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January 8, 2001

Multimedia Play

By Eric Rangus

about five feet away from where Kim Braxton was speaking casually with a visitor, a student was having a problem with her digital video file.

And problems are just what Braxton, as coordinator of Emory’s Multimedia Center, solves.

Every time this particular student would attempt to import a sound file to a Macintosh iMovie, the machine would crash. One of Braxton’s student workers was already on the scene, leaning over the Macintosh G4 Cube lending assistance.

Seeing this activity, Braxton offered some advice from her position a couple arm’s lengths away.

“Try throwing away the preferences; that sometimes works,” she said affably.

Braxton then stepped over to the computer, dragged the preferences file into the trash and rebooted. Not 30 seconds later, the audio file having been imported into the iMovie, the haunting sounds of Loreena McKennitt’s “The Mummers’ Dance” floated out of the computer, accompanying the movie’s opening credits.

Problem solved.

“On a Mac, a lot of information about a piece of software is held on the preferences file, and they can get corrupted,” Braxton said afterward. “In iMovie, there are a couple little bugs. If you throw the prefs away, sometimes that makes it happy. You might lose a couple things, but the preferences are rebuilt automatically.”

Knowing the ins and outs of new technology is part of Braxton’s job. Take iMovies, for example. When Apple introduced the program last fall, Braxton had to study it, learn the software, determine its worth, then make a pitch for new machines to operate it. One week after making her presentation, two top-of-the-line G4s arrived.

While well-versed in all sorts of multimedia technologies—audio and video digitization, digital video editing, web development and video production, just to name a few—Braxton isn’t a typical tech head.

The Chamblee native graduated from Georgia State with a bachelor’s degree in English and a decidedly untechnical minor in British history. Braxton’s move toward multimedia technology and training didn’t occur until she entered the University of Georgia in 1992, where she intended to pursue a master’s in education.

To make ends meet while her husband, Adam, was finishing his undergraduate degree, Braxton took a job working as a secretary in the school of education.

“I was the one helping all the other secretaries use their computers, and I really enjoyed that,” Braxton said.

Eventually, Braxton journeyed to the top floor of the education building, which is where the department of instructional technology is located. In 1995, she received her master’s in the subject.

Following graduation, Braxton worked three years for Georgia’s Board of Regents, helping university faculty and staff use technology in their classrooms. In December 1998, Braxton, who had moved from Athens to Atlanta six months earlier, became coordinator of Emory’s multimedia center, located next to the reference desk in Woodruff Library.

The multimedia center supports not only students, but also faculty and staff with a variety of multimedia tools—from simple scanning all the way up to video editing.

“I like to think of myself as a guide,” Braxton said about her job, which she compared to consulting.“People come in, and they know what they want the final product to look like—but they don’t know how to get it. I help them traverse what can be some really rocky terrain.”

And, since October, she’s been doing it by herself. The multimedia center’s workload is heavy enough to require two coordinators, but longtime center coordinator Jamie Martin left the University three months ago. That left Braxton on her own for most of fall semester.

“My head’s still above water,” she said. “I’ve utilized my staff more, and I think they’ve enjoyed that. They’ve taken to the responsibility with open arms, and it’s worked out really well.”

With the new year, Braxton has acquired a new co-worker; Jack McKinney came over from Cox Hall in late December to take Martin’s place.

In all, Braxton supervises 11 student workers, and she is quick to credit them as essential parts of the multimedia center.

“I have students whose strengths lie in page layout and design, and I have no experience in that,” Braxton said. “I try to encourage customers to trust the students because I fully trust them and their abilities. I consider them peers or co-workers rather than, ‘I’m the boss.’”

Braxton said she trains students on all the center’s technologies, and she often finds them training faculty members who come in looking for help.

“I think this is probably the one place on campus where you find [that],” she said. “I try to be very supportive, encouraging and empowering. We refer to people who come in as ‘customers,’ and we try to be very customer-oriented.”

By respecting her student workers, Braxton receives respect in return; graduates ask her to be a reference all the time.

“The pay [for students] isn’t great, and I try to keep the workload above answering the phones or other work-study/office-type duties,” Braxton said. “The kids learn so much and technology is at every elbow.

“I tell them that they will probably get more out of working here than they will out of their Emory education,” she said, punctuating with a laugh.

Since Braxton deals with computers and other gadgetry all day at work, she rarely touches any at home. That’s not the case, however, with her 4-year-old daughter, Anna Camille. “She loves to come to Mommy’s work,” Braxton said. “That’s an interesting study in and of itself.” In fact, although she only knows letters rather than full words, Anna Camille inadvertently helps her mom with her job.

“I’ve watched her go through kid-oriented web sites, and she clicks right through,” Braxton said. “That’s how I can tell good interface design—when she can navigate through a website without tripping. When she stops and says, ‘Mommy, I don’t know where to go,’ then I know someone didn’t design that website very well.”


Back to Emory Report Jan. 8, 2000