Adviser Update Spring 2016 | Page 12

Building Global Citizens DOCUMENTARY TRIPS TO CAMBODIA, CUBA AND VIETNAM HELP MEDIA STUDENTS GAIN PERSPECTIVE AND EMPATHY TOWARD OTHERS By Michael Hernandez A s a journalism adviser, it’s always a challenge to get students to see the world in different ways and from new perspectives. A few years ago, I was fed up with my students’ lack of vision and empathy. Story ideas were unoriginal and my kids always missed the real story, which usually had to do with stakeholders that were less fortunate than themselves. It wasn’t that they were purposely neglecting the underlying story, it was that they simply lacked perspective and experience. The school where I teach is in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles, and while you might assume that living in LA would make our students inherently cultured and worldly, it often turns out to be the opposite. We’re trapped in our neighborhoods by traffic and distance, comfortable with familiar faces, accents and food. So I did what any desperate journalism adviser would do: I took my students to Cambodia. We visited magnificent ninth century buddhist temples, ran laps at the Olympic stadium and bargained in the bazaar. We also visited the Killing Fields to see mass graves, spoke face to face with a genocide survivor and played with children who lived in abject poverty in the floating villages of Tonle Sap. During our 10 day working trip, my 16 journalism and cinema students produced documentaries on topics such as the effects of landmines on civilians, the Southeast Asian sex trade and the restoration of traditional arts that had been destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. Students A