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INTS 407 Creates a Digital Project on Global Migration

Over the course of the Spring 2021 semester, students in INTS 407: “Global Migration on the Silver Screen” worked on a digital project led by a team of Honors students. Their instructor, Dr. Jocelyn Frelier, introduced the collaboration as follows: Honors students in INTS 407 developed a digital project this semester that features the voices […]

Over the course of the Spring 2021 semester, students in INTS 407: “Global Migration on the Silver Screen” worked on a digital project led by a team of Honors students. Their instructor, Dr. Jocelyn Frelier, introduced the collaboration as follows:

Honors students in INTS 407 developed a digital project this semester that features the voices of 65 students. How did it come about? -- at the point of intersection between three vectors of thought.

The first source of inspiration comes from Cathy N. Davidson’s 2017 book, The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux. Davidson contends that university students thrive when they are given space for creativity and an audience other than their instructor. From Davidson, I got the idea to take a hands-off approach in this project and to ask students to develop a product that would be publicly available.

The second ingredient in this project is a pair of missions. The Department of International Studies is dedicated to “educat[ing] global citizens and future leaders.” The department is housed in the College of Liberal Arts.  Dean Pam Matthews writes:“we build the ability to listen and talk to one another, ask hard questions (including of ourselves), tolerate ambiguity, and communicate deeply in writing and speaking. We learn to read and think critically and to distinguish opinion from fact.” These environments proved to be the perfect incubator for Davidson’s theories. The students attracted to a degree plan in INTS are naturally curious, passionate, and hard-working.

Finally, the students in my class this semester have had to make sense of their university studies while also dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 and Winter Storm Uri. The global pandemic and Texas freeze have meant that students are scattered across the state, chasing a moving target academically, and struggling to find a sense of community in their classes. These conditions inspired my decision to devise a group project that would involve the whole class -- I wanted everyone in the course to see themselves in this project and for the project to reflect that they are part of a larger whole. 

Near the end of the course, students in INTS 407 completed a “student’s choice unit” in which they had no assigned material and, instead, went out to find their own primary sources, tailored to their interests. I met with the honors students and gave them a simple charge: they were to lead their classmates and digitize the findings of the “student’s choice unit.” I told them decisions about what the digitized product looked like were entirely their own to make. From that point forward, I was available for questions and consultations, but the entire product was designed by them. In other words, to maximize their creativity, I had to take a back seat. My hope is that they learned teamwork, leadership, and communication skills through the process.

That is how was born!

The Honors students who worked on the project had various roles throughout the process. Rylan Scott worked with other Honors students on video design to come up with 3 different videos. She personally made the “migration trailer,” which is a combination of five second video clips submitted by each of the class members acting as a “hype video” for the entirety of the project. Ellie Conrad worked with Isabella Embile to create the content and vision for the Instagram page and posted all of the images for the documentaries submitted by their peers. Lucas Mendoza worked with Andrea Onate to design the website for the project. Lucas and Andrea were both interested in learning how to build a website, so they were excited for the role. Andrea created the format for the site and then collaborated with Lucas to upload the content. Ariadne Pacheco compiled the videos about the meaning of global migration for every student in the class and listened carefully for key words to be included in the five minute video. Lauren Hall edited the scene analysis videos to supplement the writing portion of the project and to further demonstrate the skills students learned in the class regarding how to analyze a documentary.

To come up with the design, Isabelle explained that the Honors students met up with Dr. Frelier through Zoom and discussed all their ideas for the project. The students pulled from past projects for inspiration and Dr. Frelier also provided them with other ideas that they could use. Some of the students were interested in creating an Instagram, some were interested in developing a website, and some were interested in working with videos. The students subsequently organized themselves into smaller groups so that it would be easier to tackle all aspects of the project. After they had the basis of the project, they began working on the details of each section in the later weeks. 

When describing what it was like to lead his fellow students throughout this project, Lucas said that the Honors team definitely got a taste of what it was like to be a professor leading a class. They had to clearly explain what the project would look like and had to answer student questions in class and over GroupMe. It was a great chance to practice good communication skills so his classmates knew what was expected of them. In the end, Lucas felt that it was satisfying to see the class’s work put together on the final deliverable over Instagram and on the website. Ariadne added that by having the opportunity to lead this project, she was able to enhance her communication skills by working with a team. For Ariadne personally, working with video design was a first time experience; however, the support of Dr. Frelier and her teammates helped her develop new leadership skills, especially by working collaboratively.

Due to the intricate nature of this project as well as the number of students participating, the Honors students were bound to encounter various challenges. Lauren shared that it was sometimes difficult to coordinate such a complex project with so many students. The Honors team chose to include outreach options outside of just the blog post so students could decide how to best represent their documentary, thus catering to a wider audience. Although Lauren felt it a bit ambitious at times to include a blog, Instagram, and videos for the project, the class was very pleased with how the project uniquely captured the students involved. Ariadne did not encounter any major obstacles; the only minor setback she experienced was technological difficulty with video submission which excluded a few videos from the project. Nonetheless, after she  notified Dr. Frelier, students were able to resubmit their videos or choose an alternate contribution to the project so that everyone was represented.

Ellie’s favorite part of the project was getting to see and read about all the different documentaries her classmates watched. She has unique interests and said it was really cool to see each of her classmates’ passions and academic interests shine through. Isabella’s favorite part was seeing the end product. Because the class worked on their own sections of the project, they really didn't know what the other parts looked like until the end. She thought it was awesome when all the content on Instagram was posted, when the video was finalized, and when the website was published. She admired the effort that her team members put into this project, as well as from the students that made it happen. Overall, Isabella felt that everyone was very proud of the outcome of their work.

Within the context of their digital project, the students of INTS 407 were not only able to teach others about what they learned throughout the semester, but the construction of the project itself helped the students gain a deeper understanding of global migration. Ariadne said that the project encouraged her to develop a greater awareness and open-mindedness from an educated point of view. By openly discussing global migration, she learned to consider different perspectives that characterize this phenomenon which helped her realize that the importance of this controversial topic centers on the role we, as individuals, take in society to end division and diplomatic disputes across the globe. Lauren added that the class learned about how migration is a wicked problem in that it is multifaceted, which is uniquely showcased by the project. She really enjoyed not only seeing all the different aspects to migration through the documentaries chosen, but reading and hearing how passionate her fellow classmates were about what they chose to analyze. While sometimes the issues surrounding migration can seem overwhelming, it was encouraging and hopeful to see that within the class there were people inspired to help in all areas of migration!