Communication and English Program

The learning goals for students pursuing a degree in Communication are meant to develop and enhance their writing skills, whether expository, reflective or analytical; or journalistic; or creative. The program also aims to develop students’ conceptual analysis skills and critical thinking; and train them in the use of the appropriate/required tools and technology related to the field of Communication, in selected courses. The Communication degree program also (offers students the opportunity to benefit from the Rome location, and prepares them to work and operate successfully in a global environment characterized by diversity and intercultural understanding and respect.


Course Title:
         Media, Art, and Social Activism


Course Number:   COM 408


Period:                          Spring 2015

Credits:                        Three hours


Professor:                    Kristen Palana


office phone. 06/58330919 ext. 702


Time:                            T/TH 10:35-12:00PM


Office hours:
By appointment. My office is located on the first floor of the Carini Building near the Multimedia Lab.


Class Website:



Course Description:
This hybrid course, blending aesthetics and civics, will focus on media that have been created expressly for communicating and/or promoting positive social change; it will also provide a forum within which to consider how to engage in a positive way within the global community.


Prerequisite:           COM305 or COM311 or by permission of instructor.

Course Learning Objectives:

In this course students will:

1.Explore audio-visual and new media works whose express purpose is to communicate and/or promote positive social change. The media examined will be presented in a variety of styles including, but not limited to, documentary films/videos (shorts & feature-length), promotional videos, PSAs (public service announcements), music videos and hybrids, web sites, art pieces, installations, performances, and interactive pieces.

  1. Analyze the aesthetic components of each of the works screened in and outside of class.
  2. Research and explore existing and emerging methods of distribution for these works including, but not limited to, broadcast, cable, and digital television, film and video festivals, indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces, and the Internet.
  3. Research and explore the means of production for socially-responsible media including, but not limited to, private endowments, government grants, corporate sponsorship and community access media organizations.
  4. Encourage students to think critically about the media in which they currently engage and to seek out works which they might otherwise not have considered.
  5. To foster civic engagement among students in the communities where they live.

    Course Learning Activities:

  • Reading Assignments : CLO’s: 3-6


    • Selected readings from the required text book


    • Selected readings from the required reading list (texts provided)


    • Reading required for research papers


  • Writing Assignments and Oral Presentations: CLO’s: 2-6


    • Weekly blogging
    • Oral presentations on blogged/researched materials


    • Concise critical reaction papers based on readings


    • Concise critical analysis papers based on screenings


    • Concise research papers based on financing and distribution of selected works.



  • Final Paper: Case Study & Aesthetic Critique/Content Analysis Research Paper CLO’s: 1-5


    • Select a socially-responsible media work (to be approved by me).


    • Write a case study based on research regarding the financing and distribution of the work.


    • Write an aesthetic critique and content analysis of the work.



  • Final Project: Proposal for a Socially-Responsible media work
    CLO’s: 1-6


    • Define the goal of your project (in other words, the social concept to be explored or the organization to be promoted) to be approved by me.


    • Choose a style of work, i.e., a promotional video, documentary, music video, series of PSAs, website, interactive experience, etc. (This is not a production, but a proposal for a production.)


    • Write a summary of your project.


    • Write an outline of your script and create a storyboard for productions, and/or full navigation chart for websites/interactive experiences.


    • Create a production plan, including budget and schedule.
    • Create a plan to finance and generate support for this project (crowd-funding online, grant proposal, etc.)


    • Create a plan for distribution (appropriate venues).



Participation in out-of-class activities: CLO: 6


  • Volunteer for one service project (preferably in your local community);
    a minimum commitment of six (6) hours, total, for the semester.


  • Interview a staff member at a local community service organization and write an action plan to address one the challenges that the organization faces.
  • Participate in our class online crowd-funding campaign and/or group fundraising activities and events.


Assessment Tools
Students will be assessed by the following:


  • All projects and papers will be rubric graded.
  • Exams: One mid-term exam
  • Pop Quizzes
  • Weekly Blogging and Homework Assignments.
  • Attendance: Attendance is mandatory; much information covered in class and some works screened in class will not be available outside of class.
  • Class Participation: Class participation is encouraged; lively classroom discussion is only possible if everyone is prepared and contributes!








Grade Tabulation:
Pop quizzes:                                             10%
Homework Assignments
(including weekly journal)                   10%
Class Participation:                                    10%
Community Volunteer Project:            10%
Midterm Exam:                                 20%
Case Study & Aesthetic Critique
/Content Analysis Research Paper                20%
Final Project: Proposal
for a Socially-Responsible media work 20%



AUR grade values

94 – 100 points =       A       “Excellent”

90 – 93.99 pts  =       A-

87 – 89.99                =       B+

83 – 86.99                =       B       “Good”

80 – 82.99                =       B-

77 – 79.99                =       C+

73 – 76.99                =       C       “Satisfactory”

70 – 72.99                =       C-      “Less than Satisfactory”

60 – 69.99                =       D       “Poor”

     59.99 – 0                             =     F        “Failing”

Grade Dispute Policy:

Please note that grades are given according to AUR Grade Values. This means average projects will receive a C, good projects a B, excellent projects an A, etc. The reasons for each grade will be spelled out clearly in project rubrics and on corrected quizzes. If students do feel that they were given an incorrect grade, please address the issue with me personally after class in a respectful way. More often than not students are given the highest grade possible for the quality of work submitted and grade disputes are not encouraged unless a glaring discrepancy was made. Please also note that the final grade for the semester also includes scores for overall participation, attendance, and punctuality.



Class Textbook:

Schwarzmann, Mat. Beginner’s Guide to Community Based Arts. New Village Press (October 1, 2005)


Required Reading (Texts Provided):

Korza, Pam; Schaffer Bacon, Barbara; & Assaf, Andrea. Civic Dialogue, Arts & Culture: Findings from Animating Democracy. Americans for the Arts, 2005.


Zettl, Herbert. Sight, Sound, Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics, 4th Edition. Wadsworth (a division of Thompson Learning), 2005.



Figueroa, Maria Elena; Kincaid, D. Lawrence; Rani, Manju; & Lewis, Gary. “Communication for Social Change: An Integrated Model for Measuring the Process and Its Outcomes.” The Rockefeller Foundation and Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Communication Programs, 2002.

Courtesy Policy:

Make sure your cell phone is turned off. If you have an emergency situation that requires your phone to be on, please speak with me first. Ringing cell phones, late arrival, leaving early, and walking in and out of class while class is in session is disrespectful to your Professor and to your fellow classmates and will result in the lowering of your Class Participation Grade and Overall Grade.


AUR Attendance Policy:

In keeping with AUR’s mission to prepare students to live and work across

cultures, the University places a high value on classroom experience. As a result attendance is expected in all classes and attendance records are maintained. The University’s attendance policy is as follows:


Minimum Attendance Requirement


Students must attend a minimum of 70% of a course in order to be eligible to be considered for a passing grade.





  • Students will not be penalized for three absences from class.


If further absences are recorded, grade penalties will be applied according to the instructor’s specific attendance policy, as stated in the syllabus. If the instructor does not specify an attendance policy, there will be no grade penalty other than that attached to the minimum attendance requirement.


Cases of prolonged absences caused by an emergency or a medical condition may require students to withdraw from some or all of their courses. Under such circumstances students should first consult their academic advisors.



Kristen Palana’s Specific Attendance Policy:

Any student with more than three absences will get two points off their final grade for every absence beyond three. Please note that each two lates count as one absence.


No make-up exams or quizzes will be given without a documented medical excuse. Incomplete grades are not given.


Attendance is taken at the start of each class. Late arrival will be marked as such. If a student is more than a half hour late to class they will be marked as absent.




If You Miss Class:

Please use the class contact sheet (given out after the add/drop period) to email or phone a classmate who can lend you their notes and help you get back on track. In this course it is important to stay on top of material since so much is covered. *Please do not email your professor for a briefing on what you missed, as it’s not possible to sum up an entire class in a short email. After you have made an effort to contact a classmate and catch up, your professor will be happy to give you individual help by appointment. Remember that YOU are responsible for preparing for upcoming quizzes/projects, due assignments, and doing the homework even for the classes you missed. Do not wait until the next class to find out what happened while you were away.



AUR Academic Integrity Code & Policy against Plagiarism

“Integrity is fundamental to the academic enterprise. It is violated by such acts as

borrowing or purchasing assignments, including but not limited to term papers,

essays, and reports; lending to or producing assignments for others (either for or

without payment); using concealed notes or crib sheets during examinations, copying the work of others and submitting it as one’s own; and otherwise misappropriating the knowledge of others. Such acts are both dishonest and deceptive: the work submitted to instructors is not the work of the person whose name it bears. In consequence, the sources from which one derives one’s ideas, statements, terms, and facts, including internet sources, must be fully and specifically acknowledged in the appropriate form. Failure to do so, intentionally or unintentionally, constitutes plagiarism.” — AUR

Student Handbook, 2006/2007, p. 15.




Back-up all work in progress. I recommend saving your projects and papers under different names literally every time you make a change. It just takes one quick click…and could save you hours (if not days) of frustration. Always back-up everything!




*This outline is subject to change. Tentative: Guest speaker(s) or field trip. TBD.

*Reading and/or homework assignments will be determined weekly as the course progresses.




Week 1.
Introduction. Examination of socially responsible media products in their various forms. Begin weekly journals via our class blog:

Photography and Still Art and Design.


Week 2.
Performance Art and Installations. Music Videos. Case studies. Analysis Exercises. Discussion of readings.
Week 3.
Public Service Announcements and Commercials. Case studies. Analysis Papers. Discussion of readings. Students begin choosing Volunteer Community Project.

Week 4.
Websites and Interactive Experiences. Journals Due. Financing and Distribution of Selected Works.
Week 5

Websites and Interactive Experiences Continued. Animation.
Week 6.
Documentaries. Animation Continued.

Week 7.
Midterm Exam.
Week 8.
Short and Feature length Films. Articles and Action Plans Due for Community Volunteer Project.

Week 9.
Short and Feature length Films continued. Case Studies and Analysis. Final Project Proposals Due.

Week 10.
Introduction to Grant Writing. Political Advertisements. Video Games.

Week 11.
Blogs, Networking Sites, and New Media.

Week 12.
Final Paper and Project Discussion.


Week 13.
Final Paper Due.
Week 14. Final Exam Week:

Final Projects Due. Friday, May 8, 2015. 10AM-12PM. Room B106.



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