BYU students often have problems during the wintertime, but soon, for a lucky few, the cold will not be one of them.
Next winter semester, during the summer months of the southern hemisphere, about 20 students will travel throughout New Zealand in a new study abroad program that focuses on media and culture, entitled “New Zealand: Global Mass Communication.” In addition to shadowing professionals from several New Zealand media outlets, students will create and publish content that investigates the issues surrounding the Maori, Pasifika and other minority communities in New Zealand.
Dr. Clark Callahan, co-faculty director of the program, hopes that students will seize not only the opportunity to grow their portfolios but also to develop an empathetic worldview as they explore different cultures.
“My area of interest is how social media affects cultures, so we’ll have a couple of research projects going on. We’ll be interviewing minority populations about how they use social media and what they get out of it. We’ll ask, ‘Does it strengthen or weaken their culture and their cultural perspectives?’” Dr. Callahan said.
As part of their research, students will be paired with and embedded in Samoan families for a week. Students will record their experiences in video diaries that will be used to produce a documentary film highlighting the efforts of different organizations to preserve the Maori, Pasifika, and Samoan languages and culture.
Steve Thomsen, co-faculty director, believes that New Zealand offers a diverse setting for students to study and create media.
“We wanted to create an experience that would be as diverse as possible for students,” said Thomsen. “The objective of the study abroad will be to focus a lot of our efforts on the Pacifica and Maori peoples through the lens of media and the perspective that it if offers,” said Thomsen.
The media that students create will be used as programming for the Pacific Media Network and will be published on the student-run website, fightforthefew.org. The latter outlet is currently being developed by the Media Advocacy and Social Change class, which is taught by Dr. Callahan.
Hannah Lunt, a senior public relations student in the class, hopes that all these efforts—the class, the website, the study abroad—will help others increase their awareness about minority issues.
“I have already seen a difference in how much more aware I am,” said Lunt. “I hope the blog will grow and be a voice to change.”
Applications are available through the Kennedy Center’s International Study Programs website, kennedy.byu.edu/new-zealand, and are due Oct. 9 at 5 p.m.