Opening Doors to Experiential Learning

The next time you visit the ComArtSci building, I hope you will find your way to the new media center on the first floor. You will be impressed by what you see -- an open newsroom with glass walls joined symbolically and physically to a game design studio with a motion capture cube. This is the largest capital investment in the college’s history, which was set in motion by a transformative gift by John Gruner in memory of Mary Gardner, a professor who had a profound impact on his life some four decades ago.

​To go with the values and ethics taught in the classroom, students now have access to a cutting-edge newsroom to practice and hone their craft. With the push of a button, robotic cameras can live stream news via the internet. Audio, video, graphics and text can be stitched together to tell rich media stories. Real time audience engagement can be captured through social media analytics.

​On November 8th, our students will integrate all of these options to offer live coverage of the election results from the new newsroom. Titled MI First Election, coverage will focus on first-time voters, including those just old enough to vote and new immigrant citizens who can vote for the first time.

​I remember when I became an immigrant citizen of the United States and pledged allegiance about 15 years ago. An octogenarian judge presided over the ceremony. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember his core message that it is a privilege to be an American and that each citizen is special and unique and it is our responsibility to vote. Whatever misgivings we have about this election cycle or about the role of journalism, we cannot ignore the obvious.

​Our democracy is still the envy of the world. And what started as a bold experiment in democracy will always remain a work in progress. America is great not because of the cynicism, negativity and pettiness that is on parade every election cycle. America is great because of attributes like compassion, kindness and generosity that make up the fabric of our democracy.

​John’s gift opens the door for students in journalism to experience, reflect and report on what it means to participate in an election for the first time and how the ritual we participate in every four years is an integral part of the American experience.

​We would like to offer more such opportunities for experiential learning. So, on Giving Tuesday, I hope you will join me in making a donation to a fund that supports experiential learning for ComArtSci students. Just last week I heard from Leland Bassett who made a generous contribution, affirming his belief in our college. I hope you would join John, Leland and many others in supporting us. Also, I look forward to hearing from our alumni about other ideas for engaging with our college. You are welcome to email me at