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The Torch Yearbook: Nurturing the Careers of UAlbany Student Photographers

June 3, 2010



Volunteering at the Torch

From left, 2010 Torch Editor Patrick Dodson, '10, and next year's editor, Kayla Galway. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

The University at Albany's Torch yearbook is known for chronicling the history of each class -- from the excitement of Move-In Day through Commencement. University Photo Service, which helps produce the Torch, has also played a role in launching the photography and photojournalism careers of student volunteers.

Patrick Dodson '10, a journalism major from North Branford, Conn., with a concentration in visual and digital media, is the 2010 Torch editor. Joining the yearbook staff is his greatest memory at UAlbany. "It has been more than just a club, it has been my entire college life, and it's also very important to my career path," said Dodson.

"One thing that makes Torch so special is the family feeling, not only for the students currently involved but also for the people who dedicated their college years to it in the past," said Dodson. "I have networked with past editors and built up a large amount of contacts in my field. It was the perfect place to explore what I want to do with my life."

The long list of UAlbany alumni who sharpened their skills at the yearbook includes recently honored alumnus Ron Simmons '72, whose first job out of college was as a photographer and public relations coordinator for the Newark, N.J., Board of Education.

"The superintendent was impressed with the yearbook and offered me a job," said Simmons, who was 1972 Torch editor. "After you graduate and start looking for a job, proof of your work, like photos in the yearbook or articles in the campus paper, gives you an advantage over other job seekers. Employers are less impressed with the school you may graduate from and more impressed with the quality of your work, and the way to have something of quality to show is by practicing to perfection in college."

There are professional photographers across the Northeast and beyond who got their start at the Torch. "Perhaps our most famous alum is international documentary photographer Teru Kuwayama," said Dodson.

Patrick Dodson and Kayla Galway in the Torch office

It takes a volunteer staff of more than 20 students to produce the Torch. 2010 Editor Patrick Dodson, said working for the yearbook has been his greatest memory at UAlbany. Kayla Galway prepares to take over as next year's editor. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Dodson is laying out the 2010 yearbook as part of an independent study with journalism program lecturer Thomas Palmer, design editor at the Times Union.

"Independent studies are vital for students like Patrick who need academic preparation in specific areas that are beyond the scope of our course offerings," said Palmer. "Consequently, he's trailblazing new media techniques that will make the Torch relevant to alumni for decades."

For example, Dodson is including QR or Quick Response codes in the yearbook, that smartphones (iPhones, Droids, and Blackberries) can scan with their camera, and it will take their mobile browser to a specific video or Web site. A barcode on the Fountain Day and Commencement pages will link to the official UAlbany YouTube videos. 

With Vice President Melissa Elian of Yonkers, N.Y., Treasurer and next year's Editor Kayla Galway of Smithtown, N.Y., Secretary Britten Beals of Rye, N.Y., and a staff of 20 students, Dodson operates the Torch on an estimated $47,000 Student Association-funded budget.

Changes at the University, in everything from clothing and hairstyles to new buildings, new issues and progress toward greater diversity, can be seen by flipping through the pages of the Torch:

1969:  Singers Janis Joplin and Judy Collins

1970:  Anti-Vietnam War protests

1988: Dorm life, classes, and a piece on apathy

1992: U2, Ani DiFranco and Larkfest

2009: The 2008 election of Barack Obama, the first U.S. African American president. Rallies against SUNY cutbacks and for equal marriage for gay couples.

"I'm looking at the yearbook as a social documentary photography book that accurately depicts life at UAlbany in 2010," said Dodson.

The Torch came out in October for those who graduated in May 2009.  Dodson will be on the job all summer producing the 2010 edition. With the long-term goal of being a photojournalist, he may use the yearbook in his portfolio to apply to graduate schools in graphic design.




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