Emerson students hike Australia’s Blue Mountains, a region west of Sydney. Courtesy photo
By Molly Loughman
While Bostonians retreated indoors from the cold during the College’s winter break, some Emersonians were enjoying the summertime Down Under, learning public relations with a global perspective during the inaugural session of the Sydney, Australia Global Pathway.
“Australia and Sydney present an exciting base for Global Pathways. Australia is a young country, but has seen immense industry development and investment from the U.S., China, and many other countries,” said Communication Studies Assistant Professor Mary Anne Taylor, the trip leader. “You see the expansion, which also presents interesting questions and challenges for culture, art, entertainment, sports, and community building. Sydney was also an Olympic base, and provides sports communication students the possibility to complete internships at Olympic Park.”
The session, which focused on, “Perspectives in Global PR and Strategy,” brought 12 students, ranging from freshmen to graduating seniors, on a two-week expedition to gain a practical, strategic and technical understanding of international public relations topics. The curriculum integrated rhetorical approaches to public relations, cultural communication competencies, and issue-based crisis communication strategies. Topics included media relations, social media, branding, media management, and crisis communication.
From site visits to the Parliament of New South Wales, to museums, and Australia’s professional football team — the Greater Western Sydney Giants — students were able to see global public relations at work.
“We looked at how different contemporary industries in Australia and the U.S. have advanced or interrogated issue-based campaigns. For example, immigration is a topical and important issue in both the U.S. and Australia, so we explored some of the similarities, differences, and next steps for both audiences,” said Taylor.
Through a blend of site visits, classroom-based lectures, and projects, students delved into how brands navigate various forms of media across borders, and also engaged with local thought-leaders, including media and culture scholar Dr. Tara McLennon, and Nidia Raya Martinez, who has more than 20 years of experience working with NGOs and governments.
Taylor said she sees the cultural competency as one of the most vital endeavors in contemporary academics, making the Australia Global Pathway program valuable for students entering various fields of the communication industry.
“Cultural competency allows for a critical lens to look at the tough issues of gender, race, class, sexuality, and global interdependence. For students to have an immersive experience in a country with similarities to the U.S., but also some big differences, students have the opportunity to meet different audiences where they are, and ask questions from a place of curiosity, rather than a dominant perspective,” Taylor said.
“I was extremely proud to lead this inaugural experience, and even more proud to work alongside our students. Our Emerson students are unmatched in their curiosity, and thoughtful observations about their surroundings. They were engaged, and approached this first program with enthusiasm and maturity.”
The Global Pathway in Australia is available as a winter intersession in public relations and as a summer intersession in sports communication, and is open to students of all years and disciplines.