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International Storytelling Earns First Place in AEJMC’s Teaching 2014 Best Practices Competition

Posted May. 6, 2014

By Meghan Caprez

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) recently recognized School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) professors Mitch McKenney and Gary Hanson for best practices in globalizing the classroom for their International Storytelling course.JMC students in Brazil at Our Lord

McKenney and Hanson have been teaching International Storytelling for four years, taking students to China, India, Brazil and Estonia. Each year, the course allows students to fully get to know the culture in which they are studying, McKenney said.

“It’s not a student travel experience to look at buildings and stop at tourist attractions,” McKenney said. “These students have a job to do. They get into people’s homes with student partners guiding them and helping them with translation. As cliche as it sounds, it’s an immersive experience.”

McKenney said it was the partnership between students and their guides from universities abroad that set the International Storytelling program apart from others, earning it first place in the AEJMC Elected Committee on Teaching’s 2014 Best Practices competition.

“What sets us apart is the connection we make with another university,” McKenney said. “They inform us, open doors for us and become our friends. In other cases, students are parachute reporting, where they just drop in, get the story and get out. Our students get that academic connection.”

Students in International Storytelling begin learning and reporting about the country they will visit throughout the spring semester, then they travel to that country and write stories while there.

"They're reporting stories," Hanson said. "And I think it gives them a real sense of purpose for being there. Plus they get to practice the skills they've been learning here in Kent, and they're using them while in another country."

McKenney said he and Hanson continue to make adjustments to the curriculum, making the course as valuable for the students as possible. This year, students visited Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.

“We were able to reach anyone we needed,” McKenney said. “When we were there, Russia was knocking on the door, and we had students reporting right near the Russian border” The team met with members of parliament, two ambassadors and even the president of Estonia.

McKenney and Hanson plan to continue the International Storytelling class, looking for connections with universities in countries with emerging economies.

“It has been fun to watch the course evolve from year one to year four,” McKenney said. “One consistent element is that we really come to like the students who participate in the class. We’re constantly seeing better multi-platform stories, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more in the future.”

 

Rotator photo:  Mike Drake, a senior journalism major and a member of spring semester’s International Storytelling course, checks his camera before the class receives a briefing from the Ukrainian ambassador to Estonia.  (Photo by Gary Hanson)

Interior photo:  Last year’s International Storytelling course focused on Brazil, where Kent State students worked with peers form Pontifical Catholic University of Parana to develop, research, write and produce feature and news stories. (Photo by Gary Hanson)