200 published articles and stories, and won two national Angel awards in editing and writing. Together, they make a pretty good team.

The students are winning some awards as well. The Film Production class won Best Student Comedy Short at Lionshead Film Festival in Dallas for their short film The Prepper. The class worked together, under the direction of associate professor Kyle Portbury, to produce the short film. After completing The Prepper, each student in the class also produced individual short film projects. One of those films, produced by student Shane Miosi and tilted 100% Match, was recently officially selected into the Rockport Texas Film Festival.

For the students, this is exactly the experience they’re looking for. “I found it pretty cool that our film was accepted into the Lionshead Film Festival,” says Justin Hudgins, junior communication major, who had the privilege of accepting the award at the Festival. “I can say that I wasn’t expecting to win an award. This whole experience was quite rewarding for me, as making films is something I have an interest in doing.”

New experiences is quickly becoming the norm for the Communication Department. Earlier in the year the department hosted its first 24-hour film challenge, with teams attending from all over the U.S. The event culminated in a film festival with celebrity judges, including Michael Price, Emmy Award-winning composer of the hit BBC series Sherlock. The event was so successful, in fact, that the University has decided to make it an annual event.

Now, the department is ready to launch something else new - an Institute for Christian Film. “We’ve set up an institute for Christian film,” says Portbury. “We have a several screenplays that we’ve pitched and we’re now at the stage we’re needing funding to make these projects happen. This is a pretty exciting development, as it also allows outside entities to submit screenplays and concepts, get involved through funding, and gives our students amazing practical experience working real film projects.”

To learn more about how to get involved, visit swau.edu/film.