The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has named Megan Elliott the founding director of the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. Elliott, manager of leadership and community connections at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia and former director and CEO of digital media think-tank X Media Lab, will start her new role in January.
“The center will be an important hub of interdisciplinary learning, creativity and research in emerging media, and Megan’s hire immediately elevates it to the world stage,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said. “We are pleased to have her expertise to guide the development of the center.”
The center was made possible by a $20 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation from the Johnny Carson Foundation in 2015. It will focus on virtual production, film, design, technology and commerce and will explore the boundaries of where cinematic storytelling intersects with artificial intelligence, science, the humanities, computer science, engineering, music, fine arts and other disciplines.
Courses and curriculum are being developed, and students are expected to begin enrolling in fall 2018. The center will be at 1300 Q St. and is scheduled to be completed by fall 2019.
“Elliott’s international experience will help the center grow in a new, global direction, especially important as new media and entertainment platforms are constantly emerging,” said Allan Alexander, president and a director of the Johnny Carson Foundation. “Her background and worldwide network will ensure the success of this new program, in the spirit of its namesake and with the same universal appeal, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.”
Elliott said she is excited to begin her new job, describing it as the culmination of her career.
“What I’m most excited about is co-creating a truly interdisciplinary program that celebrates the dynamic relationship between storytelling and emerging media arts and building an internationally unique, forward-looking center that honors the name and innovative spirit of Johnny Carson.”
Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts Dean Charles O’Connor said Elliott’s experience and network of contacts will be invaluable.
“Many researchers on campus and potential corporate partners worldwide are already eager to work with her and the center on innovative projects that will be on the cutting edge of media and technology,” he said.
Elliott has worked at the University of Technology Sydney since 2015. There she has led an international program for students to develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills while instilling a commitment to innovation, social justice, community building and sustainability.
Elliott has deep ties to emerging media industries across Asia, Europe and the world. She was co-founder and director of China Creative Industries Exchange in Beijing and Shanghai from 2007 to 2015.
From 2005 to 2015, she led X Media Lab, a digital media think-tank and creative workshop that she co-founded. X Media Lab assists clients with getting their creative ideas to market. Some of the company’s partners include the Sydney Film Festival, Beijing Film Academy, American Film Institute, Digital Hollywood, 5D Global Studio and the British Council.
“My experience in building the X Media Lab network of events and institutions across 14 countries and 22 cities all over the world, for more than a decade, is a great foundation to bring to the Carson Center,” Elliott said.
Elliott also was executive director of the Australian Writers’ Guild from 2002 to 2006.
Originally from Australia, she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Canberra.
She began her career with the Splinters Theatre of Spectacle and was a performer, artist in residence and assistant project manager for The Performance Space in Australia.
“I’ve always been fascinated by play, interactivity, storytelling and media, and the possibilities have simply multiplied as new technologies emerge,” Elliott said. “Today all companies are media companies in some way and built on emerging media arts. The genuine cross-disciplinarity of the Carson Center is its defining feature.”
Elliott said she is impressed by the center’s opportunities to build relationships with industries as part of a major Big Ten research university. She has consulted with partners at Nebraska Innovation Campus, the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management and some Lincoln area startups.
“The Carson Center will be a catalyst across the university and with industry stakeholders,” she said.
Elliott said Nebraska is fertile ground for innovation and that she is eager to begin appointing an advisory council to help guide the center’s development.
“What an opportunity the Carson Center presents for all of us – new building, new people, new programs,” she said.