Trip to UN adds meaning to international communications course

December 11, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A trip to the United Nations in New York City made international communications and a host of related issues even more engaging and tangible for a group of Penn State students during the fall semester.

Thirty-three students in sections of COMM 410 International Mass Communications made a day trip to U.N. headquarters in late November. For many, it was their first trip to the Big Apple and none had been to the U.N. before.

“Before arriving there, I thought I had it pretty much figured out, but after walking through the halls and assembly rooms and realizing how each country in the entire world comes together in this building just to talk and take action, I was astounded,” said Melanie Lynch, a junior majoring in advertising/public relations. “It gave me a whole new perspective on the meaning of international communication and the role that it plays worldwide.”

Michael Elavsky, an associate professor in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies, completed work as a Fulbright Scholar at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic earlier this year. An award-winning instructor and scholar, he has been honored by Penn State with the George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching and by the College of Communications with a Deans’ Excellence Award for Teaching during his tenure at the University.

Students in course sections taught by Elavsky and doctoral student Tanner Cooke participated in the trip. Their goal was to help students better understand governance and policy issues. That was accomplished, along with some added educational benefits. Because of the travel time to and from New York City, students extended their discussion far beyond the classroom and guided tours.

“I enjoyed the trip because I was able to learn from my peers and get to know them and their views, even though they may have differed from mine,” said Anna Witte, a junior majoring in journalism.

Elavsky said the bus ride and subsequent class meetings made him aware of the impact of the trip.

“Hearing them discuss things on the bus, unprompted, was great," he said. "They were taking what we’d discussed and then what they’d seen, and applying it. In the classroom meetings afterward, there was a great energy and more depth to the discussions. I think it really helped facilitate some conversations and challenge them to think as global citizens.”

The students agreed, and appreciated the opportunity to take their education beyond the classroom.

“In class, we could have learned all there is to know about the U.N., but I still don't think I would have the grasp on it that I do without actually visiting the headquarters. For me, there is no learning quite like personal experience,” said Raychel Shipley, a senior journalism major. “Thanks to the trip, I was able to not only understand the scope of the U.N., but rather feel its importance and vast influence. The trip certainly added value to the course.”

Last Updated December 11, 2015