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Communication & Journalism Department

COJO newsletter

Members of the Cross Cultural Communication class have sold T shirts to raise money for an orphanage.

Cross Cultural Communication class helps African orphanage

Students in Dr. Tracey Owens Patton’s classes are extending their learning beyond Laramie, working on service projects in Casper and beyond into several African countries.

Her Cross Cultural Communication (COJO 3190) course each fall takes on a project as part of her service learning philosophy.

“Every fall the students have to engage in a major undergraduate research project that puts the theoretical concepts of cross cultural communication into real world practice,” she said. 

Students in the class are divided into four different areas (Advertising/Sales; Community Liaison/Outreach; Grant Writing/Budget; and Public Relations) and then develop a project for the semester.

Past projects have included working with genocide survivors  in Rwanda, Jason’s Friends in Casper, partnering with the Peace Corp  in Botswana and Tanzania, and with the Shalom Garden Orphanage in Kenya, most recently building an orphanage and working on their educational needs.

The projects “allow them to become involved globally in the world community, learn to interact internationally and most of all, make a difference in the lives of people sometimes halfway around the world,” Patton said.

Service learning has been practiced by American educators since 1990 when the Community Service Act was approved. It defined service learning as "a method under which students or participants learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of a community; helps foster civic responsibility; is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the students, or the educational components of the community service program in which the participants are enrolled.”

Patton’s learning objectives for the Cross Cultural Communication class reflect those original pedagogic goals for service learning.

“The students show me that they are learning the objectives when they are engaged in the class, actively processing, questioning, and engaging with the material,” she said. “If students only care about their individual work rather than working successfully with others, are not engaged in the project, and/or not curious about the world around them, then the project will not be successful. Becoming a better world citizen is the ultimate goal, and if we can do that and help others, so much the better.”

Pat Nuttall, a Virginia resident who has been involved with the orphanage in Kenya, said she appreciates the work of UW students.

“We love that Tracey is teaching the students how to apply what they’re learning, and help other children in the process,” Nuttall said. “What they’ve done over the years is absolutely amazing, and we’re seeing the results in the lives of the orphans.” 

For example, Nuttall said that one of the girls will graduate from the orphanage in November and will go to college on a government program.  After college, she will have a job with the government.

“Our hope is that as these children grow up, they’ll want to give back to the orphanage, which has become like a family to them,” Nuttall said.

Dr. Ken Smith, chair of the COJO Department, noted, “As former UW President Tom Buchanan said about the service learning projects in Tracey's classes, ‘We never know what students will choose to remember from the classes they take here, but we do know one thing - they will remember these classes.’"

COJO 3190 isn’t done yet with service learning. This fall, the students will undertake another project to benefit the Shalom Garden Orphanage, Patton said.

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