Featured alumnus

Digital media impact: telling stories and communicating for good

Passionate about telling stories through digital media, John Pantherbone is proud to have completed his studies with the Centre for Digital Media with real-world project management experience in digital media. 

He completed his Masters of Digital Media (MDM) in 2012 as the program’s first Indigenous graduate. As a Blackfoot from Blood Tribe in southern Alberta, Pantherbone was excited to pursue a career in digital media with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) as a website and social media specialist. 

Pantherbone believes leadership and management skills are the hallmark of the Master of Digital Media program. 

“The MDM program really stood out to me because they worked on a lot of industry-related projects,” says Pantherbone. “It seemed like a good fit for me, because I didn't really want to do a graduate degree where there was a lot of research heavy education. I wanted to do some kind of real world digital media projects.”

The program assigns multiple projects throughout the semester, which teaches students how to develop their time management skills. Pantherbone says that the Centre for Digital Media was beneficial because it taught him how to produce quality digital media projects within a tight timeframe.

To gain more experience in research, Pantherbone worked with the director of the Centre for Digital Media and former SFU Communication professor, Richard Smith

“I got to work on a lot of Indigenous research, we did research on Internet and broadband development in First Nations communities across Canada,” he shares. Through his research. Pantherbone learned about the Internet access issues B.C. First Nations communities face. 

The research was also project based — Pantherbone worked on online content and video animation for a research project called First Mile and Doig River, which outlined the “digital divide” that remote First Nations communities face.

He currently works at the FNHA, where the organization provides services to the 203 different nations across B.C. to improve their health and well-being. With experience in website management, communications, and social media, Pantherbone’s skills compliment the focus of the organization.

Pantherbone’s most impactful career project has been his work with FNHA on COVID-19 messaging and campaigns, as well as distributing vaccine information. “It was called the VaxChamp campaign. We wanted B.C. First Nations to promote and share why they got the vaccine.” 

The project involved using social media promotion to amplify the message. To increase vaccine confidence, Pantherbone set up a web platform where users were able to upload their pledge.

Because his current job allows him to work on video, photo series, animation, and online content, he feels that he is exactly where he’s meant to be in his career.

Pantherbone believes digital media is an important channel for Indigenous communities to tell their stories because they can represent and record it in a way that is best for them. 

“We can create all these cool engaging ways of sharing our stories through a video game, animation, video, mobile application, or a virtual reality setting,” Pantherbone explains.

“I think it's a really great thing for more Indigenous people to have this type of education because we can use it to build the next generation of digital media for Indigenous people.”

The Centre for Digital Media is a collaboration between Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, Emily Carr University, and British Columbia Institute of Technology. With access to multiple institutions, MDM students have the unique opportunity to work with students and professors from various areas of study.