By Alexandra White, Mass Communication Graduate Student
The SJMC’s Study in America trip was from May 31 – June 12, 2018. On this trip, faulty members Kym Fox and Dale Blasingame take a group of students across state lines to put their journalism skills to use in national and state parks. They visited the Grand Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Caprock Canyons State Park, Zion National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and many others. Students participate in two classes while on the trip: feature writing and mobile storytelling. Along the way, students are assigned to create mini documentaries and larger documentaries consisting of interviews with visitors, employees, and volunteers within the parks. Students submitted 245 assignments over the 4,000 mile long journey, and they now have the opportunity to have some of their assignments published in the Austin American Statesman or Express News. Some of their assignments included travel stories, a travelogue, Facebook videos, and Instagram posts and stories.
“I plan to use my skills I learned in this class to hopefully gain a social media manager position…and then eventually apply that knowledge in my future career as a PR professional.” -Public Relations senior Alyssa Sullivan
The idea for SJMC’s Study in America trip came from Blasingame’s Mobile Storytelling in the Park class, which consisted of a weekend trip to a state park with students to create social media content. He eventually partnered up with Fox to apply for a grant to develop their own Study in America program, which enabled them to fuse their two classes together for a once in a lifetime experience. “I think Study in America gives students of all backgrounds and financial levels an opportunity to be part of something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” said Blasingame. Many students mentioned the cost-friendly aspect of the trip, as it would provide them with a great opportunity to travel without necessarily having to leave the country. Many students on this trip had never left Texas before, so this was a pretty new experience for everyone that attended.
“[This trip] really pushes your boundaries and allows you to get out of your comfort zone. You make lifelong friendships and get actual experience outside of a stuffy classroom.” – Andrew Wright
“It perfectly marries my two passions – technology and the outdoors. I have an absolute blast teaching the class,” said Blasingame. He also says the class is extremely rewarding for him, as well as everyone else on the trip. The majority of these students haven’t seen anything like what they saw on this trip and it has even brought some of them to tears. Fox said, “The best part about the trip is watching students tackle challenges of working in an unfamiliar environment and being successful.” Students have a unique opportunity to explore real-world journalism in an uncommon environment and work together to overcome new challenges. Both Blasingame and Fox are excited to see how the program continues to evolve in the coming years.
While on this trip, students got to experience different landscapes, learn new journalism skills, and make new friends along the way. Public Relations senior Charlcee Cervantez said, “I have definitely strengthened my communication skills by interviewing people around the National Parks…I think in any field of work, communication skills and people skills are essential.” The students even ran into a few Texas State alumni in the parks, and a couple of them were interviewed for some of the documentaries. Digital Media Innovation junior Andrew Wright said, “[This course] brings real-life experience that you can carry over to all of your classes and future jobs. After completing this course, you will have several articles of work that you can put on your resumé.” Students also mentioned learning skills like being flexible, storytelling via mobile, and how to camp effectively. They also spoke of taking more trips together in the future, outside of Study in America.
Overall, the students were able to learn a lot, explore new surroundings (some of them have never been out of Texas), and brush up on their content creation skills. “It was a lot more work than I thought it would be, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. Looking back I’m impressed with all the work the group produced ad I’m so proud of all of us,” said Cervantez.