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How Searching for Community Engagement Made Me a Better Journalist

 

400x343-Nichole Dover Cliffs
Stevens is from Washington State and has studied abroad in Prague and London. Her area of focus is print journalism, video and web. You can find examples of her work here.

Her most challenging project was producing the Character Development Program video, which aired at Neyland Stadium to kick-start the 2014 Medal of Honor Convention. Nichole’s post-graduate aspirations include working abroad in Europe and Asia as a reporter.

By Nichole Stevens

I have been fortunate enough to have spent the past year interning at the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach. I started as a first year graduate student in Journalism and Electronic Media, and a year later I’ve found myself working on my thesis project, a multimedia website and contributions to a full-length documentary about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in East Tennessee, under the guidance and tutelage of Dr. Nicholas Geidner.

My job at OCEO was to assist Elizabeth with a myriad of projects and research. In an office of one, I can understand how an intern would be helpful. Looking back, I’m amazed at the amount of work she was able to juggle while attending classes and finding time to show me the ropes.

The most important project that I was able to contribute to is Partnerships that Make a Difference, an all-encompassing publishing project that really puts the focus on university-community collaborative work. Through the project, I was able to visit the Archaeological Research Lab, the Knox County Health Department, and the Tennessee Water Resources Research Center. I’ve covered History Day and Pre-College Summer Engineering Programs. I bused it out during the Clifton M. Jones Leadership Conference and MLK Day of Service, where I spent time alongside other students at Random Acts of Flowers to clean vases that would be filled with donated flowers for a hospital patient in need.

221x400-Nichole YelmThis is, of course, an abridged version of the many wonderful and fantastically amazing community engagement programs that have emerged from the hearts of university faculty and staff and their partners in the community.

One of the questions I tried consistently to ask my sources for partnership features is “what does ‘making a difference’ mean to you?” Now that my internship has come to a close, I find myself contemplating this same question that I asked in 30 different interviews. I still don’t have an answer.

What I can say is that I can make a difference through storytelling. Making a difference is what many people have taught me: Elizabeth Burman, Taylor Eighmy, Erin Chapin, Kelly Ellenburg, Barbara Holland, and so many others; and that’s to use my expertise with people in the community by engaging with theirs. In journalism, we call that immersion: living the story in order to tell it.

Advice I would give to other students: Make the extra effort to participate in projects outside the classroom. Ask your professors how you can get involved in any of their projects, because it’s likely they would welcome the help if anyone offered. Do an internship and if another one happens to come your way, do that one too.

400x400-Nichole Coffee SeattleCollege is the time to really push yourself and establish a solid foundation of experience, not only for your academic and professional resume, but also for personal growth. When you’re busy, time really flies and before you know it, you’re graduating.

And always say thank you. I’ve received this advice from professors and work mentors alike, and it’s truly sound advice.