Kyle Kopta.When deciding what four-year university he wanted to attend, affordability and proximity to family were primary factors for first-generation student Kyle Kopta (’21). He discovered WSU Tri-Cities, located just 40 minutes from his hometown of Hermiston, Oregon, had a digital technology and culture program that would allow him to apply his passion for photography, video, graphic design, and fine arts as part of earning a well-rounded degree with potential use in a variety of careers.

As a high school student, Kopta started taking classes through Blue Mountain Community College. He completed his associate’s degree as part of the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree program

“It was a perfect fit for me, as it allowed me to meet my lower division general education requirements and quickly transfer as a junior to any institution of my choosing,” he said.

Kopta at work in the Mac lab at WSU Tri-Cities.

Crossing the river

The transfer process between the two institutions, Kopta said, was seamless. He said with his AAOT degree, everything transferred to WSU Tri-Cities without any problems.

“My experiences at BMCC laid the groundwork for helping me navigate higher education, in general,” he said. “As I moved to Washington and began my WSU Tri-Cities journey, I felt well-equipped to tackle anything that came my way.”

Kyle taking a photo on the bank of a river.
Kopta takes a photo along the Columbia river at the WSU Tri-Cities campus.

Preparing for future career in multimedia arts

Through digital technology and culture courses at WSU Tri-Cities, Kopta learned the fundamentals of a wide variety of multimedia skills, ranging from graphic design, to video production, to sound editing, to photography, to typography and more. He said he enjoyed that the program didn’t put his passions into a single box.

“The digital technology and culture program ended up being the next logical step for me in my career,” he said. “I was attracted to the multidisciplinary nature of the program because I knew it would allow me to explore all the things that interested me, simultaneously. Other programs were rigid in their approach, but the digital technology and culture program would allow me to explore all my options as an artist, designer and working professional in the field.”

Kopta became involved with a range of hands-on experiences and student organizations. He helped curate student exhibits and display his own work through a variety of art shows and symposiums on-campus. He served as part of the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities as its graphic designer. He lent his skills in the multimedia arts as a teacher’s assistant and tutor for the campus’ digital technology and culture program, in addition to serving on the Washington State Arts Commission. He also currently serves as an intern through the WSU Tri-Cities marketing and communication office.

This spring, Kopta also had the opportunity to create and curate a virtual art exhibition that allowed users to virtually walk through a digital gallery space to view student art, just as one would during non-COVID-19 times. It is those sorts of experiences, he said, that proved to be true highlights of his college career.

“Being able to see and experience all of the work our Coug community is doing is always my favorite,” he said. “The people I am surrounded by are constantly engaging in such important and innovative work. I never know what to expect from my peers, and that’s the best part.”

Saving on costs

Throughout his college journey, Kopta received several scholarships, including the Douglas P. Gast Scholarship in memory of his late digital technology and culture professor. Kopta said he was honored to receive such a significant award that honored his late professor.

This past year as part of his senior year, WSU Tri-Cities also launched the I-82 Advantage program, which now allows students from Umatilla County to attend WSU Tri-Cities for in-state tuition rates.

Looking toward the future

After graduating this past spring, Kyle is staying on as a student intern through the summer in the WSU Tri-Cities marketing and communication office.

His experience both at BMCC and WSU Tri-Cities, he said, helped him not only navigate the college setting successfully, but also find his future career. As a result of his experience, he hopes to pursue a career in marketing, specifically working in higher education, where he can help other students find their future interests and careers.

“Marketing allows me to work in design, photography and video, simultaneously,” he said. “I would also love to continue working in a higher education setting. Collaborating with different groups of people on all different sorts of projects is important to me. Working at a college allows me to do just that.”

Top image: Kopta on the WSU Tri-Cities campus.

By Meagan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities