2012 grads win national award for multimedia site on Arab Spring

By Lia Ferrante
December 4, 2012

The Arab Spring. How many young people in our world today actually know what that is all about?

Briefly, young people in the Middle East and North Africa wanted their voices heard and spoke up against dictators controlling their countries. They wanted to see change for a better life for themselves  and to have new opportunities, better education and more freedom. They joined with other people in their countries and overthrew their governments. This movement, which began in December 2010 became known as the Arab Spring.

Last year Cabrini College’s Communication Department seniors and their instructor, Cathy Yungmann, associate professor of Communication, produced a national award-winning website that informed themselves and the world around them with in-depth interviews from young people who attended the American University in Cairo. The Cabrini students turned to the college’s partner, Catholic Relief Services, which introduced them to Professor Pandeli Glavanis, who works at the University. They soon realized that their capstone project would be something very memorable that related back to the Justice Matters curriculum.

“By far the most rewarding part of the project was to see a group of Carbini seniors become professional journalists and storytellers over the course of 8 months. They grew in confidence and competence. In the end the project is totally amazing!,” Yungmann said in an email.

The project manager, Elizabeth Krupka, learned many things while working on this project. She was able to listen to what people wanted to do creatively and meet them halfway with a lot of their ideas. When she was assigning projects to each person in her group, she made sure that she considered everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. “One of the most amazing things I learned was to let go of my preconceived notions. The media doesn’t always portray the right story, they choose the juiciest. There are a lot of things that are happening underground in the Middle East that people don’t know about, because the media doesn’t want to tell those stories. As a class we learned to set aside what we wanted, and listen to the true stories of the students and citizens and that is what made our project so genuine,” Krupka said in an email.

In November, the students received the 2012 Pinnacle Award for Best Multimedia Feature Presentation from the College Media Association for their website, YouthVoicesRise.com. They were up against multiple colleges from around the nation.

“We created a website that centered around the youth revolting in the Middle East. There were many people who were unaware of or were not fully educated on what was exactly happening. I think this website could/ can continue to help those with questions about what has/is occurring overseas in these Middle Eastern countries, and help them to understand the message that our team was trying to convey, “ Liz Scopelliti, graduate from Cabrini College, said in an email.

Through out the series of them reporting, they were able to interact with Egyptian students about their experiences of what was going in the Middle East as it was happening. The students were able to communicate on a regular basis through Skype, phone and email. Through this process they created relationships with the students at the University. Yungmann explained the process: “Our Cabrini students made a video explaining our project proposal, which we uploaded and shared with Dr. Glavanis’ students. We joined his class through his course Wiki and had an initial video teleconference session with his students. By October, we were communicating regularly with the Egyptian students and journalists using Twitter, Facebook and Skype.”

“I learned that even though it is a different culture, the people of my generation have very similar in interests. I learned that the youth in the Middle East want a future for themselves and their families and they are willing to do whatever they can to secure that successful and prosperous,” Danielle Alio, graduate from Cabrini College, said in an email.

The students created over 18 videos that consisted of interviews and numerous amounts of writing pieces. The videos and writing pieces ranged from all different types of issues that occurred in the Middle East. They included Middle Eastern job insecurity, women’s rights, political corruption, the new voting process and censorship changes.

“I think the most valuable lesson I learned and we learned as a whole was how different the world really is from the American civilization. We have our ways and they have their own as well.  We are seeing once again the youth are pouring into the streets fighting for their freedom after morsi’s recent power grab,” Chris Savardi, graduate from Cabrini College, said in an email.

“It is always a great feeling to hear that your hard work has been recognized, but more importantly it is nice to know that this recognition will expand our audience and educate more people about the Arab Awakening.  The ultimate goal of this project was not to win an award, but to spread awareness and document the social and political changes occurring in our world, “ Alyssa Mentzer, graduate from Cabrini College, said in an email.

Over the summer, Yungmann turned the site into a free multimedia ebook for iPad, which is available for download from the iTunes store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/arab-awakening-view-from-inside/id576503379?mt=11

Lia Ferrante

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