Communications capstone empowers students in upcoming election
Many students look at the political process as something that doesn’t affect them directly, but Grand Valley State University associate professor Danielle Leek aims to give her students a new perspective.
Leek’s communications capstone is geared at helping students become more comfortable discussing politics and learning how the 2012 election may affect their future personal and professional goals.
Because this is an election season, Leek said it seemed appropriate to design a course that called for students to integrate their experience at the university through an investigation of citizenship.
The capstone, COM 495 or Issues in Communication is required for all majors in the School of
Communications, including communication studies, health communication, photography, advertising and public relations, broadcasting, journalism, theater, and film and video.
“The purpose of a capstone course is to offer students an opportunity to integrate all of what they have learned in their time at GVSU through the exploration of an issue of importance in the field,” said Leek.
Specifically, Leek said, the course calls for students to articulate the relationship between their learning and the election.
Her students have completed projects throughout the semester where they describe how the election relates to their future goals.
“I would describe this capstone class as a course developed to teach students how to educate themselves about politics,” said Karlye Byrnes, senior communications major.
She said this is different from her other communication courses because this class allows her to apply the skills she has learned throughout her college career to real world concepts.
Byrnes said this course has not only helped her become educated on politics, but also how to talk about politics in a meaningful way. She said the assessment assignments helped her figure out how politics were directly related to her life.
“Also, the assessments forced me to dive deeper into the election and gain a better understanding of my views on certain political issues, which in turn helped me to decide how I wanted to vote,” Byrnes said.
Senior Tony Roof, advertising major, said the course helped him realize how politics relates to his field of study.
“This course has taught me the importance of politics in our world today,” Roof said. “Before this class I hated politics and anything that had to do with it, but now I see politics as an opportunity to be a voice in my nation.”
Leek said the purpose of the class isn’t necessarily to guarantee that the students are “prepared” for the election, but it is important that the students are comfortable discussing politics.
She hopes that from their experience in this class, students learn that nobody can really know everything about every issue or candidate in a campaign—and that trying to get that information can be difficult, even for people who think they know a lot about politics.
“I hope that students leave this class feeling empowered to engage in a political life,” Leek said. “… by doing so with the goal of finding out information and learning about issues that are important for their lives and careers.”