Global Media Issues class partners with State Department

Zoe Spilker • Jan. 31, 2017
Katya Thomas skypes in with Julien Mailland's class to answer student questions.
Katya Thomas from the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomacy Lab, Skyped with Julien Mailland’s Global Media Issues class to work with students on their projects. (Emma Knutson | The Media School)

Students in assistant professor Julien Mailland’s MSCH-M413 Global Media Issues class are creating research features that answer the question: how is technology changing international relations and diplomacy today?

The students’ projects are in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomacy Lab, which is collaborating with students and faculty experts at universities across the country. In addition to this class, seven classes at the School of Global and International Studies are part of the project.

Much of the students’ interaction with project will be via Skype. Last week, they talked to Katya Thomas, the U.S. Information Officer for Public Affairs at the department, to learn and ask questions about the projects they will create. Each student will submit a three-page magazine feature about the role technology plays in international relations, and the best projects will be published in the department’s internal publication.

Thomas proposed the topic “The Role of Technology in International Relations” for the Diplomacy Lab and will work with Mailland’s class throughout the semester as they create their projects. She said she is interested in technology’s changing role in communication among countries around the world.

Students listen as Katya Thomas explains the changing role of communication.
Students in the Global Media Issues course listened as Katya Thomas explained the changing role of communication and how it is now almost instantaneous. (Emma Knutson | The Media School)

“Diplomacy last century was something where people in the field really had to have a lot of autonomy. They had to make decisions without the input of the home office often,” Thomas told the students. “Things have changed now. Communication is almost instantaneous.”

The 34 students in Global Media Issues will learn about communications theories and their relevance to international relations.

“We’re really trying to get the students to get two things out of it,” Mailland said. “The critical thinking aspect that we’re building our classes on, but also the hands-on experience and portfolio building that makes it easier to find jobs in the future.”

Mailland explained the world’s need to use technology in foreign policy efforts. The Diplomacy Lab will allow students who are more agile with technology to use their knowledge to help those in the State Department.

“Technology plays a huge role in how politics are played out in other countries and our own country,” said Stephanie Bohn, a sophomore in the class and a media management major earning a minor in arts management.

Assistant professor Julien Mailland said the Global Media Issues course will prepare students for the real world and also help them create a portfolio of real applications. (Emma Knutson | The Media School)

Mailland said the class is a perfect bridge between theory and practice. Students apply what they are learning in the class to the real world and, in turn, build a portfolio of real applications.

Sancia Burlingame is a senior informatics major with Spanish and telecommunications minors. She said she chose to take the class because its combination of her major and minor intrigued her, and she likes the meaningfulness of the project.

“I’m not just working for myself to get a good grade, I’m actually working for other people to be more informed on the subject,” Burlingame said.

The students will get a chance to show their work during a symposium April 12 where all eight IU classes that are part of the Diplomacy Lab will present their projects.