Presidential elections provide countless opportunities to engage in meaningful classroom discussions. WMU journalism associate professor Sue Ellen Christian took a unique approach to providing real-world experience to her Journalism 3100: News reporting using new media class by reaching out to WMU alumnus, Chris Killian. Freelance writer Killian made it his mission to show the election from the perspective of those who matter most—the people impacted by the results. Killian wanted to tell people’s stories in hopes that we’d learn from one another. Knowing that he couldn’t visit all 50 states, he decided to focus on stories from the swing states, places deemed equally divided in the political debate. He wanted to give everyone, from every side, a voice.
Killian’s plan to travel to swing states and use social media to share stories gave Christian the unique opportunity to provide her students with a memorable, real-life experience. As Killian traveled thousands of miles to nine swing states, students in Christian’s class used social media to connect with him. Christian noted that Killian “showed the entrepreneurship that I try to teach in my classes. In class, we talked about how in the current digital media landscape students have to think creatively and market their skills using social media. [Killian] was a wonderful example of that.”
When Killian’s adventure ended, he returned to WMU to meet the students he’d been contacting via Skype during his travels. “It made the textbooks and teaching come alive for students to see journalism in action—especially by someone young and from WMU,” said Christian. Journalism student, Elisia Alonso says that her interactions with Killian “gave me reassurance that the journalism field is where I’d like to be. His ambition to take on the world, one story at a time, encouraged me to never stop pursuing my dreams.”