The MAST Concept

By Dale Manquen, Program Coordinator


Our present-day upper education structure is tailored for three tasks:

The CSUN Audio Technology Certificate Program is involved in a fourth task that is not normally adequately covered by the present-day higher education paradigm - bridging the gap between the generalized knowledge and the very specific knowledge and training required to execute a given job category. Our task is to take a student who has already learned generalized skills such as basic electronics and give him the job-specific training to apply these generalized skills to his new job assignment.

Our program is unique in both the body of information we are trying to impart and the method of our teaching. We are working in the specific area of Audio Studio Technician. This as an "Application Specific" training area, much as an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) is developed to fill a specific circuit application. Furthermore, our training is not classic classroom/teacher/student. We are striving to create a mentor situation in which the coursework instructor and the internship supervisor are mentoring the student. Putting these two parts together yields Mentored Application Specific Training or MAST.

I began to understand this concept when I tried to explain our program to the Placement Officer at ITT Technical Institute in Covina. Why aren't we a competitor to ITT since we want to recruit their students to attend our program? The reason is that we are the bridge that will help their students leap, rather than crawl, up the first few rungs of the ladder to an Audio Studio Tech career. We need the tech schools and junior colleges to give our students the basis upon which we can build a specialist. We don't want their students until they are done with their task of building the foundation. Only then do we want to step in and begin the process of specialization.

We are attacking a widespread problem. Why isn't a graduating engineer ready to begin designing as soon as he graduates? Why isn't a new graphic artist ready to build special effects for Speilberg? The universities are attempting to tackle this problem through work/study programs, but the missing ingredient is still the intense mentoring we offer.

The concept of apprenticeship has been around for centuries, you might reply. What is so new in our program? The apprentice learned everything from his master through a very long apprenticeship. Very little was expected or required of the incoming apprentice. We, on the other hand, want students who have preparation and a passion for our job. We want to quickly impart the specialized knowledge and training and then turn the student loose to begin work.

To the best of our knowledge, our CSUN program is unique. The focus and intensity of the program are very different than the Recording Engineering programs that include a few courses in routine maintenance. Our acceptance standards are set high so that we will graduate very successful entry-level techs that will be of immediate use to our industry.

But the benefit is not strictly for the students. As our Advisory Board sat around the table at one of our advisory meetings, talking about the experiences of the instructors when they got up in front of the class, I began to realize that we have several level of teaching going on. We have discussed what we are giving to the students, but we haven't considered the benefits to the industry of creating a pool of capable instructors. All of you who are teach are opening up a new ability that rivals being able to program a computer or wield a soldering iron and 'scope probe. You are learning how to teach in a group situation. You are learning how to change people's lives! (I don't want to downgrade the extensive experience you have had with one-on-one training. This is just adding a new dimension to your abilities.)

Think about the end result of the Program in this new light. At the end of the Program we will have:

  1. Trained a significant number of entry level techs,
  2. Trained a significant number of great instructors, and
  3. Established new liaisons between education and our industry through internships, equipment donations, and participation of suppliers' personnel as contributing instructors.

To me, this is like picking up what I think is a 22 caliber rifle, and then when I fire it, finding out it was a triple barrel 8 gauge shotgun and I just fired three tremendous shots with one pull of the trigger!

What does this mean in the short run? First, we need to spend more effort on the instructor training to aid you in developing your skills. Second, we need to 'manipulate' our instructor mix to pull in more of the industry. What better way to sell our program to JBL, Alesis, SSL, AMS Neve or any other manufacturer than to have one or more of their people stand in front of our class and teach?

We have all known that we have a tiger by the tail with this new program, but I now realize that the tiger is even bigger and potentially more beneficial to our industry than I had ever imagined. You are all doing such a great job, but I doubt that you realize just how important this may turn out to be. Exciting, isn't it? Who would have thought at our first meeting 9 months ago that this is where we were headed? And I don't think we have yet caught a glimpse of the end of the tunnel!

If you are interested in enrollment or contributing support for our program, please contact us for more details. We welcome the comments of all that are striving to improve our industry.