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College Creates Study Abroad Experiences for All Students

Posted Nov. 11, 2011

By Anne Dudley
With the sun setting this picture has a unique feel to it. On the bridge in Florence, Italy, many bands perform near the shops. The silhouettes do a good job conveying the musical feel without a band, it has a concert feel to it. By Erica Trennel The College of Communication and Information (CCI) at Kent State University offers a range of study abroad options, so all of its students can find one that meets their academic, career and personal goals. Because CCI programs are tailored to CCI majors, students can continue to 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 CCI students in the International Storytelling course in March 2012.

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

Gary Hanson, a broadcast journalism professor with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC), and Mitch McKenney, an assistant news journalism professor at the Kent State Stark campus, will lead the course of 18 students.

The course 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 Oia on island of Santorini in Greece. The blue-domed churches on the island represent the sea and sky surrounding it. By Lauren Mayeconomy, American expatriates and government influence on Internet use and journalism, to name a few. The news and feature stories were produced collaboratively with student partners from the Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). In 2008, SISU students visited Kent State during the presidential election. SISU reciprocated by hosting the 2011 group and providing student partners who served as guides, interpreters and now, lifelong friends.  

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

Kent in London: Global Ad & PR

Danielle Coombs, Ph.D., a JMC assistant professor of advertising, and Michele Ewing, APR, an 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 CCI study abroad programs using interviews, focus groups and ethnographies with past student participants. Researchers also explored barriers to the study 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.This photo was taken at a school in Chennai India. This little boy stood beside his teacher’s beautifully colored red sari as everyone was lining up for the morning announcements. By Chloe Makarick

Students in this course will build an individualized experience based on their personal, academic and career goals. 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 build something that will distinguish the students' resume and portfolios, build connections in a foreign country and take ownership of their projects to do it all with minimal experience in the country.

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

"This is a way to bring that idea to life," she said. "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 course. Selection was based on class standing and incorporating 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.  

"I have complete confidence in our students to represent us well and rise to the occasion," Coombs said. "Students can really thrive in this environment when given the opportunity. For a lot of students this is a dream come true. It reminds us why we're doing this."

Museum Origins: Graduate short-term course in Florence, Italy

Museum Origins, led by Kiersten Latham, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science, will explore "the birth of the modern museum" in Florence, Italy, this summer.

This three-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). This opens up the potential for many perspectives to contribute and benefit from this course."

Museum collections date back to ancient times and have strong roots in Europe, especially Italy. The societal role and influence on knowledge creation and organization of western museums has been developed based on these origins.

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

She added, "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. For example, public/private, wisdom/curiosity…"

"Exploring the past in this way is geared specifically to help today's museum workers gain a better understanding of their own role and purpose in their community, society and nation," according to the course description.

CCI Florence

CCI 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 CCI, said that enthusiasm and anticipation among the younger students has surged partly due to their hearing about it early in their academic careers. Students are planning for and saving for study abroad earlier, making it more likely for them to be able to enroll.

Davis said 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 said.

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 study 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 CCI students' talents and help interested students learn more about CCI 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 said the short programs will range in academic and geographical interests. Some may be reincarnations of the same course, as we have seen 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 it is 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 CCI short-term courses have so been successful is because students understand that they will learn a lot from the experience," Davis said.

To learn more about CCI study abroad programs, visit


Media Contact: Jennifer Kramer, APR, 330-672-1960,
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