iMedia teams travel abroad for winter 'fly-in' projects
Graduate students in the Interactive Media master's program presented work from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic on Jan. 28 in Studio B of the School of Communications.
By Kate Riley '14
Elon University's Interactive Media graduate students completed annual “fly-in” projects this month for clients in Ecuador, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
The goal of the fly-in projects is to provide at least one solid opportunity for students to put their learned skills to use, said Derek Lackaff, an assistant professor in the School of communications and co-leader of the Ecuador program.
“Because Elon has a Winter Term, that gives us the ability to help the students get real-world experience,” he said. “That is one of the unique things about the iMedia program.”
The team that traveled to Quito, Ecuador, focused on developing a media presence for a school in “desperate need” of more resources, Lackaff said. Six students, along with Lackaff and communications staff member Bryan Baker, conducted interviews, shot video and captured photos to provide important content for the school, Escuela Nuevos Horizontes del Sur. The group was supported by a nonprofit education and language enrichment organization, the Andean Center for Latin American Studies, or ACLAS.
“Having a real experience with a client, not just a portfolio project, was great,” said Allie White, an iMedia candidate and the project manager. “We worked through challenges you wouldn’t anticipate in a class setting.”
The students interviewed the school’s principal, teachers and students while creating a donation page for support and developing a social media strategy. The experience was heightened by intense interactions with the students at the school, team members said.
“My favorite memory was when we first got there and realized how meaningful it was, what we were doing for this particular school, and realizing how happy it made me,” said iMedia candidate Lexy Pingree. “I was so thankful that Elon chose this school because of how much they needed it. The kids were so awesome.”
Lackaff said his project seemed particularly rewarding because the group was working directly with the people who would benefit from their work.
“I think there was something about being able to interact directly with the kids we are trying to help,” Lackaff said. “Being able to build that personal connection with people was so important. Some of my other previous projects have been more abstract, but this is very directly affecting people’s lives.”
The 2014 Cuba fly-in group traveled to Havana, Cuba, with faculty member Randy Piland to create a journalistic project focusing on the physical restoration of the city. The team documented people and places including the city historian, a restoration training school, local construction sites, a restored former convent, Havana locals and more.
After initial observations, the group realized efforts are being made to restore the local culture and environment as well. The final project will be an interactive website featuring videos, interviews, audio picture stories and infographics to tell the story of Havana's physical, cultural and environmental restoration and progress.
One of the teams that traveled to Costa Rica assisted Finca La Esperanza, a family-owned and operated sustainable farm on the outskirts of San Jose. The farm raises a variety of animals including cows, chickens, pigs and goats. It also grows an array of crops such as tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and potatoes.
The San Jose team, led by faculty members Nicole Triche and Ketevan Kupatadze, worked with owners of Finca La Esperanza in a continued effort to spread awareness of its sustainable farming practices and their willingness to spread their knowledge across communities of students. The team designed and implemented a strategic, bi-lingual web presence that globally enhances the farm’s efforts.
A second team of iMedia students traveled to the Costa Rican wilderness to help the Térraba tribe build a website that will promote tourist activities in the region. Led by faculty members Amanda Sturgill and David Copeland, the team showcased hiking tours and local waterfalls, the jungle wildlife, the cooking of traditional meals and making of traditional jewelry, and even longheld practices of making chocolate by roasting and grinding cacao beans.
The fifth iMedia team, led by Assistant Professor Max Negin and Maggie Mullikin, coordinator of graduate outreach and special programs, visited the Dominican Republic. The group worked with "Cambiando Vidas," which translates to "Changing Lives," an organization that matches volunteers from the United States with community volunteers and skilled workers from the Dominican Republic committed to building a two-bedroom house.
Cambiando Vidas builds up to eight houses each year. Students redesigned the organization's website and developed it a social media plan.
The five teams shared details about their trips as well as their finished projects when students made formal presentations in Studio B of the School of Communications on Jan. 28, 2014.