Expand AU Menu

Visual Literacy

This course is available for both UCC and UCL! Click your program to view the appropriate course description.


Full Name

Sarah Menke-Fish

Course Name

Visual Literacy (UCC)

Course Number

COMM-105

Describe your course. What will the students be studying and learning?

You will apply the principles learned in this class every day for the rest of your life-- The Menke-Fish Guarantee. Visual Literacy introduces you to ways of understanding visual images in art, photography, film, and digital media. You will learn about the aesthetics and production of visual images, immerse yourself in dimensions of seeing, and come to appreciate the influences on visual symbols and communication. The concepts you learn in this course you will put into action by creating public service announcement, short informational films, photo essays and other visual media that will make a positive difference for the non-profit, “Plant Butterflies” that extends far beyond the American University Campus. Your work will also be featured throughout the semester on Professor Menke-Fish’s website of student work.

Why would a first-year student want to take this course? Discuss its uniqueness as part of the University College, your teaching style, and any special opportunities the students may have.

Visual Literacy is the best course every first year student should take! By the end of this Visual Literacy course you will have created a beginning professional portfolio, which includes your resume, business card, letterhead stationery and has a visual connection to your website. You'll create a portfolio piece that draws on one or more visual media studied and connects to our Service Learning experience non-profit work. You will showcase your final portfolio project and other examples of your work including photography, visual design, short films/videos as well as analysis of visual literacy experiences from throughout Washington, D.C. on a website you create. You will support your portfolio with a strong analysis, which includes your artistic statement of vision, growth and reflection. Wow! Now you are prepared to apply for internships and summer jobs. You will have visual and communication skills that will serve you well in every career.

What do you like best about teaching first-year students?

Students in the University College are the best! I love their enthusiasm and their willingness to work hard to make a positive difference in the world. The best thing about teaching first-year students is that I'll get to see them and work with them for four years here at AU and then hear about their career, family, travel and life for years to come.

Meet the UCC Professor

Sarah Menke-Fish Sarah Menke-Fish
Send email EagleNet Id
(202) 885-2098
SOC - School of Communication

Full Name

Kim Llerena

Course Name

Visual Literacy (UCL)

Course Number

COMM-105

Describe your course. What will the students be studying and learning?

Visual Literacy introduces you to ways of understanding visual images in art, design, photography, film, and digital media. You will learn about the aesthetics and production of visual images, immerse yourself in dimensions of seeing, and come to appreciate the influences of visual symbols on communication. You will learn to deconstruct visual images produced by others as much as you will learn to construct impactful images of your own. The lessons in this class will be applied to the creation and analysis of individual and group projects in graphic design, still photography, and video production. By the end of this course you will have created an online blog portfolio that showcases all of your work over the semester, including creative and written assignments and a Final Client Project. This course includes a Community-Based Learning component wherein students will collaborate directly with a non-profit organization in DC. For your Final Project, you will apply lessons learned in basic graphic design, photography, and videography into products that fill a visual need for the client. This component allows you to reach beyond the classroom, to put visual theory into practice, to give you something of substance to add to your resume, and to provide an introduction to client-based application of design principles.

Why would a first-year student want to take this course? Discuss its uniqueness as part of the University College, your teaching style, and any special opportunities the students may have.

My teaching style is approachable, communicative, and collaborative. Yes, students will listen to and view lectures during class time about various visual concepts and works, but we will also use those lectures to facilitate many interesting discussions in the classroom. Students also spend a lot of time in class critiquing the visual work of their peers, as a way of providing constructive criticism towards improving each other's designs, photos, and videos. We foster an environment where every student is expected to contribute their voice and opinions to the conversation, and where all opinions are respected. Lab sections relate to classroom content in that students will visit art museums and exhibitions, and hopefully attend film screenings and lectures.

What do you like best about teaching first-year students?

Their enthusiasm, energy, and innate drive to build their own college communities of like-minded peers. My first-year students have also been some of the most fearless when it comes to producing creative visual work, and their work has been some of my strongest over the past few years of teaching Visual Literacy.

Meet the UCL Professor