Serious Games: Counterintuitively Delightful

Posted on: May 18, 2017

This content was originally published on gamedev.msu.edu

When you see the phrase, serious games, do you think of something educational and boring? Or do you think about games to teach college professors how use active learning approaches in their teaching?  Games to inspire computing teachers in Qatar about how algorithms help solve social problems such as traffic jams?  Games designed to encourage young learners of English as a Foreign Language to correct each others’ common grammar mistakes?

Do you think about games designed to cause game design students to think about why they play? Games to motivate todays’ youth in China to save the endangered Pangolin?  Games to raise college student awareness about the harsh challenges for civilians who live in war zones?

The coolest thing about Michigan State University’s serious game graduate certificate program courses is the students.  The second coolest thing is the projects our students create.  I offer you a quick tour of a handful of the many great spring 2017 serious game projects from MI830: Foundations of Serious Games.

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Active Learning Land by Nick Noel, Instructional Designer, Michigan State University and MSU Educational Technology MA student

Audience: University faculty who teach undergraduate courses and are at a development workshop.

Serious Goals:

  • Introduce simple active learning activities to university faculty
  • Show that these activities can be implemented easily
  • Introduce the concept of synthesizing technology and class activities

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Traffic Manager by Hanan Aishikhabobabkr, Computing Education support for middle and secondary school teachers and MSU Educational Technology MA student (who lives in Qatar)

Audience: Secondary school computer teachers in Qatar with ICT (Information and Computer Technology) background who will be trained to teach computational thinking.

Serious Goals:

  • Experience some of the ways where algorithms can be used in solving problems in the real world
  • See how algorithms are executed
  • Notice some of the factors to consider when making up an algorithm

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WarZones by AJ Moser and Bingzhe Li, MSU Media and Information HCI MA students

Audience: 18-24 year old college students who may be active voters, and care about the innocent people suffering from war and would like to know more about them

Serious Goals: 

  • Give players a sense of what it is like living in a war zone as a normal civilian
  • Show a variety of serious problems civilians might encounter
  • Demonstrate the cruelty of war on people living in the area

EFL

EFL Foundational Grammar Decks by Justin Thibedeau, EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher and MSU Educational Technology MA student (who lives in Taiwan)

Audience: English as a foreign language (EFL) students

Serious Goals: Motivate students to generate meaningful language as they recognize and practice grammar patterns to combat native language (L1) influence

pangolin

Pangolin! Protect or Poach? by Yiqing Ling, MSU Media and Information HCI MA student

Audience: Chinese teenagers

Serious Goals:

  • Evoke interests of pangolins
  • Enrich knowledge of pangolins
  • Raise awareness of their biggest threat – poaching

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Cloudwalker by Mars Ashton, Director of Game Art in the department of Art and Design and Assistant Professor at Lawrence Technological University

Audience: Budding game designers

Serious Goals: Teach players to question what games are asking them to do and why on a critical level

In MI830, students begin by completing a series of short “gamelabs” to  learn the serious game design process. Then they embark on a 10-week “epic quest” to create a serious board or card game. They create a prototype, playtest the prototype, and iterate the design.

More than half of students in the graduate certificate program are full time working professionals, including K-12 teachers and university professors, corporate trainers, museum professionals, outreach professionals, fortune 500 employees, IT workers in the healthcare industry, game designers, and more.

The graduate certificate program also serves MA and PhD students in Media and Information, Educational Technology, other MSU departments, and other universities.

The deadline for applying for admission in Fall 2017 is June 15.  All three courses can be taken online. For more details, visit the SGD site.  Or email professor Carrie Heeter, director of the serious game graduate certificate program (heeter@msu.edu).

By Carrie Heeter, Professor of Media and Information, Michigan State University

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Professor Constantinos Coursaris Awarded the IIE Fulbright Greek Diaspora Fellowship

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University of the Aegean top image

Dr. Constantinos K. Coursaris, associate professor for both the Media and Information and Advertising and Public Relations departments of ComArtSci, has been awarded a fellowship by The IIE Fulbright Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program.

As part of his new role, Coursaris has traveled to Greece for two months to collaborate with the University of the Aegean’s Department of Information and Communication Systems Engineering on curriculum co-development, collaborative research on digital entrepreneurship and to assist with the professional development and mentoring of graduate students in digital entrepreneurship and electronic government.

Working abroad

From April 24 to June 24, Coursaris will work with Dr. Dimitris Drossos to create a new exchange program that would allow MSU students to spend a semester studying in Greece, while MSU would host Greek students from the University of the Aegean.

Coursaris will also explore new research projects with Greek scholars in the area of digital entrepreneurship and mentor graduate students on topics ranging from creating a professional portfolio, to designing rigorous research studies and using advanced statistics to analyze data.

“My interest in this project primarily stems from my passion for supporting MSU’s World Grant Ideal,” said Coursaris. “This is enacted, in part, through a greater internationalization of our East Lansing campus, the provision of study abroad opportunities to MSU students and the bilateral mobility of teacher-scholars.”

The Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program

Constantinos Coursaris

Constantinos Coursaris

Coursaris is one of 21 Greek- and Cypriot-born scholars, from 16 prominent U.S. and Canadian universities, traveling to Greece in order to conduct academic projects with their peers at Greek universities. They are working in areas such as public health, chemical genomics research, urban food security and a variety of others. Twelve Greek universities were selected by the GDFP to host the fellows for collaborative projects that meet specific needs at their institutions and in their communities.

The Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program is designed to help avert Greece’s brain drain and develop the long-term, mutually-beneficial collaborations between universities in Greece and the United States and Canada. It is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in collaboration with the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, and funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

“Having been born and raised in Greece, I was also personally motivated to explore opportunities to support higher education in Greece, particularly during this difficult time period,” said Coursaris. “Investing and transforming Greek higher education in such a way as to support entrepreneurship and innovation is arguably the most effective approach in overcoming an increasing brain drain coupled with ever-diminishing resources.”

Looking ahead

Over a period of two years, the program will award fellowships to 40 U.S. and Canadian based academics to collaborate with universities throughout Greece to develop curricula, conduct research and teach and mentor graduate students in priority areas identified by the Greek universities.
“I feel honored to have been selected in the very first cohort of scholars selected for IIE’s Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program,” said Coursaris. “It’s an ambitious agenda, but given the faculty and student talent at the University of the Aegean, along with the hosts’ warm and engaging personalities, I am confident in the successful completion of this undertaking.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets 

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ComArtSci Researchers Receive Grants to Fund Environment and Breast Cancer Projects

Posted on: May 16, 2017

Breast Cancer Header

For 14 years, researchers from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences (ComArtSci) have partnered with the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) to study the effects of environmental exposures on breast cancer risk.

In March, that partnership grew when a team of ComArtSci researchers, led by Kami Silk, associate dean of research and director of the Health and Risk Communication M.A. program, received two grants totaling nearly $500,000 to facilitate their on-going research in the field. The grants are co-funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Tailoring educational and outreach materials
The first project to receive funding, led by Silk and her research partner Richard Schwartz, professor and principal investigator of the BCERP at MSU, aims to better understand public perception of breast cancer and the environment. The team was awarded an Opportunity Fund Grant of $70,286 from the BCERP Coordinating Center.

For this project, titled “Cross-site Formative Audience Analysis Research to Facilitate Effective Outreach Efforts and Communication Strategies," the duo has partnered with community advocates across the U.S. to conduct focus group sessions with individuals from varying geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds to better understand their needs and risks.

“Partnerships are important for receiving Opportunity Funds due to the transdisciplinary nature of the BCERP. So a multi-site project with advocates across the country made a lot of sense, especially because most advocacy groups do not have resources to do this level of formative research with their communities,” said Silk.

Findings from this research will also be used to help create a national survey to gather information about breast cancer and the environment from a wider and more diverse group, ultimately helping to better tailor education and outreach materials to the needs of different audience segments.

Training pediatric healthcare providers
The second project to receive funding aims to design and deliver advanced training to pediatric healthcare providers on the topic of breast cancer and the environment. This type of training will help facilitate increased communication with patients and caregivers about adopting breast cancer risk reduction practices, particularly for adolescents.

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Kami Silk

The project, titled “Training Pediatric Health Care Providers as a Primary Information Source for Communicating Environmental Risks for Breast Cancer," received an NIH R21 grant for $414,367 and is being developed by Silk, Sandi Smith, from the Department of Communication, and Stacey Fox, from the School of Journalism. The funding will provide the means for the team, joined by the Michigan State Medical Society and Michigan Hospital Association, to create a program that will build continuing education units for doctors.

“One of the things that emerged over our 14 years with the BCERP is the need to reach beyond the lay public as a primary target audience for information about breast cancer and the environment. We need to include health care providers in the conversation because they are trusted sources of health information and they can help parents and caregivers understand how to reduce early environmental exposures,” said Silk.

With this training, doctors will use continuing medical education units to become better informed on the risks associated with exposure to certain chemicals – such as PFOA and BPA – as well as learn the results of BCERP research, including both epidemiology and biology studies. The training will focus on helping pediatric health care providers translate BCERP research into actionable recommendations for parents and caregivers, such as what chemicals to avoid whenever possible.

“There is a window of susceptibility for girls as they go through puberty. Reducing environmental exposures during this critical time frame is a precaution that makes sense based on BCERP emerging science,” said Silk. “There was a genuine interest in the idea of training pediatricians about environmental exposures as a strategy to reach parents and caregivers with BCERP findings and recommendations. We are excited to be able to develop communication training that is evidence-based and useful for pediatric health care professionals.”

More information
For more information about the BCERP and the ongoing research of its investigators, please visit bcerp.org.

By Nikki W. O'Meara

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Studies in Interpersonal Communication Result in Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award

Posted on: May 8, 2017

The interest to pursue a career in interpersonal communication started at a young age for Samantha Shebib, whose ultimate goal was to be accepted into MSU’s Ph.D. Communication Program. Tracing back to personal experiences, Shebib connected immensely to the field of communication because it is relatable to every demographic.

Unknown“It has always been my dream to be a Spartan,” said Shebib. “I have been lucky enough to get the opportunity to work with the impeccable faculty and students in the Department of Communication. It’s crazy to look back on all those years I put into it and to see my hard work pay off. It’s an extremely rewarding feeling.”

Shebib identifies herself as a post-positivist researcher who studies interpersonal/family communication, nonverbal communication, physiological responses, social support and most importantly, quantitative research methods. She has bounced around several different regions of the world to endure rigorous academic success, beginning with her Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University in May 2014, followed by her Master of Science in Communication Studies from Illinois State University in May 2016.

Most recently, Shebib received the Outstanding Master's Thesis award from the School of Communication at Illinois State University on April 17, 2017. The award is given each year to one student only and was designed to promote a high-quality master’s thesis. Shebib’s thesis was titled "Financial Conflict Messages and Marital Satisfaction: The Mediating Role of Financial Communication Satisfaction."

“At Illinois State, my advisor was Dr. William R. Cupach and my former committee member was Dr. Kevin Meyer, both who nominated me for this award,” explained Shebib. “My thesis was interested in examining the proposed mechanisms through which different financial conflict messages influence marital satisfaction, specifically through the mediating variable of financial communication satisfaction. This empirical work, and the work I continue to do at MSU, is aimed at constructing a theory in marital conflict.”

Shebib believes that marital conflict is an important area to study because of its impact on children that become exposed to it.

“Since conflict is inevitable in all relationships, a theoretical framework to understand why people engage in destructive and dysfunctional strategies when conflict occurs would be extremely beneficial and would add important insight when trying to make sense out of marital discord,” explained Shebib. “Not only do children exposed to marital conflict have a greater risk for a host of behavioral and emotional problems, but it also socializes children to handle conflict the way their parents handle conflict. If I can disentangle and make sense out of marital conflict, well, then I think I can tackle conflict in other relationships, too. Fingers crossed.”

By Emmy Virkus

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The Link Between Brain Activity and Social Networks

Posted on: May 4, 2017

This story was originally published on MSU Today

The structure of the social network to which a person belongs could shape how their brain responds to social exclusion, according to a new study led by a Michigan State University researcher.

Ralf Schmaelzle, assistant professor of communication, poses on Tuesday April 14, 2017.

Ralf Schmaelzle, assistant professor of communication, poses on Tuesday April 14, 2017.

The study is authored by assistant professor Ralf Schmäelzle, from the College of Communications Arts and Sciences, and published together with a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Army Research Lab in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers looked at the brain’s response to social exclusion under fMRI, particularly in the so-called mentalizing system, which includes separate regions of the brain that help consider the views of others.

“The finding here is that these regions, which are in different places in the brain, show greater connectivity in response to social exclusion,” Schmälzle said. “They go up and down together, almost as if they’re dancing together, doing the same moves over time, and this ‘coupling’ of their activity increases during social exclusion.”

To create the experience of social exclusion, the researchers used a virtual ball-tossing game called Cyberball with 80 boys ages 16-17. While in the fMRI machine, each participant saw a screen with two other cartoon players — who they believed to be controlled by real people — and a hand to represent themselves. All three participants in the game take turns tossing a virtual ball to one another.

For the first phase of the game, the virtual players include the test subject, tossing him the ball frequently. The game then shifts to exclusion mode, and the virtual players stop throwing the ball to the participant.

“During exclusion, people might begin to ask themselves, ‘What might that mean when people are excluding me?” Schmälzle said. “They may ask, ‘Have I done something wrong?’ or ‘Why are they doing this?’ and such kinds of thought might engage mentalizing processes.”

The researchers also were able to access, with permission, the test subjects’ Facebook data, giving them a snapshot of their friendship networks. They found test subjects who showed a greater increase in brain connectivity during social exclusion were those in sparse networks. In sparse networks, the friends of a person tend to not know each other. In dense networks, by contrast, many of a person’s friends are also friends with each other.

“Social network analysis and thinking about social networks has been around a long time in sociology,” said Emily Falk, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School and director of its Communication Neuroscience Lab. “But it’s only recently that these kind of quantitative measures of social networks have been combined with an understanding of the brain. How do your brain dynamics affect your social network and how does your social network affect your brain? We’re at the very tip of the iceberg right now.”

In addition to Schmälzle and Falk, study authors include Matthew Brook O’Donnell, Christopher Cascio and Danielle Bassett, all from the University of Pennsylvania; Javier Garcia and Jean Vettel from the U.S. Army Research Lab; and Joseph Bayer from The Ohio State University.

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Fake News and Filters Aren't Fooling Internet Users

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This story was originally published on MSU Today

Despite what some politicians argue, fake news and biased search algorithms aren’t swaying public opinion, finds a Michigan State University researcher.

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William Dutton

Commissioned and funded by Google, William Dutton, director of MSU’s James and Mary Quello Center in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and researchers from Oxford University and the University of Ottawa, conducted a survey of 14,000 internet users in seven nations: United States, Britain, France, Poland, Germany, Italy and Spain.

“The role of search in the political arena is of particular significance as it holds the potential to support or undermine democratic processes,” Dutton said. “For example, does online search enable citizens to obtain better information about candidates for political office and issues in elections and public affairs, or do the processes underlying search bias what citizens know in ways that could distort democratic choice?”

While there are country-specific findings, universally, concerns about internet searches undermining the quality and diversity of information accessed by citizens are unwarranted, the study found.

Indeed, search plays a role in how internet users obtain information about politics, but there are several factors that come into play, Dutton said.

“The results from our study show that internet users interested in politics tend to be exposed to multiple media sources, to discover new information, to be skeptical of political information and to check information, such as that seen on social media, by using search,” he said. “These findings should caution governments, business and the public from over-reacting to alarmist panics.”

Key findings:

  • The argument that search creates “filter bubbles,” in which an algorithm guesses what information a user wants based on their information (location, search history), is overstated. In fact, internet users encounter diverse information across multiple media, which challenges their viewpoints.
  • Most users aren’t silenced by contrasting views; nor do they silence those with whom they disagree.
  • News about fake news has created unjustified levels of concern; people use search to check facts and the validity of information found on social media or the internet.
  • Cross-nationally, there are consistent patterns of media use, but people in France and Germany use search engines less and rely more on traditional media. In Italy, residents use search more frequently. Out of the seven countries in the study, internet users in Poland trust search the most to keep them informed and in Spain, users are particularly prone to use the internet to check facts. In the United Kingdom, people use search less, placing more trust in broadcast media.

Most research on internet searches has focused on one platform, such as Twitter or Facebook, Dutton said. The MSU study is one of the first to concentrate on the wider context of a person’s informational and social networks and the wide range of media people consume.

The study can be downloaded from the Social Science Research Network.

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New faculty, expanded directions foster innovation in stuttering research at MSU

Posted on: May 1, 2017

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For 1 percent of people in the United States, the simple act of saying hello can cause stress. Even more children—about 5 to 8 percent—experience difficulties in daily communication caused by the speech fluency condition known as stuttering.

Michigan State University has been a long-time champion in the study, research and clinical practices in the field of stuttering and other language, speech and voice disorders. Professor Emeritus Paul Cooke pursued extensive research into stuttering, and an ongoing study abroad program continues to immerse students into practices and research on an international scale.

In 2017, the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders within the College of Communication Arts and Sciences began strengthening programs and partnerships that will impact the nature and treatment of stuttering on a regional, national and international scale.

In the spring, J. Scott Yaruss joined the CSD team to focus on helping speech-language pathologists improve their ability to provide meaningful and lasting support for people who stutter. Professor Yaruss brings decades of experience in working with people with fluency disorders through research and clinical practice, including his most recent work with the University of Pittsburgh.

"There's lots of excitement around our department here at MSU," says Yaruss. "We have the opportunity to draw on the expertise of our faculty interested in stuttering, and to look at neurological development using different methods. There's pervasive interest across the department, as well as with other universities and organizations for strong partnerships."

Road to innovation
Yaruss says he noticed first-off the incredible camaraderie and collaboration among members of the CSD faculty. The growing team, he says, will examine the nature and treatment of stuttering, and leverage new and existing technological capabilities in the process.

CSD Faculty

CSD Faculty

Among the team members are Adjunct Assistant Professor Soo-Eun Chang, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan who maintains a research lab at MSU. Chang conducts large-scale longitudinal studies using multimodal neuroimaging methods to examine the neural bases of childhood stuttering, while Assistant Professor Amanda Hampton Wray examines a range of communication disorders, including stuttering, by measuring electrophysiological activities.

Other contributors in stuttering research include Assistant Professor Fan Cao who explores neural bases of phonological deficits in language and reading disorders. Associate Professor Laura Dilley examines how neurocognitive systems for processing of speech may be different for people who stutter compared with those who don’t. In 2018, new faculty Bridget Walsh will come on board to apply near-infrared spectroscopy and other methods to study neural processing of people who stutter. Yaruss himself will focus on the neurology of stuttering using a range of methods, as well as applied research on clinical intervention.

Yaruss adds that the CSD team plans to develop programs that help future and current speech pathologists increase their comfort level working with people who stutter. He also looks to strengthen partnerships across universities, including several in Michigan and throughout the Midwest, to research stuttering and other fluency disorders.

"We have an opportunity to develop an emphasis that encompasses many aspects of stuttering, and to bring it together through basic and applied practices," he says. "Our field has expanded in so many ways. We can make strong cases for helping people who stutter lead a full life."

Amanda Hampton Wray concurs.

unspecified-1Like Yaruss, she understands that stuttering in children can contribute to social isolation and bullying, and negatively affect academic success. In adults, people who stutter frequently are channeled into jobs with fewer opportunities for advancement, or have difficulty doing everyday things like ordering off a menu or engaging in casual conversation.

"Stuttering has a significant impact on the way a person interacts and communicates in our world," Hampton Wray says. "Communication is critical for quality of life and social interaction. If we can find ways to alleviate someone's stress and anxiety, and improve their quality of life, we make a positive impact on society."

Hampton Wray came to MSU three years ago, and along with Chang, was one of just two faculty with a research focus on stuttering at MSU.

"It's really exciting to be in a place where there will be lots of people looking at the same question but from different angles," says Hampton Wray. "We've been very fortunate to attract some of the top researchers here. When we have more people thinking about the same thing, it builds collaboration and encourages brainstorming. That leads to innovation and our ability to impact the field."

By Ann Kammerer

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Edward Maibach shares research about communicating climate change

Posted on: April 25, 2017

Picture1On April 21 – one day short of Earth Day – the College of Communication Arts and Sciences welcomed Dr. Edward Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, to speak at the annual Bettinghaus Endowed Lecture organized by the Department of Communication and the Health and Risk Communication Center.

During a time when questions about our impact on the planet seem endless and recurring, Maibach highlighted how important it is to encourage people to learn and discuss the issue of climate change and its effects. He shared with faculty, students and staff of the college about his research on TV weathercasters as vehicles to spread news about this important issue via a segment called Climate Matters.

He spoke about how people trust scientists to provide information related to the environment and other scientific debates. However, just behind that group, people rank TV weathercasters high on the list of trustworthy sources. Maibach supported this by explaining that they have the trust of the public, access to the public and great communication skills. He credits experiential learning as a factor that helps people engage with issues and become more knowledgeable and aware of matters like climate change.

“Dr. Maibach’s work is cutting-edge both in terms of methodology and substance. He is creating innovative models for studying the effects of the news on people’s beliefs and attitudes," said Maria Lapinski, professor in the Department of Communication. 

Partnered with Climate Central, an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about our changing climate and its impact on the public, Maibach and researchers provide the newscasters with the information and digital content necessary to reach audiences such as maps, severe weather trackers and more. So far, 390 weathercasters have been a part of Climate Matters and numbers are growing.

Dan Totzkay, a Ph.D. Communication student, attended the lecture and called it “exciting and interesting.” As a fan of Maibach’s work, Totzkay said the presentation got him thinking about his own research and taking inspiration from Maibach to design better campaigns and know where to look.

Being that Maibach’s lecture was on the day before Earth Day, it was fitting that a group of people came together to educate themselves about how being conscious of issues such as climate change can benefit the future of our planet.

“Not only is it Earth Day, but also the March for Science. It’s about protecting the Earth,” said Totzkay. “We’ve only got the one, so this is pretty pertinent because, for whatever reason, (climate change has) become so controversial, even though it shouldn’t be … I think finding people like weathercasters or anyone else who people will listen to is so crucial.”

The next part of Maibach’s research is in the works. Currently funded by the National Science Foundation, among others, the team recently submitted a second NSF grant proposal. Together, Maibach and his researchers are preparing for the future of the organization.

The Bettinghaus Lecture was endowed by former Department of Communication Chair Erwin P. Bettinhaus and his family, friends and colleagues. Bettinghaus also served as the Dean of the college for 20 years.

 

By Savannah Swix

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MIPA reinforces value of journalism skills for students exploring college and careers

Posted on: April 21, 2017

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Haley Kluge decided to be a journalist at age 10. Rory, her favorite TV character from Gilmore Girls, worked as a student editor and writer at Yale University. Kluge wanted to be just like her.

So when it came time to pick electives at Grand Ledge High School, Kluge enrolled in journalism 101. That first class, she says, started a four-year odyssey that spanned working as a contributor and editor of her school newspaper and yearbook, and culminated in her decision to study journalism at Michigan State University.

Kluge's passion for the press grew into a real-life understanding of what it takes to gather and present news and information. And much of what she learned, she says, was solidified by the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association (MIPA): a statewide program for high school student journalists, teachers and advisers housed and coordinated by the MSU School of Journalism.

"MIPA gave me that backbone in scholastic journalism and ethics that is so valuable as a high school student," says Kluge, now a senior in the MSU School of Journalism. "It allowed me to get so much more value from my journalism education and exposure to different things than simply a normal classroom experience."

Building a strong core

Today, Kluge is wrapping up her bachelor's—a journey characterized by internships at high-profile media companies including Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and the New York Times. She stays involved with MIPA by working in the program's office and helping coordinate the association's annual summer camp.

"Because of MIPA, I was already a step ahead of my peers when I started college," she says. "I was exposed to so many things, and still use the skills I learned in MIPA summer camp to this day."

MIPA Executive Director Jeremy Steele says students like Kluge represent the ultimate goal of the nonprofit organization: to spark young people's interest in journalism, and to prepare them for college and careers in journalism or other fields. Composed of scholastic journalism teachers and advisers and their students, MIPA promotes and recognizes excellence in high school journalism through training and educational resources, conferences, contests workshops and a summer camp on the campus of MSU.

"We're seeing a new appreciation for journalism and what it teaches," says Steele. "High school journalism classes are essentially a 21st century civics class. And they embody virtually all of the standards schools implement in English classes—including how to write in different styles like commentary and non-fiction and how to interview and research."

About 170 high schools and middle schools across the state are members of MIPA. This includes 300 student media outlets and 220 teachers. Students at those member schools typically enroll for courses or electives that involve the production of yearbooks, newspapers, broadcast video, and other forms of digital and contemporary media. MIPA also is a resource for high school journalism teachers.

Similar to an athletics or music organization, MIPA provides opportunities for members to participate in events—in this case, a variety of conferences, training sessions and workshops for journalism students, advisers and teachers. About 2,000 teachers and students attend a fall conference in Lansing each year, and another 1,500 come to the MIPA Awards each April to showcase their work. Winners are selected from more than 4,000 entries.  In the summer, an average of 350-400 students attend a five-day camp at MSU, enabling them to work with professional journalists and journalism educators in areas like design and graphics, photography, digital media, advertising, production and writing.

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Huron High School senior Lyna Ikharbine was among nearly 80 students from five schools who participated in a one-day workshop on the MSU campus in March. Ikharbine is enrolled in yearbook production class at her school, and says she takes journalism electives to learn more about design and how to express ideas.

"I'm strengthening my communication skills and learning how to write non-fiction," says Ikharbine. "I'm also learning how to write persuasively and without bias."

Huron High School junior Gena Harris says she was drawn to study journalism after she guest wrote articles for her school newspaper on the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent Trump travel ban.

"I enjoyed the process of researching, interviewing and writing the stories," she says. "It allowed me to understand what different people and races go through. I also saw that certain parts of journalism could be applied to other classes I'm taking, like law."

Steele acknowledges that while many students get their start on journalism careers through high school programs, many others don't.

"The core of what journalism teaches—researching, writing and visual communicating—are things kids can take with them to college or on any career path they're headed down," Steele says. "And there is a lot of research that shows that kids who are involved in scholastic journalism are more civically involved and active in their communities."

MIPA was founded in 1921 and has been housed at the Michigan State University School of Journalism since 1982. To learn more about MIPA, click here.

By Ann Kammerer

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Bob Albers prepares for retirement from MSU, premieres film at CCFF

Posted on: April 18, 2017

MSU Media Sandbox photography exercise; with Zydecrunch, performing atop the Comm Arts & Sciences parking ramp. 9/17/12. photo: w.r. richards/CAS-MSU

After a 35-year career teaching at MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences in the Department of Media and Information, Senior Video Specialist Bob Albers will retire after the current spring semester.

Albers teaches one of the Communication Arts and Sciences classes that many ComArtSci students choose to take as a part of their degree programs. The course is called Story, Sound and Motion, which explores the central role of storytelling, sound and editing in media communication. That being said, the number of students that have had the opportunity to learn from Albers reaches into the thousands. He has had a particular impact on students who have taken his documentary capstone class. In fact, last year, a film produced by students in Albers’ class, From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City, earned entrance into several film festivals and even won a Student Academy Award.

Before he retires, Albers has been able to cherish the relationships and connections made during his time at the college. The department recently celebrated the sixth Albies Awards, an Oscar-like awards ceremony recognizing students for their work in production and film. It simultaneously commemorates Albers and his name for the impact he has had on the program.

At this year’s Albies, Albers was celebrated with a plaque from the students, “It was one of those bittersweet things. I think, ‘Why am I leaving? I’ve got this group that I’m a part of that I am still connected with and I can tell they care about me’ ... So, I’ll miss that.”

Celebrating his craft and most recent film

You have likely experienced that moment when you’re doing the thing you love and you enter this state of being where you’re absorbed in the action or performance, commonly referred to as being “in the zone.” Albers’ recent documentary film, Chasing the Moment, follows 11 individuals who have experienced those moments and continue to seek them out in their lives every day.

The film features a chef, a marine sniper, a pulitzer prize-winning photographer, dancers, an Olympic Silver Medalist and more. It recently premiered at the Capital City Film Festival in Lansing on April 8. 

“(The film is) about how do you get to that place where everything goes away and you’re not thinking about anything, you’re just being whatever it is that you do,” said Albers.

Like the people in his film, Albers said he has experienced this sensation, too. Before entering the classroom, he was a college basketball player at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he studied psychology. He said the feeling was present as an athlete, but it also happened later when he picked up the classical guitar and when he went to art school to study sculpture and photography, too.

Throughout the course of his life, he’s been a teacher of various subjects and crafts, including teaching science to junior high school students, giving guitar lessons and, today, mentoring and educating future directors, editors and other industry professionals about all aspects of film and documentaries.

Albers’ teaching went beyond the classroom during the 4.5-years of production for Chasing the Moment. He selected a handful of MSU students and two faculty members to assist him.

“Some of them were involved in the shooting (process) and so I feel as if that’s a window into the professional world for those people,” said Albers. “They get to do classes, but then they get to work on a big project."

The 2016 Albies attended by over 200 members of Telecasters, alumni, staff and guest. 04/23/2016. Photo Credit: Amanda Pinckney

Leaving a legacy

Albers’ ability to connect with his students dates back to the 90s when Bob Gould, a professor in the School of Journalism, was a student of Albers’. When Gould later returned to ComArtSci as a professor, he said Albers was a friendly face to see walking the halls.

“The first semester teaching here, I leaned on him a little to get some professional advice, but every time I would see him in the ComArtSci building, I would smile and was a bit nostalgic. In fact, even today, 10 years later, I still feel that way when I see him or talk to him,” said Gould. “He had that kind of impact on me and so many other students. His kind soul and quiet demeanor always creates a calming effect when stress levels are high. I’m sad to see him retire, but it is so well deserved.”

Gould said one of the last things he did as a student at ComArtSci was create a small documentary as an independent study with Albers. Now, 30 years later, Gould’s daughter, Ilene, a freshman media and information student at MSU, is doing the exact same thing.

“He knows how to teach creative, out-of-the-box thinking and I’ve definitely learned better ways to approach storytelling," said Ilene. "He’s just a genuine and kind person and shows a lot of care for his craft, but most importantly for his students."

His daughter’s work with Albers has impressed Gould and he is happy to know she had the chance to learn from one of the greats.

“When I heard Bob might be retiring, I told my daughter that she should take an independent study with him and learn as much as she can from him. I thought it would be a really cool thing for two generations to share that special mentorship,” said Gould.

Just as Gould and his daughter have enjoyed learning from him, Albers has taken equal joy from teaching, “I really do like teaching a lot and I enjoy being around young people. You know they say it keeps you young, but I don’t think that’s true, maybe a little bit younger than you would be if you weren’t involved with young people. They see the world differently than I do, maybe clearer in some ways than someone like me does. That’s a thrill.”

What’s next?

Albers, a Kentucky native, looks forward to moving back to his home state after 37 years away to build a home with his wife and “get to know Louisville again,” especially through his photography.

By Savannah Swix

 

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