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Journalism "Boot Camp" Lives Up to Its Name

The 20 students in the class of 2013 completed an intensive three-week program at the end of August, which has become a tradition.

The 20 students in the class of 2013 completed an intensive three-week program at the end of August, which has become a tradition.

When graduate journalism students at American University discuss survivors, it’s likely to be in reference to themselves, rather than a popular television program.

The 20 students in the class of 2013 completed an intensive three-week program at the end of August, which has become a tradition. The classes run from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily during those weeks, and some years ago students felt they were so grueling they dubbed the program “Boot Camp.” The name stuck.

Many of the students agree it is a transformative process. One of the incoming students, Yiyi Yang said the experience offered her “the first picture of what a journalist will face in the future: tense pressure, a sense of accomplishment, courage, and responsibility.” Yang hails from the People’s Republic of China and is one of several international students in the new class. Although she found the many strict deadlines in the program to be a new and challenging experience, she was grateful for this type of learning environment. “As one of the camp survivors,” she said, “I am ready to explore the journalism world.”

Kristina Brooks, another student in the new class agreed. “Boot Camp was by far one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life,” she said, “but also the most rewarding. I really got to see how much I can grow when I push myself, even in just a short three weeks.”

During the immersive program, students learned the basics of reporting and researching under deadline conditions. They covered a briefing at the U.S. State Department on global HIV-AIDS policy. They covered a Tea Party protest on Capitol Hill. They toured the Capitol and visited the Press Gallery for the U.S. House of Representatives. They shot video for an assignment at the National Zoo. Beyond discussing ethical conundrums, the students also endured many deadline writing assignments, along with learning the basics of audio and video editing.

Though happy for a break at the end of Boot Camp, Brooks was eager for more in the fall semester. “I'm excited to see what a full year can do,” she said.

Students in the journalism graduate program take on the challenge of an 11-month program. Students starting this fall will complete their degrees in the summer of 2013.