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American Today


Discover the World of Communication Wraps Up Successful Summer

By Mike Unger

Photo: Sophomore David Mullins once was a student in Discover the World of Communication. Now he works for the program.

Sophomore David Mullins once was a student in Discover the World of Communication. Now he works for the program. (Photo: Jeff Watts)

Megan Walsh is wise beyond her years. All 17 of them.

“Journalism isn’t just writing anymore,” the Linwood, N.J., native said. “I wanted to learn more about video and other parts of what journalists have to do today.”

Walsh was one of 400 high school students from 40 states and 10 countries who took a class at AU’s Discover the World of Communication this summer. On July 17, the students presented the stories, photos, films, and animation they created at an event that highlighted just how much they learned in a few short weeks.
One of five students in the Backpack Journalism course, Walsh made a documentary examining the rise of partisanship in Washington politics. It’s a project the high school senior said she couldn’t have done anywhere else.

“This is clearly a great place to be a journalist,” said Walsh, who is considering AU for college. “I’m really interested in politics, and it seems like you can really focus on that here.”

If Walsh does indeed return to AU for her undergraduate studies, she’ll be following in the footsteps of people like David Mullins, a sophomore in the School of Communication who attended the World of Communication when he was in high school.

Mullins, 20, worked as a teaching assistant in the Broadcast Journalism and Script Writing and Video Production courses this summer.

“It is an intense preparation, so it really helps you decide what you want to study” in college, said Mullins, who plans to major in visual communication. “I learned aspects of filmmaking I had never done. Different kinds of shots, storyboarding.”

The ever-evolving program is a hands-on initial entry in various communication fields for high school students. Taught by journalism professionals, students don’t just learn about reporting—they do it. The sports writing class went to an Orioles game in Baltimore and filed stories about it. The broadcast journalism class produced a show examining sexuality in the media cleverly called Textually Active.

“The work goes beyond the walls of American University,” said Professor Sarah Menke-Fish, the program’s director.

Starting July 25, the program will hold its first-ever session outside AU when it offers six courses at the University of California–Berkeley.

“AU has a number of West Coast alums, and I’ve talked to parents on the West Coast who would like to send their children, but they say it’s just too far away,” Menke-Fish said. “This will bring a sample of American University to the West Coast. Some of these kids will consider [attending] AU. Or, if they go to a school on the West Coast, they can think about doing a semester at Washington Semester.”

Judging by the reaction of students and the smattering of parents who attended the final project presentations on July 17, those kids in California are in for an exciting and challenging two weeks.

“I loved it,” said Mary Cooksey, 16, who took professional news writing. “I learned interviewing skills and to always pay very close attention to everything that’s going on around you.”