Dene Grigar.There’s a reason why WSU Vancouver’s Creative Media and Digital Culture (CMDC) program has grown exponentially since it was founded in 1997: Dene Grigar, its director. Since she arrived on campus in 2006, the program has grown from 44 to 232 majors and serves 600 WSU Vancouver students each semester. Mindful of the competitive nature of the work environment her students will face when they graduate, Grigar is exacting in her demands and rigorous about deadlines. And she is tireless in creating opportunities for them to do good work and get that work recognized.

The result: CMDC has become one of the signature programs on the Vancouver campus and 90% of CMDC graduates find jobs in their chosen field. The CMDC program leads to a BA in digital technology and culture, which is also available at WSU Pullman and Tri-Cities.

Blending the disciplines of the humanities, communications and technology, the CMDC program teaches students to think critically about digital media and the ways people interact and engage with them. This approach has attracted a wealth of collaborators from the local community and beyond who have engaged the CMDC to develop real-world digital projects. For example, CMDC created a website for the Northwest Food and Wine Society, marketing materials for the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, and, most recently, a virtual museum/library/preservation space for an international arts organization.

This past spring, Professor Grigar was honored with the 2021 Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence at WSU Vancouver.

One student nominator observed, “Dr. Grigar’s compassion and the attention she gives to all is boundless: She holds mock interviews with individual students, hunts for jobs to offer them, has bought professional clothes for students who couldn’t afford them and makes sure students have food and housing.”

Collectively, nominators praised Grigar’s ability to pivot seamlessly to online learning in 2020 and to build a powerful sense of community and caring even though students couldn’t meet face-to-face.

Grigar teaches classes in digital curation and preservation, digital storytelling, multimedia design and project management. She also directs two labs at the CMDC—the Electronic Literature Lab and the MOVE Lab. From 2013 to 2019, she was president of the international Electronic Literature Organization, which is housed on the WSU Vancouver campus. She also writes articles and books, curates exhibitions, and conducts research on born-digital literature and electronic art.

Grigar earned her master’s degree and PhD in humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has also studied digital media around the world.

Originally published in WSU Vancouver’s fall 2021 issue of Northwest Crimson & Gray.