Digital Media & Communication
On-Campus and Online
When Donald Vincent was a boy in Albany, New York, two of his favorite things were music and radio. He would listen to the American Top 40 countdown, and then, with a boombox tape recorder, put together his own version.
It was his first step in a career that would take him into radio and beyond, from the analog broadcast age into the digital era. Today, as chair and associate professor of digital media and communication at Hilbert College, he oversees the in-person and online Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media and Communication programs.
The programs teach students not only how to tell stories through media, but how to adapt as media technology changes and new forms of media appear—just like he did during the course of his own career. “Our students are equipped to function in a digital world,” he says.
Vincent calls himself an auditory rather than a visual person. “If I visit somebody's house, and you ask me, ‘What color were the walls?’ I probably wouldn’t remember,” he says. “But I’ll remember what kind of music was playing.”
Vincent jumped at the chance to intern at a Rochester radio station in his senior year at the State University of New York at Geneseo. He started out as a promotions assistant, but he ended up as the music director for two FM stations.
For four years, he learned the communications business through hands-on experience: producing shows, choosing songs to play and writing copy. But by the early 2000s, he was ready to move on.
“I didn’t see a bright future for me, with all the consolidation and conglomeration going on in the industry,” he says. “I wasn’t a Howard Stern, an on-air personality with that kind of talent.”
It was his first taste of the changes sweeping traditional mass media at the time. He returned to academia, getting a PhD in communications at the University at Buffalo. There, he discovered a different dimension of the field.
His first year in Buffalo, Vincent became a research assistant, studying a dilemma in health communications: how to persuade people to become organ donors.
“People generally had positive attitudes about organ donation, yet there were not enough of them declaring their intentions to donate,” Vincent says. “Moving people from beliefs to action was the challenge.”
One promising strategy, he felt, might be outreach to religious leaders. For his doctoral dissertation, he interviewed leaders from many different faiths to learn about their attitudes.
He found that religious leaders generally supported organ donation, but they felt reluctant to talk about it. He suggested making their jobs easier by developing literature they could share with their congregations.
Over the past two decades, he believes, such strategies have helped move more people to action. The number of U.S. organ donations increased 67% from 2002 to 2022, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
The experience taught him that communication can do more than inform and entertain. It can shift people’s behaviors as well.
“What’s interested me most about communication is the role that it plays in society,” Vincent says. “It's rare to ever go a day without some sort of exposure to mass media. How does it change us as people?”
While getting his doctorate, Vincent started teaching communication full time at Hilbert College in nearby Hamburg, New York. “I landed in the right place,” he says. “It was a small program that was developing, and I knew I would have the opportunity to help shape it.”
In 2022, he became chair of the department. It had just been renamed Digital Media and Communication, in recognition of the ways the growth of digital media was reshaping the landscape.
“In our marketing classes, an important part of the curriculum is understanding the role of an Instagram account or a TikTok account,” he says. “In five years, the names of the social media might be different. Still, it's storytelling. Whatever medium we’re working in, we can adjust our storytelling.”
The degree is also offered digitally, Vincent notes. He teaches the same material to online students as he teaches to those present in person.
The curriculum takes a comprehensive approach to communication. Its core courses introduce the chief forms of media and production. Students then get the chance to specialize in one of four concentration areas: Film and Visual, Graphic Design, Integrated Marketing or Multimedia Journalism.
Some important elements of the programs take place outside the classroom, Vincent notes. An internship is required. So is a class called Immersive Learning, in which students help a community nonprofit with its communications needs.
One beneficiary was a rural hospital. Many locals were driving to downtown Buffalo to get procedures they could have had close to home. Hilbert students planned and presented an open house to expose the community to the services the hospital could provide.
Such work reflects the ties between communication and community, Vincent says. One of his favorite topics is teaching students to become better citizens by analyzing media.
“Media literacy is a big part of our curriculum,” he says. “It’s getting students to not just accept the messages they consume, but think about them critically. Where is this message coming from? Who owns this entity that’s putting out this information?”
In his spare time, Vincent dabbles in digital media himself. He co-hosts a music discussion podcast called “Album Nerds.” In a way, it brings him full circle, back to his early days in radio.
“Back then, we were editing with a razor blade and tape,” he says. “Now, it’s all on a computer. We’re always going to be doing the same thing, just doing it in a slightly different way. If we know how to communicate, we can succeed in any media-related field. We just have to keep paying attention and keep up with the changes in the technology.”
Digital media can be a personally rewarding and world-changing profession. A program like the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media and Communication program at Hilbert College—either in person or online—can give a student practical experience in video, graphic and journalistic media, while teaching general communications skills that apply to all of them. Learn more about how professors like Donald Vincent can lead you to a creative career in this evolving field.
Marketing vs. Communications: Degree Comparison
What Can You Do With a Communications Degree?
What Is a Multimedia Journalist? Job Description, Skills and Salary
View Dr. Vincent's Faculty Spotlight
Application forms, procedures and additional information
There are many ways to experience
Hilbert for yourself
Learn more about the programs that interest you
For accessibility help, contact Debra McLoughlin at email@example.com or call (716) 926-8826.
For media inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.