Carnegie Mellon University
February 07, 2020

Local and Global Community Engagement on Display, Feb. 14

By Cameron Monteith

Stacy Kish
  • Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 412-268-9309

This academic year, Dietrich College hosted three “Experience Dietrich” events to raise awareness of experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students. Prior events, like Under Construction and the Research Slam, attracted participation from a variety of majors.

The third and final event of the year, Engaging Community, will run from 4 to 5 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Dean’s Office Lounge, Baker Hall 154. The event aims to connect students to fellow classmates who have studied or undertaken research abroad, as well as those who have completed service learning or community outreach locally or globally, offered in and outside Dietrich.

Jennifer Keating, assistant dean for educational initiatives, is leading the Engaging Community event and believes in the importance of engaging with local communities and studying abroad. Keating herself has taken students to Northern Ireland multiple times in order to witness the environment that sets the background of her interdisciplinary course “Art, Conflict and Technology in the North of Ireland.”

“Study abroad is a lovely opportunity. It allows students to get up and out into an environment that might be quite unfamiliar, but it’s structured in a way that’s familiar because it’s another university experience,” said Keating.

“The combination of focused communication with salient storytelling, with students serving as ambassadors of these experiences to students who are in their own shoes, can be used as a way to communicate these opportunities as opposed to people solely focused on these efforts.”

Conlon Novak, a senior Information Systems major, will be relaying his own experiences studying abroad at the Engaging Community event.

Novak traveled to Cuba in the spring semester of 2019 as part of his Mediated Narrative course. He worked on an interactive documentary on Internet access in Camagüey, Cuba with a focus on an underground network distribution phenomenon called El Paquete Semanal, or the weekly packet. Novak returned to Cuba later that year to conduct field research on the project in support of his Senior Honors Thesis.

“Both my work with Mediated Narrative and my Senior Honors Thesis have allowed me to dive deeply into Cuban history and culture (in what limited time that I had) while also exploring an incredibly interesting and unique phenomenon,” he said. “I now have much more respect for the Cuban people's ingenuity and resilience than I could have possibly gained from afar.”

Novak is a strong promoter of traveling abroad, especially as it relates to experiential learning.

“It forces you to quickly develop people skills, self-sufficiency and (in my case) learn a new language, as well as subtly distinct sets of norms and more,” said Novak. “It is an experience that I'd recommend to anyone willing to put themselves out there in a big way; it has big returns, even if you don't see them right away.”

Novak will also discuss traveling opportunities he’s been offered through Dietrich courses and outside experiential learning programs.

“I think I’m most excited to continue to showcase what Dietrich students are doing in the world,” said Keating. “We have highly imaginative, creative students who combine their own ingenuity and innovation with resources that are available to support that. It is something worthwhile to celebrate.”