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College of Communication and Information Creates Education-Abroad Experiences for Students

Posted Nov. 14, 2011
enter photo description
Erica Trennel, Visual Communication Design major, took
this photo of the Trennel Bridge during her education-abroad
experience in Florence, Italy. 

The College of Communication and Information at Kent State University offers a range of education-abroad options, so all of its students can find one that meets their academic, career and personal goals. Through those programs, students learn about their field and develop their skills while seeing the world.

International Storytelling: Dateline Delhi

Amity University’s campus, in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, will host this year’s cohort of College of Communication and Information students in the International Storytelling course in March.

Amity University is a private institution with an inviting and contemporary campus, an emergent atmosphere and a sound journalism program. Amity was approachable with the exchange agreement and was interested in cultivating an interuniversity partnership. Kent State's India office assisted in making arrangements.

Gary Hanson, broadcast journalism professor with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Mitch McKenney, assistant news journalism professor at Kent State University at Stark, will lead the class of 18 students.

The class meets weekly for the spring semester to prepare students for the projects and stories they will produce in multiple formats (text, photo slideshows, audio and video). The group will travel to Delhi, India, for 10 days and return to complete their converged media stories throughout the rest of the semester. The final product,
Dateline Delhi
, will feature stories on many topics in an array of media.  

Last spring, 16 students traveled to China to craft stories on China’s emerging economy, American expatriates and government influence on Internet use and journalism, to name a few.

“India is the world's largest democracy and likely will figure prominently in our students' lives,” McKenney says. “So, from a journalist's perspective, it makes sense as a place to go find stories. Because Kent State has an interest in making connections in India, it was natural to take the International Storytelling class there.”

Kent in London: Global Ad and PR

Danielle Coombs, Ph.D., assistant professor of advertising, and Michele Ewing, APR, associate professor of public relations, will lead the Global Advertising and Public Relations course in London, England, in May.

The course is based on qualitative research that Coombs conducted last semester with her undergraduate research methods class. The research investigated the College of Communication and Information education-abroad programs using interviews, focus groups and ethnographies with past student participants. Researchers also explored barriers to the education-abroad experience with students who plan to study abroad, as well as students who reject the idea altogether. Coombs and Ewing used the reflections to build a desirable and worthwhile course for advertising and public relations students.

The main course deliverable is a personalized project based on interviews and research that students must plan and conduct while in England. The goals are to help distinguish the students’ résumés and portfolios, build connections in a foreign country and take ownership of their projects.

Planning is underway for several group tours and meetings with representatives from organizations such as Edelman, a traditional agency; We Are Social, a social media firm; members of the London 2012 Olympic Committee; a Premier League football club; and scholars from Oxford or Cambridge.

Coombs explains that advertising students often have difficulty learning how to speak to different audiences.

“This is a way to bring that idea to life,” she says. “There will be so much different and the same with other cultures. We will be able to help students identify subtle cultural differences.”

More than 30 applications were considered for the 20-person class. Selection was based on class standing and a mix of skills and interests. The semester-long course requires students to plan their projects with preliminary research, contribute to a course blog, present on cross-cultural communication and complete their personal project. Coombs hopes to develop a “collaborative culture and strong work ethic” with course participants.  

Museum Origins: Graduate Short-term Course in Florence, Italy
Museum Origins, led by Kiersten Latham, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science, will explore “the birth of the modern museum” in Florence, Italy, next summer.

This 3-credit course for graduate students of any discipline features museum and historic site visits, coupled with classroom discussions in Kent State’s Palazzo die Cerchi.

Latham developed this course to mesh lessons from the past with concerns of the present (and future), which opens up the potential for many perspectives to contribute and benefit from this course.

“Florence (Firenze) was a vitally important place in the origin of what we understand as a museum today,” Latham explains.

She adds, “Marcello Fantoni, our Kent State campus director, is a renaissance historian and knows most of the cultural community of Florence. He has been instrumental in making this course phenomenal.”

Students will participate in online and in-person discussions and use their visits to museums, conversations and additional research to write a major research paper focusing on a dualism that interests them in the context of museum origins.

College of Communication and Information Florence
College of Communication and Information in Florence welcomed its fourth cohort of students in the fall 2011 semester.

Enrollment in the Florence program has been steadily increasing, with more students typically traveling in the spring semesters. Deborah Davis, coordinator of international programs for the College of Communication and Information, says that enthusiasm and anticipation among younger students has surged, partly due to their hearing about it early in their academic careers. Students are planning for and saving for education abroad earlier, making it more likely for them to be able to enroll.

Davis says the college plans to cap the program at 18-21 students per semester.

“The college prefers the smaller student cohort because of the interaction and possibilities created by a smaller number,” Davis says.

Twelve students traveled to Florence for the fall semester, and 15 will leave in January for the spring. Students can take part in a practicum course in Florence that incorporates concrete, career-related tasks. In previous semesters, students have developed marketing materials and documentary films.

Several students have enhanced their education-abroad semester with nonacademic projects, such as blogs, photography and videos. Chris Heiman, a senior electronic media production major, is producing the Flashes of Florence video series to showcase both his and several fellow College of Communication and Information students’ talents, and help interested students learn more about College of Communication and Information Florence.

Short-Term Courses
Although students cannot rely on the same short-term courses being available every year, they can bank on similar course availability. Davis says the short programs will range in academic and geographical interests. Some may be reincarnations of the same course, as was done with the International Storytelling course, which took place in China last year and will reoccur in India in the spring. It is possible for a course to happen exactly the same, but it depends on student interest.

The short-term course development process is faculty driven. Professors must submit a proposal for the course, its syllabus and location. If approved, the faculty member pursues the proposal in more detail. Each program is contingent on enrollment, but, so far, that has not been an issue.

“Part of the reason College of Communication and Information short-term courses have been so successful is because students understand that they will learn a lot from the experience,” Davis says.

To learn more about the College of Communication and Information’s education-abroad programs, visit