The University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication has earned a $25,000 grant that will enable students to study abroad and produce a multimedia communication project in Cuba next summer.
The grant is from the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund that aims to help create university partnerships to achieve an overall goal of increasing the number of U.S. students studying in other countries of the western hemisphere. It also aims to increase the number of students traveling to the United States to 100,000 by 2020. The U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, NAFSA: Association of International Educators and CAF-Development Bank of Latin America support the fund.
Through a new partnership with the Universidad de Cienfuegos in Cuba, UCF students will study for two weeks in Cienfuegos, where they will work with Cuban communication students to produce media content about the arts, culture and music of Cuba. The work they produce will be in both English and Spanish and will be published on Nicholson Student Media, a UCF-student operated website.
The money from the grant will be used on students’ travel and accommodations, eliminating the cost barrier that often keeps students from studying abroad.
“This is an academic trip with great potential for students on both sides, in both countries,” said Katie Coronado, UCF instructor of radio-television, journalism and Hispanic media. “This experience can make them more marketable and enhance their resumes.”
Students will learn about media practices in both countries, how content is created abroad, and be put in real-life situations that will require planning, time management and how to work among differences in language and cultural contexts, according to grant proposal documents written by Coronado and Erica Rodriguez Kight, lecturer of broadcast journalism, radio-television and Hispanic media.
“The students will pick a topic, research it ahead of time, plan their coverage and go to Cuba ready to produce an exciting project,” said Kight. It’s sure to be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these students and an opportunity to collaborate with Cuban students who are also studying communication.”
Students will be admitted to a six-week summer course that will facilitate the study-abroad opportunity. Six of those students will be chosen to travel to Cuba based on academic achievement, faculty recommendations and an essay about how the experience would enhance their educational and career goals. Those who remain in Orlando will edit and prepare stories sent by the students abroad for publication, as well as study intercultural communication topics.
“The benefits of such a program will likely go beyond the classroom and contribute to students’ communication and production skillsets for success post-graduation,” said Robert Littlefield, professor of communication and director of NSC.
This future course expands a Hispanic media initiative that NSC added to help prepare students to serve the growing Hispanic community at UCF and in the country. Initiatives include Knightly Latino, a course that focuses on the production of news content targeted at the Hispanic community, and a Hispanic/Latino Media Certificate, a first-of-its-kind in the state that launched this year.
NSC faculty felt it was important to add these options for students because UCF is an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution, a designation given by the U.S. Department of Education to entities that have at least 25 percent Hispanic/Latino student enrollment. Thirty percent of communication students at UCF are Hispanic/Latino, according to grant proposal documents.
Plus, Coronado and Kight said collaboration with Cuba is important to help bridge a relationship that has had limited communication and access for decades.
The NSC-Universidad de Cienfuegos partnership began when faculty from the Cuban university visited Orlando last year and said they would love to further explore partnership opportunities, Coronado said. Beyond opportunities for students, the partnership also will give faculty members the chance to collaborate across cultures and universities.
To sustain this study-abroad opportunity long-term, NSC faculty and staff are looking to community partners to help fund the initiative.
“We would like to get the community and people who believe in this project involved to help us support it,” Coronado said. “For our students to work with students of communication in Cuba is a first. It’s historic. From a faculty’s perspective, this has already been a powerful experience, and I believe it will be for the students who come with us.”