MEJO 584 will take students to Cuba this semester

cuba_class

From left, media and journalism majors Alma Washington and Lindsay Carbonell work in class with global studies major Peyton Chance (in the foreground). They are part of a journalism class that will spend spring break in Cuba. Photo courtesy if Tamara Rice. 

Students at the UNC School of Media and Journalism will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience this semester to use their skills in another country: Cuba.

Students in MEJO 584, Documentary Multimedia Storytelling, are going to Cuba as part of an annual international trip the class takes. The purpose is to combine photojournalism, web design and storytelling to represent a foreign culture.

In the past, students in the class have produced content from Panama, Buenos Aires and Mexico City. Pat Davison, professor for the class, sees the unique environment as one of the primary benefits students gain.

“To be able to go to a really interesting but challenging environment and to overcome language barriers and culture barriers — it’s one thing to go impose your American views on another area and see it through your American eyes, but what we try to do is do our research and understand the area and be able to go do culturally accurate reporting and storytelling,” Davison said. 

The students are spending the semester planning the focus of the trip and the stories they will tell. They depart March 9 and return March 18. After the trip, they spend the rest of the semester producing, editing and creating the website for their final product, which will be presented the week before classes end at a public screening open to the campus.

This year, the students will use five unique stories to represent the youth culture of Cuba.

“One story is about the arts and we’re hoping to focus on hip-hop, which is a really big music genre in Cuba,” Tamara Rice, a professor in another section of the class, said. “Apparently, the hip-hop groups focus a lot on social justice and are very issue-based. We want to meet some of the people to find out their motivations and how they tell their stories through music.”

Rice said the students will engage with other stories including examining the differences within a multigenerational family and looking at the life of a man living in an area far different from those tourists see.

Claire Collins, a senior photo and video journalism major, will attend the trip this year after also joining the class trip to Panama last year. Her motivation to go on the trip comes from the real-world experience that is offered.

“It’s amazing to be part of making something that has all of these tangible qualities. It’ll be part of my portfolio, it’s something I’ll be able to share with people professionally in the future,” Collins said. “I also think it’s just a great experience of relationship building.”

Past projects by the class have been recognized by several awards in the journalism industry, including the Webby Awards and Pictures of the Year International.

“I think that a real special thing is that people bond through their stories and bond through the culture,” Davison said. “They carry that with them going forward. Not only do they learn about journalism and produce great work, but they also develop empathy for other cultures and other people. That’s really important in journalism.”

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