School of Communications encourages high school students to advance their skill sets

More than 150 high school students from throughout Connecticut had the opportunity to take the first steps in realizing their dreams as storytellers using the School of Communications' industry-leading technology last week.

The event was designed to help students recognize their potential careers in Connecticut, said School of Communications Dean Chris Roush, who cited a Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate of more than 150,000 new communications jobs added between now and 2030. 

He said the Quinnipiac Academy initiative gives high school students the opportunity to get a head start on their college education through learning from their own high school combined with experiential learning in an innovative university setting. The students were exposed to advanced technology, with sessions on broadcast news writing and anchoring, photojournalism, podcasting, mobile apps, VFX-compositing and Pixar storytelling. 

Starting with the basics, and appealing to the interests of his young students, Assistant Teaching Professor of Journalism Wasim Ahmad led off his photojournalism session by teaching students how to take a better selfie, which led to a bigger discussion regarding photography. 

“There are bigger camera lenses in the back of the phone, turn it around and shoot,” he said.

Following a slideshow of "do’s and ‘don’ts" when taking photos for print or electronic publication, he held a photography contest. 

“We tend to put the subject in the center of the photo,” he said. “Try to let the background tell part of the story.” 

Students separated into pairs and used the hallways in the Center for Communications and Engineering as a backdrop to take photos of each other with the university’s digital cameras. Once gathered back in the classroom, some students realized they could learn more about photography than they thought they could.

Meanwhile across the hall, another class of students was learning the ins and outs of podcasting.

The most important thing about hosting a podcast, according to the Director of Community Programming David DesRoches, is to know your audience.

As director of community programming, DesRoches manages Quinnipiac's growing network of podcasts. He is also an adjunct professor who teaches audio storytelling, which focuses on public radio-style reporting and production.

He offered the following advice to future podcasters: “Be you. Be confident, quirky and authentic. Don’t be afraid to show your personality. Just remember that you’re there to elevate your guest. Be you, but don’t make it about you.”

He also advised students to be conscious of biases when interviewing and emphasized the importance of listening.

“Don’t go through a list of questions,” said DesRoches.“Don’t stick to a script. Follow your curiosity and have a conversation. Listen to your inner gut.”

Assistant Professor of Interactive Media and Design Chris Paul St. Cyr says the event was a good introduction for high school students to learn more about their opportunities within the communications field. 

"I think it was mostly about that enlightenment part about it," said Cyr. "Your perspective is kind of abstract when you’re in high school, but then you come to these programs where you learn you can create podcasts, use photojournalism, etc. That enlightenment is key and being able to say ‘I can see a possible future.’”

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