Storytelling Course Earns International Global Partnership Award

By Nicole Gennarelli

The International Storytelling course of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) at Kent State University, taught by Professor Gary Hanson and Assistant Professor Mitch McKenney, is the Global Partnership division winner in the 2014 Best Practices in International Higher Education Awards of the NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) International Education Knowledge Community.

This is the first time the cross-listed course of the College of Communication and Information (CCI) and JMC has been entered into international education award competitions. This semester, after encouragement from the Office of Global Education, Hanson, McKenney and CCI Associate Dean LuEtt Hanson, Ph.D., submitted applications for the course in several competitions.

“I was surprised, honored and proud of the students who have participated in the three years of International Storytelling,” Gary Hanson said. “This is an important award for the class, particularly when you look at the other universities that were involved in the competition.  I’m grateful for the support from the College of Communication and Information and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication for their continued support and encouragement of the project, as well as the strong support from the Office of Global Education.  This award is as much for those groups as it is for us.”

According to the International Storytelling application, “The International Storytelling course at Kent State University combines engaged experiential learning with international work and recreation, allowing our students to develop journalism skills while broadening their understanding of the world. Students enroll in a 15-week course, during which they learn about another country, plan and research stories they will cover in multimedia reporting teams, spend two weeks in their destination country reporting stories in partnership with students from that country, and return to produce their stories for a multimedia website available to the general public.”

Because the course is overseas for only two weeks compared to several months, it’s much more affordable for students who have always wanted to study abroad.

“This course makes it possible for students who would never otherwise consider studying abroad to have this life-changing experience,” LuEtt Hanson said. “But because the course involves serious pre-trip preparation, expectations for professional-quality work during the international portion of the course, and intense follow-up after returning to campus, the course is not viewed as a lesser experience.”

“What I love is the pioneering spirit of this course and the people involved with planning it,” McKenney said. “When we decided to go to India, we immediately set about finding a university partner, which ended up being near Delhi. In Brazil, we found and worked out the details with our partner university within weeks. We wanted to find universities with a strong interest in journalism that had students who could partner with ours. The partner school and Kent Sate students from each trip are still friends today, which is a testament to the value of these cross-cultural projects.”

The first offering of this course was in March 2011, when Kent State partnered with Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). CCI sent a journalism class to Shanghai to report stories, with the aid of SISU English-speaking students as translators and collaborators. In 2012, the course took students to Amity University in Noida, a suburb of Delhi, India. During the most recent trip in March 2013, students traveled to Curitiba, Brazil, where Kent State partnered with the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana (PUCPR). Currently, arrangements are being made for March 2014 when the class will travel to Tallinn, Estonia, and partner with the Technical University of Tallinn.

“This is our first time that our class will travel to Europe,” Gary Hanson said. “Estonia has some high-technology elements that will provide for some interesting stories as well as its emergence as an independent country following the breakup of the Soviet Union.”

All universities that won a division award will be honored at NASPA’s annual International Symposium in Baltimore, Md. on March 16, 2014.

To view student work from past International Storytelling trips, visit, and


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