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Robertson School launches new summer program for visiting Chinese students

Aug 7, 2017

Posted in: News

By William Lineberry

Lan Tian knows he wants to be a journalist. He also knows that in order to do justice to the occupation he needs to understand media from a global perspective. And that is what led him and seventeen other Chinese mass communications majors to VCU.

Last month, Tian was one of the eighteen students in the inaugural year of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture’s Jiangxi Media & Culture Program, which was established in the School to create a media and academic immersion for Chinese students studying mass communications. The students were also accompanied by four faculty chaperones from various universities in China.

“I needed to know the ways of the West and its media,” Tian, who attends Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics in China, said. “I wanted to experience the different culture so I can have a better understanding of the world’s media.” 

Students had the opportunity on the last day of the program to get some hands-on experience in the VCU Insight studio with professors Vivian Medina-Messner and Gary Gillam.
Students had the opportunity on the last day of the program to get some hands-on experience in the VCU Insight studio with professors Vivian Medina-Messner and Gary Gillam.

Throughout the two-week program, the visiting students took part in several academic and cultural activities.

The students received a series of lectures from Robertson School journalism professors Vivian Medina-Messner and Clarence Thomas, Ph.D., public relations professor Joshua Smith and advertising professor Scott Sherman. In each of these lectures, Robertson School faculty members highlighted the basic practices and theories behind their respective fields. In addition to the communications lectures, the students also took English language courses throughout their entire stay at VCU.

For the last lecture of the program Medina-Messner gave a lecture to the visiting students on social media and its role in news. And on the final day of the program,  Medina-Messner and broadcast journalism professor Gary Gillam worked with the students on some hands-on exercises in the VCU Insight studio.

“I’ve never had the chance to go to China,” Medina-Messner said. “So it’s great to have these students that are studying in the communications and journalism fields come to us. It’s important to note that this wasn’t just about me showcasing American culture and media. It’s for me, as a faculty member, about also allowing these students the opportunity to showcase their culture. I think that’s a very important thing because it allows for the exchange of culture.”

Students and faculty from the Robertson School of Media and Culture’s Jiangxi Media & Culture Program visited several outlets throughout their stay.
Students and faculty from the Robertson School of Media and Culture’s Jiangxi Media & Culture Program visited several outlets throughout their stay.

Through this experience, both the teacher and the students walk away with a new cultural perspective and with new insight into the tools and practices of the media in the East and West, Medina-Messner said. For example, when teaching social media courses Medina-Messner said she was able to learn about the students’ preferred platforms in China and the students were able to learn about the platforms that are staples for American media members.

Around the Richmond area, the visiting students toured several major media outlets in the region including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Martin Agency and the local ABC News affiliate. Other activities for the students and the faculty chaperons included a visit to the VMFA, a day trip to Washington D.C. and a trip to New York City.   

“I feel like this program allowed us to better understand one another,” said Hong Xiang, a faculty chaperone and professor at Long Gannan Normal University in China. “We were able to learn about the U.S. and we hope that they were able to learn some about us.”