DMA Staff Profile: Stanford Camp Director David Reimschussel

By Michael Rosa

David Reimschussel, the on-site camp director for Digital Media Academy’s Stanford University tech camp, is one of the busiest people you’ll ever meet.

As an on-site director for DMA’s Stanford location, he says his primary goal during the busy summer camp season is, “to give support to my team, in order to provide a successful and happy experience for all of our campers.”

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DMA’s on-site director at Stanford, David Reimschussel, addresses his staff at a daily meeting.

This was David’s third season at DMA. He has also served DMA camps at Drexel University and Swarthmore College. During the regular school year, he resides in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

We caught up with him recently and got his reflections on his important job at DMA’s Stanford camp:

How does being located on-site “24-7″ help you perform your job better as camp director?
It’s a huge advantage to be living on campus because I’m able to interact with the overnight team and lend support to it immediately. I’m able to be on call, should something arise in the evening or during weekends.

Plus, I’m able to assist on Saturdays and Sundays, when we prepare for a new week of campers. And I’m able to be here for overnight check-in on Sundays.

How has your non-summer work as a choral director prepared you to run DMA’s biggest camp and flagship operation?
My regular jobs are teacher and choral director. But being a choral director is more than just being a teacher who prepares lessons for classes.

I’m also constantly organizing performances, trips, uniforms, fundraisers, collaborative projects, budgets and numbers, and so on. So those skills definitely transfer over.

We really do cater to families that are looking for a summer enrichment program, instead of just a camp for their children.
– David Reimschussel, DMA On-Site Director, Stanford University

I’ve worked in education since college, when I studied Music Education. In the choral program, I work with about 450 kids on a daily basis, so managing and directing that many people helps prepare you for managing and directing people in other scenarios, such as camp life.

What makes Digital Media Academy different from other tech camps?
DMA is now in its thirteenth year and we’re getting bigger and bigger – adding more courses and locations each year. We really do cater to families that are looking for a summer enrichment program, instead of just a camp for their children. Fortunately, we do a great job at DMA of providing both a personal enrichment program as well as a classic summer camp experience.

The quality of the programs and instruction offered is extremely strong and it’s amazing what our students can accomplish in a week of DMA classes.

This year we also launched a new initiative for programs here directed toward girls, our Made by Girls program, committing tech and making tech classes available to girls specifically.

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A rare break in the action for busy David Reimschussel, DMA’s “man in motion” at Stanford.

What kind of support do students receive to reinforce the material being taught in class?
DMA does a fantastic job of hiring outstanding instructors, who deliver top-grade instruction in each of the classes. And DMA backs up that instruction with teaching assistants who are extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter and can reinforce what’s being taught in the classroom.

In addition to that, we generally try to hire camp counselors who are technically savvy and can give students additional feedback in the evenings.

The DMA community is so supportive, like when campers are hanging out during break with students from other DMA courses. They’re giving and getting additional support from each other. They share ideas, collaborate together on different projects and help build each other up during the entire week of camp.

How much time is spent in class and what kind of recreation breaks do the students get? What about the recreation activities for students who stay overnight?
Throughout the average DMA day, campers devote about six hours to working on their projects in class with another two hours spent on recreation breaks and lunch.

As far as overnight students, there are activities for them to do in the evening. There’s typically two hours worth of planned activities – be it a movie night, s’mores party or other ice-breaker events – and then two hours worth of free time, when they can explore the campus, play sports, hang out with new friends, and generally enjoy their summertime with like-minded peers.

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A multitasking wizard, David checks in with an instructor while getting staff updates from other classes.

What type of hurdles does your team typically encounter and how do you go about solving those problems?
We definitely face challenges on a daily basis. Inevitably, with all the moving parts that the Stanford camp has, something doesn’t go according to plan and we all have to adjust to that.

For example, early one morning we realized some of the classroom computers had crashed and lost the software preferences for the class being taught. So we contacted our tech team and they reinstalled the software before any of our campers arrived and knew a problem had even existed.

Or every so often a student will miss the check-in window. So I make sure they have their camp T-shirt and meal card for the day. Then I direct them to their right classroom, and make sure they arrive safely.

Sounds like you know how to roll with the punches and keep your composure…
Problems may crop up, but the key is that our team keeps a really positive attitude when things don’t go correctly. Everybody knows the sequence of who to go to for help with problems, and everyone works together to solve any glitches that arise.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work at Stanford and take on the challenges and rewards of working with such a large and awesome team!