Dani Chowen, a second-year double major in human development and public relations, uses music to express life. 

“I enjoy the self-expression that writing music allows. It’s also a gratifying experience to create something from scratch that is 100 percent yours,” said Chowen. “Music is a unifying art form, and being able to put thoughts and feelings into song is cathartic.”

Chowen plays the ukulele, piano, and a bit of drums. Many of her friends are music majors and inspire her through their creations. “Seeing them unapologetically follow their true passions every single day really inspired me to follow mine as well.”

She came to Virginia Tech as a business major, but after seeing the joy that her friends felt while performing and studying what they love, she was inspired to change majors to human development and public relations. She wants to help people reach their full potential and advance their success. She said that these areas of study will help her do that.

Most days you’ll see Chowen helping fellow students, faculty, and community members learn to use equipment or software in the University Libraries Media Design Studios. This is her third semester as a student employee in the studios. She said that helping people create and innovate with the technology available there solidifies her academic passions.

“Seeing people pursue what they love and working creative endeavors into their areas of study inspires me in a similar way,” said Chowen. “People come to the studios to grow and explore their talents and passions, and this really encouraged me to do the same.”

Chowen helps others record music, sets up studio equipment for podcasts, lends professional-grade media technology, and provides encouragement to budding artists.

“It’s so inspiring to see what students bring to the studio to do,” said Chowen. “One group recorded a comedy podcast. I helped them set up the equipment and sat in on the recording. It was hilarious!”

She helped a student from Uzbekistan record a translation of English material to Uzbek. “In this small way, I helped her keep her own culture and language alive while she’s here in America.”

She also has helped groups capture history.

“We recorded oral histories of people who participated over the years in Virginia Tech’s Denim Day, an initiative to support gay rights by wearing denim on that day,” Chowen said. “It’s eye-opening to see how the studios are used for cultural and historically significant purposes like the recording of oral histories.”

She said she learns just as much as the patrons in the studio.

“Helping people choose the right equipment for their projects has been a huge learning experience for me. I’ve also learned a lot about the different projects people on campus want to work on,” said Chowen. “I’ve seen people edit comedy videos, record podcasts, record original songs, learn to Photoshop, and take graduation pictures with our cameras. Seeing what the Virginia Tech community is passionate about has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve learned through my time at this job.”

She said this is her chance to add her own communication and teaching skills and customer service knowledge to helping others realize their creative and academic potential. “Helping people access these tools to succeed in ways they might not have imagined before is so special. I love how the Media Design Studios get rid of barriers to this technology so anyone can create.”

Written by Ann Brown