Kyle Hufford was working in broadcasting before he was old enough to drive. Now, Hufford is using the expertise he’s gained to guide other young people on their way to media careers.
Hufford is an assistant professor of communications at Goshen College. He’s also the general manager of FiveCore Media, Goshen College’s video production company that provides students with invaluable hands-on experience.
An early start
Growing up, Hufford had a passion for photography. His experience in media was also fostered through his Monticello, Ind., church, which had its own TV station on a local cable channel.
“I got involved as a middle school student doing TV work,” he said, much of it focused on high school sports.
Hufford’s family moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., when he was in high school. He worked during summers there at RBC Ministries, which included radio and TV outlets. Hufford later attended Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., and stayed in that area after graduation to do freelance work, as well as working as the creative arts director for a local church.
Hufford earned a master’s degree in digital storytelling from Ball State University. He also began teaching at Indiana Wesleyan, and served as promotions manager at the university’s TV station. At the station, Hufford worked with students in a professional setting – a job that foreshadowed his role in Goshen.
While at Indiana Wesleyan, Hufford heard of an opportunity at Goshen College: Goshen College’s Communication Department had proposed setting up a video production company.
“They were looking for someone to start it and run it, and also teach as part of the job,” Hufford said. “That was really attractive, to get to do both. It was also a good challenge – to start something new and build it from the ground up.”
Hufford was up to the challenge, and FiveCore Media was launched in the fall of 2011. From the outset, FiveCore was designed to equip students with the skills they would need to succeed after graduation.
“The whole reason I got into teaching is actually pretty simple: It was to not allow what happened to me when I was in college,” Hufford said. “I got out of school and realized, ‘I don’t know anything.’ I’d put in four years, and I still had a lot to learn. We all do when we leave college, but I just didn’t feel prepared enough.”
In contrast, FiveCore is set up to prepare students for what they will experience in the media job market. Through the program, students can add video production, sound editing, scripting, storyboarding, and more to their skill sets.
“First and foremost, that’s the mission of FiveCore: to give students who are interested in media and film production an avenue to learn, to experiment, to try – to fail, even,” Hufford said. “Because we learn best when we fail. I’m sure my students hear it way too often from me: ‘Well, you won’t do that again. That was a learning moment.’”
Hufford also pointed out that in addition to education, FiveCore is a business.
“In order to provide that experience to the student, we have to be a business, and we have to be as legitimate a business as we can be, within the constraints of being an educational entity within a department on a college campus,” he said. “We have to have real clients who pay real money. We have to operate as professionally as possible.”
Some of those clients include the Good of Goshen campaign, Goshen College, IU Health Goshen, Eyedart Creative Studio, Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County, Goshen Parks and Recreation Department, and Ignition Music Garage.
“We stay pretty local, and we like that,” Hufford said. “We love the fact that we’re getting our students out into the community and exposing them to community members, leaders, and organizations. It’s been a real win-win, because it represents the college well and we’ve created some really good relationships through the city.”
As with any business, students don’t simply join with FiveCore Media because they have an interest. There’s an application process, one that includes submitting a resume and a demo reel. Once the students are part of the program, they have to earn their leadership roles.
“If they want to be a producer or director on a particular project, they have to earn that,” Hufford said. “They don’t just get assigned to it.”
The projects FiveCore students complete are professional-grade and award-winning. Hufford is proud of his students’ accomplishments.
“These students are doing professional work that many of their peers at other colleges don’t get the opportunity to do,” he said. “Not only that, my students are winning multiple awards where they are not only competing against students from larger universities, but also multiple professional awards where their work is beating out seasoned professionals in this field.”
Since its launch in 2011, FiveCore Media has won a wide array of both state and national awards. In 2013, they were given three national Bronze Telly Awards and an Award of Excellence from the Broadcast Education Association; in 2014, they were awarded a national bronze Telly Award for a documentary about a Goshen College study abroad trip to Greece and Italy; in 2015, they were awarded a Telly Award and an ADDY Award for videos for the Good of Goshen, as well two awards given to students for their own projects; and in 2016, FiveCore won a silver and two bronze ADDY Awards for digital advertising campaigns from the American Advertising Federation of Michiana.
Goshen College senior Elizabeth Derstine is a FiveCore team member whose professional work in college is a stepping stone to a profession.
“Working on a project that required a certain level of quality beyond what is passable for a film class project pushed me to learn what really makes a video worth paying for,” she said. “I also was able to work with equipment that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise, and learned how to film as part of a larger team – not simply solo shooting.
“Being part of FiveCore Media has been, for my career path, one of the most valuable experiences I had at Goshen College,” she said.
Jesse Bontreger, Goshen College senior, always had an interest in film, and knew he wanted to study it at a deeper level in college. FiveCore Media fit the bill.
“I get to work with a wide variety of clients in the community, from big-business owners to local artists,” Bontreger said. “It’s extremely valuable knowing I will leave college with not only a film degree, but a few years of professional experience in video production.”
“We love the fact that we’re getting our students out into the community and exposing them to community members, leaders, and organizations.”
“We have to be as legitimate a business as we can be, within the constraints of being an educational entity within a department on a college campus.”
“First and foremost, the mission of FiveCore is to give students who are interested in media and film production an avenue to learn, to experiment, to try – to fail, even.”