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Interactive Media students showcase projects for the public good in Iceland, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic

During their Jan. 25 presentations in Turner Theatre, graduate students in the Interactive Media master's program discussed their Winter Term “fly-in” projects and their experiences traveling to Costa Rica, Iceland and the Dominican Republic.

As part of their Winter Term “fly-in” experience, graduate students in the Interactive Media master’s program divided into groups to visit Costa Rica, Iceland and the Dominican Republic and collect content for a monthlong project for the public good. Upon their stateside return, the four teams built robust online presences for their respective clients, which included an Icelandic social innovation center and two Dominican Republic nonprofit organiations.

Graduate students in the Interactive Media master's program shared their Winter Term “fly-in” projects during a Jan. 25 presentation in Dwight C. Schar Hall’s Turner Theatre. Pictured are Symone' Austin (left) and Ryanne Murphy who discussed their experiences working in the Dominican Republic.

​​The students’ efforts and completed projects were celebrated with formal presentations held on Jan. 25 in Turner Theatre, where the four groups shared details about their trips, their objectives and how the experience impacted them. A photo gallery of the presentations is available on the School of Communications’ Flickr page. The event was also livestreamed for family, friends and iMedia alumni.

After approximately a week collecting and gathering content abroad, the students returned to campus to create websites, promotional videos, social media platforms and other online marketing tools. Essentially, the groups completely overhauled their respective clients’ presence online and, in some cases, built their presence from scratch.

This is the eighth installment of the iMedia Winter Term “fly-in” experience, part of the service-learning class “Interactive Project for the Public Good.” This year, two separated teams traveled and worked in the Dominican Republic. While Costa Rica is a familiar fly-in location – with seven previous visits – it was just the second time that graduate students have traveled to Iceland.

And, for the first time ever, one of the "fly-in" clients attended the post-trip presentations. On hand were two representatives from Wine to Water, a nonprofit organization based in Boone that provides clean water to communities around the world.

“Thanks to all the students who took part in the fly-in experiences and made a real difference in the lives of a lot of people,” said David Copeland, A.J. Fletcher Professor and director of the graduate program, at the conclusion of the presentations.

Here is a recap of the team projects:

Costa Rica

Team Pura Vida, consisting of eight iMedia students, worked with two nonprofit organizations based in San José, Costa Rica: Fundación Piedad and Reto Juvenil Internacional. Fundación Piedad provides free private education, food and clothing to children living in extreme poverty in the Central American country. Reto Juvenil Internacional (RJI) is a volunteer organization dedicated to organizing and implementing projects in health, education, community development and empowerment, and environmental conservation. To assist these organizations reach their goals, the students produced two videos per client, introduced modern design to their existing websites, and streamlined their content for optimal user experience. 

​“Our team was able to experience what motivates our clients – from seeing a woman turn on water in her home for the first time thanks to an RJI project to seeing an alumnus of Fundación Piedad receive a scholarship to medical school,” said Kristen Rivera, who served as the group’s project manager. “As we completed each task, we made sure our work was more than just digital content. We worked to help these organizations tell their stories in hopes of helping them change lives.”

The organizations’ updated websites are available online: www.fundacionpiedad.net and www.retojuvenil.org.

Kristen Rivera – Project Manager
Marquita Brown – User Experience
Jordan Wade – Content
Evan Gaskin – Designer
Ashley Anderson – Coder
Noah Buntain – Photographer & Coder
Maggie Baker – Videographer & Editor
Jazmin Lucky – Videographer & Editor
David Copeland – Faculty Lead
Amanda Sturgill – Faculty Adviser


Team Inspire and Ice, a group of six students, traveled to Iceland to collect photo, video and web content for Frumbjörg, a social innovation center in Reyjkavík. Frumbjörg provides a space and voice for entrepreneurs and people with disabilities. The center plans to tap into these individuals’ unique resourcefulness and problem-solving methods to help spark social change.

Amanda Jones, project manager for Team Inspire and Ice, introduces her group during the Jan. 25 presentations. Inspire and Ice traveled to Iceland in January to collect photo, video and web content for Frumbjörg, a social innovation center in Reyjkavík.

​​​While abroad, Team Inspire and Ice helped Frumbjörg host a 24-hour Innovation Day, focused on developing solutions for individuals with physical disabilities, while also improving the organization’s social media presence and community awareness. The one-day event featured several prominent guests, including Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the president of Iceland. Frumbjörg plans to continue hosting innovation days and develop additional ventures to continue to work toward implementing social change in Iceland.

“Our inspirational client has big-picture plans for social innovation, and they requested an electronic ‘business card’ to be able to explain and market their current project focused on improving lives,” said Amanda Jones, the group’s project manager. “We were able to bolster their organization’s image through branding and improve their online presence to help them share their ideas. We found it exciting and rewarding to be able to encourage and improve their ability to make a difference.”

Team Inspire and Ice maintained a project website, www.inspireandice.com, highlighting the students, the team’s client and the project’s objectives. For additional information on the Iceland experience, read the university’s Jan. 19 release, titled “Project takes Interactive Media students to Iceland to discover connection between art, innovation.”

Amanda Jones – Project Manager
Ginny Merrill – Content Strategist
Kara Wagner – Social Media Strategist
Kelly Dunville – Graphic Designer
Bria Bass – Videographer
Drew Dimos – Web Developer
Derek Lackaff – Faculty Lead
Doug Kass – Faculty Adviser

Dominican Republic

While visiting the city of Moca in the Dominican Republic, a group of five students – named Team La Vida Moca – worked with Wine to Water, a nonprofit organization that provides access to clean drinking water to various locations around the world. The city is home to a factory that hand-makes ceramic filters to provide clean water to local communities. During its visit, the team gathered photos, videos and interviews as content for a new website, www.wtwdr.org, designed to attract volunteers to serve the Moca community.

"The most amazing part of the fly-in project was meeting the people of the Dominican Republic,” said Symone' Austin, the project manager for La Vida Moca. “They were incredibly generous, friendly and their sense of community was beautiful."

Austin explained that the students challenged themselves to “show the uniqueness of the Dominican Republic and capture the spirit of the community." She added, "The strength of our project is how we were able to highlight an amazing opportunity to be a volunteer, serve others and change communities."

Symone' Austin – Project Manager
Ryanne Murphy – Writer
Samantha Solomon – Graphic Designer
Travis John – Programmer
Katherine Carpenter – Videographer
Nicole Triche – Faculty Lead
Maggie Mullikin – Staff Adviser

Dominican Republic, Team 2

While in San José de Las Matas (SAJOMA), a team of six students worked closely with APACOS, an association of agricultural producers in the mountainous Sierra Region of the Dominican Republic. The group – named Team Motley Crew – worked closely with members of the association to determine how to properly tell the story of APACOS while also highlighting the cultural elements of the region. Through daily excursions to greenhouses, farms and plantations, the students captured breathtaking footage and collected interviews to create a website for the association.

Sydney Plovsky (left) and Maggie Boulton discuss their work and travels in the Dominican Republic.

​​The staff of APACOS plans to use the website as a marketing and branding tool to strengthen relationships with national and international markets. APACOS also wants to promote eco-tourism in the country, educating people about the beauty of the Sierra Region. Through apacos.org, users can learn more about the association in either English or Spanish.

“The combination of an amazing group and a beautiful destination made our trip to SAJOMA unforgettable,” said Maggie Boulton, the group’s project manager. “Our daily excursions gave us the opportunity to not only cater to our clients' needs, but to also experience Dominican culture for ourselves. We had the privilege of meeting some of the greatest people in the world, whose pride for their country instilled a passion in us to represent the Dominican Republic to the best of our abilities.”

Maggie Boulton – Project Manager
Sydney Plovsky – Content Strategist
Beth Pandone – Graphic Designer
Darrien Staton – Photographer
Bridget Sheffler – Videographer
Carmen Erdie  – Web Developer
Phillip Motley – Faculty Lead
Kristen Aquilino – Staff Adviser

Tommy Kopetskie,
1/25/2017 4:15 PM