Communications students embrace opportunity provided by embedded courses

March 01, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students and faculty members representing four majors in the College of Communications at Penn State will travel around 500,000 combined miles to spend spring break continuing their studies as part of embedded courses.

The students have been preparing for their trips since the start of the spring semester. Journalism students will travel to Panama, film-video and telecommunications students will head to Hungary, and a group of media studies students will journey to South Africa.

The international experience gained through an embedded course — when the travel happens in the midst of a normal semester — provides real-world opportunities for communications students.

Members of the international reporting class, taught by Tony Barbieri, the Foster Professor of Writing and Editing, will cover a wide range of topics in Panama, including the canal, immigration and refugees, biodiversity, threats to the environment, food and baseball.

The class, which started in 2009, has previously visited Mexico City, Rio, Havana, Cape Town, Athens and Hong Kong. The students' work will be available to be published by media outlets across the state and beyond, and students will produce a TV special for the “Centre County Report” upon their return. The student-produced newscast reaches 29 counties in Pennsylvania via WPSU.

Barbieri will be joined by faculty members Maria Cabrera-Baukus, Katie O’Toole and John Beale.

Eleven students in associate professor Richie Sherman’s advanced documentary film course will produce short documentary films on a variety of subjects in Budapest. Prior to traveling, students have been studying the history of the documentary film form and spending time researching interesting individuals or topics for their films. Some proposed films include the story of two Hungarian pub owners and their community that helps aid refugees, as well as a documentary about a program that puts children in working environments and teaches them important life skills.

While in Budapest, students will work in two- or three-person teams to film interviews and capture the day-to-day lives of their subjects. When they return, they will review their footage and complete their documentaries with hopes that their films premiere at the Blue & White Film Festival in April. Last year, Sherman’s class visited Iceland.

Along with Sherman, faculty members Rod Bingaman and Anita Gabrosek will make the trip.

Senior lecturer Ben Cramer’s 12-person telecommunications class will also visit Budapest, combining some logistics with Sherman’s course. Students will verse themselves in the region’s media and telecommunications industries by attending a lecture at Central European University and meeting students there. In addition, the class will tour the Hungarian Parliament building, meet with a human rights organization to discuss Europe’s refugee crisis and visit famous cultural sites. Cramer and his class will be joined by doctoral student Jenna Grzeslo.

Anthony Olorunnisola, head of the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies, is set to lead nine media-studies students to South Africa. The group, which examines modern media and mass-communication systems and practices in the region, will visit local media entities and tour the area. Olorunnisola and students will be joined by faculty member Alex Fattal. 

Last Updated March 02, 2017