My daughter just spent eight days in Sochi, Russia. No, she’s not an Olympic athlete. She’s a journalism/public relations major at Ball State University who just finished a once in a lifetime opportunity as part of this international event. She traveled to Sochi as part of BSU at the Games – @bsuatthegames – a group of 20+ students who arrived last week to report as a freelance news agency for media outlets around the U.S. Another 18 students stayed home and supported the group stateside. It was a remarkable opportunity for all to say the least.
So now that she’s safely on her way home, I wanted to share four thoughts on this truly exceptional example of higher learning:
- Education has come a long way baby. When I was an aspiring journalism student so many years ago, an internship at a local TV station was the goal. I got one of those internships and it was great, but it pales in comparison to my daughter’s Olympics experience. What this tells me is that universities and colleges are clearly upping their games, finding new ways to prepare students for the post-graduation world, a good thing in today’s tight job market.
- Innovative learning is not a gimmick. Ball State prides itself on its immersive learning approach. Well, you can’t get more immersive than this. These students got a first hand look at what it’s like to find and develop news angles, liaise with reporters, interview athletes, write and file stories, tweet, blog, design graphics, etc., in real time, for real news outlets, in the real world. My daughter did multiple radio interviews reporting on the Games for U.S. media, she coordinated with USA Today and other print reporters, and got to do a live intro for the Today Show team in Sochi! Hard to beat that kind of hands-on learning.
- Communications today is a tough business, so challenging students is critical to preparing them for their future careers. Consider this: The students in this program had no actual media credentials while at the Olympics. They also did not have the same access as paid, professional journalists. If they wanted to have an impact, they needed to be resourceful. They looked and found stories that others didn’t see. They stalked athletes, family members, Sochi nightlife, and more to create a unique story all their own. Their creativity was put to the test, and it paid off with numerous stories, like this one in The Advocate.
- Innovation comes with risk. I’m not talking about the risk to safety and security for my daughter, although I admit, that fear was very real. I’m talking about the risk of educational innovation. My daughter’s school is certainly not the first to explore new ways to represent their academic approach to attract new students, nor will it be the last. Some approaches like this one are working; other approaches maybe not. The world of higher learning is a very competitive one, and schools are all looking to differentiate themselves. Seeing what this experience has already meant for my kid, I have to say, the risk is worth it. So thanks Ball State. You have lived up to your slogan “Education Redefined.”