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'Uncertain U' Explores Experiences of Immigrant Students

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Photo of Analucia Lopezrevoredo
American University students interviewed Analucia Lopezrevoredo, who says she escaped terrorism in Peru as a child, among others as part of Uncertain University.

Some college students are facing more challenges than just class scheduling or acing that next test. American University students last spring created a journalism project called Uncertain U, where they set out to understand how America's shifts in attitudes towards immigration and administration policies affect university students.

"As an Indian-American and a daughter of immigrants, it was hard to listen to students' experiences as I could relate to their concerns," wrote Priya Potapragada, the Deputy Webmaster of the project. "But I had to be a journalist and capture how students viewed the situation and keep my opinions out of my writing. This was my biggest takeaway. It's essential that you really listen to people's stories and also necessary that you don't influence anyone's perspective and get the facts."

Their classroom turned into a newsroom, where each student took on a specific role, such as photo editor, web designer or writer. The team was a mixture of current students in graduate programs and undergraduate programs and ranging journalistic experiences. Nonetheless, they tackled stories about the travel ban, what sanctuary campuses are, and what it is like to be an undocumented student, especially in the aftermath of the presidential election.

“Safe

Students, under the guidance of professor Amy Eisman and in partnership with NBCWashington.com, interviewed experts, administrators, professors, and other students and put together a survey that helped them paint a picture of what college students affected by these issues face, and what the campus climate is like.

Potapragada said she had a hard time finding people to talk to about her assignment, which focused on students' fear of judgment about their nationality, ethnicity, or religion post-election, but ultimately she tracked down a few leads through friends and a professor at Montgomery College.

"Not one of them wanted to provide their name," she said. "This really spoke to my topic. These students didn't want to share something basic about their identity because they were scared of consequences. They're just here to get an education that might not be possible in their home countries."

The website features articles on the path of a student who went from a refugee camp to studying physics at George Washington University, results from the class' survey on attitudes of immigration and immigrants, the identity of international students and exploring what a sanctuary campus is.

Last year, students in the journalism class tackled questions and the ongoing debate of freedom of speech on campus. The project was titled Voiceless.

Past Projects

Each spring, professor Amy Eisman’s Writing and Editing for Convergent Media engages in a semester-long immersion project. The course is designed to emulate a real newsroom where each student has a role and works on stories both separately and together to produce accessible and thought-provoking content for a media partner; if the partner is pleased, the project may be promoted online and on-air. Past partners include NBC, WAMU 88.5 and Gannett. 

 “The purpose of this class, overall, is to teach the students to dive deeply into one topic and to all aspects of a working newsroom,” said Eisman. “The secondary purpose, which is just as important, is to take a topic and grapple with it.”

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Partner: Gannett

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