Embedded courses open world of opportunities for communications students

Nina Trach
December 10, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The world will become the classroom for Penn State communications students participating in "embedded courses" this spring.

With classes traveling to Belize, Guyana, Poland, Puerto Rico and South Africa, Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications students in all majors will gain hands-on experience preparing, collecting and producing international media.

Each year, the Bellisario College offers students the opportunity to travel abroad over spring break as part of their course work. In each of the six embedded courses being offered in spring 2019, students will prepare for their travel abroad throughout the first part of the semester, then gather material abroad and complete production for the remainder of the semester.

“First and foremost, it’s about students experiencing something outside of the Penn State environment that gives them more of a global perspective,” said Pearl Gluck, an assistant professor of film-video. “Then they bring it back and look at themselves living in a global village.”

Gluck will lead a group of 14 film students to Lodz, Poland, for an advanced documentary filmmaking class. Partnering for the first time with students from the renowned Polish National Film Television and Theatre School, Bellisario College students will write, direct and shoot original documentaries taking a critical look at topics of interest, ranging from Polish hip-hop to how the story of the Holocaust is told in different languages.

The 18 students selected for COMM 402 International Reporting, also will have the opportunity to choose the subject of their articles while in Puerto Rico with journalism lecturer Katie O’Toole.

“There are so many underreported stories, especially as a result of Hurricane Maria,” O’Toole said. “There’s a lot of very interesting things going on there that we really don’t hear about as much here.”

Though not technically an international trip, O’Toole selected Puerto Rico as the 2019 destination for the course, which has run for more than 10 years, because of the unique opportunity for students to experience a different culture, location and language in their own backyard. Students from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, under the direction of John Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society, will be in Puerto Rico at the same time.

Students will travel farther with Anthony Olorunnisola, professor and head of the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies. They’ll study world media systems in South Africa. The honors course will analyze the functions of mass media in the United States and South Africa as political, economic and communication systems.

Other students will travel to Guyana, South America, for the capstone advanced telecommunications management and leadership course led by Anne Doris, an assistant teaching professor. Focusing on critical challenges that develop in international communications businesses in both the United States and Guyana, students will interact with media and telecommunications companies while overseas.

Tara Wyckoff, assistant teaching professor of advertising/public relations, will have 12 students take a closer look at ecotourism in Belize, home to the second-largest rainforest and second-largest barrier reef in the world. Paired with a local client, a family owned ecotourism hotel (The Trek Stop), students will learn to earn media for the client and prepare a media kit as part of a public relations methods course.

Wyckoff looks forward to students finding the meaning and impact of their work after hearing from guest speakers in the first half of the semester and gaining hands-on experience while abroad.

“We don’t know the direction of Trek Stop’s story until we go there and we meet with them,” she said. “I love that that is unscripted.”

Besides the academic benefits that students can anticipate in each of the embedded courses, professors also look forward to the opportunity for students to grow independently and broaden their global perspective. Through navigating a different environment and experiencing new cultures and food, embedded courses are an opportunity to broaden their horizons and catch the travel bug.

“This is going to be an opportunity to see a different culture where another language is spoken and to find out what that culture is like by immersing themselves in it and getting to know the people,” O’Toole said. “It’s one of those experiences that I wish every student could have.”

Last Updated December 13, 2018