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Experiential Learning

Tales from Abroad: CFAC Students Tell their Stories of Experiential Learning

Students From The College of Fine Arts and Communications Travel Nationally and Internationally to Gain Real-World Experience as Share Their Talents While Studying Abroad, Competing, Interning and Performing

Photo by CFAC External Relations

Each summer, students in BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications take the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom and make their mark on communities across the globe. From here in the states to abroad, students were able to have impactful learning experiences to bring home as they continue their education. Read more to see what the students are learning during May 2023.

New York City Experience | School of Communications

Comms students in front of the Empire State Building. (Courtesy of Edward Carter)

The School of Communications New York City Experience, is a program that allows students to live and study in the heart of the nation’s media capital. Eighteen students were selected for this program and they have spent their time learning together, serving each other and making positive impacts on the community. Their learning has been accomplished through reading, writing and visiting significant places throughout the city.

Professor Edward L. Carter is teaching the New York cohort Comms 351: Media and their Audiences and Comms 481: Gender, Race and Class, which explore various aspects of mass media. Carter says, "Even building architecture and modern art send a mediated message so we've been critically analyzing the power dynamics and messaging behind those phenomena, among others." While spending time in New York, the students are particularly interested in how the 92nd Street Y community, a Jewish community and cultural center on the Upper East Side, draws people in from all over the city.

Palmyra Trip | School of Communications

Comms students filming at the Whitmore farm. (Courtesy of Robyn Christensen)

Professors Clark Callahan and Kristoffer Boyle are conducting a field study in Palmyra, New York in search of stories related to the Book of Mormon. Accompanying them are eight communications students. This year marks 200 years since the Angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith and the team wanted to commemorate this event with a project themed around the Book of Mormon and its role in gathering Israel. They will be visiting the Sacred Grove, Whitmore farm, Hill Comorah and Joseph Smith’s farm. The group is working with the Church Historical Sites Department to film interviews at these sites.

Contemporary Dance Theatre New York Showcase | Department of Dance 

CDT students performing the work of Jie-hung Connie Shiau. (Courtesy of Keely Song Glenn)

BYU’s Contemporary Dance Theatre (CDT) students performed works by Omar Román de Jesús (Assistant Ian Spring), Jie-Hung Connie Shiau, Cameron McKinney, Jesse Obremski, Ruger Memmott, Kate Monson, Brayden Singley, Alice Kock & Florian Lochner in their New York Showcase. Students also participated in dance classes and workshops with the purpose of forging lasting relationships with New York artists. These relationships will be valuable to students who decide to move to New York City to pursue dance.

Dance majors Hannah Hardy and Baylee Van Patten had the opportunity to join this trip. Hardy said, “I have loved fostering connections in New York that will surely serve me as I transition to my professional career.” Van Patten added, “The experience with CDT in New York helped open my eyes to the professional world of dance and clarified what I want for my future as an artist.” Taking classes at the Gibney Dance Company studios resulted in four students being invited to join their GibneyPRO Professional Training Certificate Program.

Living Legends Tour | Department of Dance

Living Legends on stage in New Zealand and Tahiti. (Courtesy of Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

Living Legends celebrated their Latin American, Native American and Pacific heritages with inspired dance, music and costume, during their tour to New Zealand and French Polynesia. Directed by Jamie Kalama Wood, the Living Legends tour included 11 shows, as well as workshops with secondary school students to encourage them to seek higher education and community service projects. The tour also included devotional meetings held at selected meetinghouses. The students shared their faith in and love for Jesus Christ and His gospel through spoken word and music.

“Although there are cultural differences and language barriers, we are all the same in the sense that we are all God’s children no matter where we’re from,” says Latin section leader Efrain Villalobos. Living Legends makes its mission to spread the culture of dance and tradition to the world through dance. Villalobos stated, “These cultures are absolutely beautiful. To represent our ancestors to the people of New Zealand and Tahiti has been an overwhelming feeling of acceptance and love. Our brothers and sisters from the Polynesian islands have been nothing but Christlike to us and more than anything have changed our lives.”

Traditionz Tour | Department of Dance

Traditionz dancers perform at local schools. (Courtesy of Amy Jex)

BYU Traditionz, directed by Amy Jex, is an outreach performance group that showcases cultural dances from around the world. This May they had 47 performances in just four weeks, touring 39 elementary schools and one Veterans Center in Salt Lake and Utah counties. The 45-minute show titled, “On the Move,” teaches students about migrants, immigrants, nomads, refugees, indigenous people and colonists. Their goal was to demonstrate how culture spreads and show how traditions mix as travelers move. Two Traditionz students, Tana Bybee and McKenzie Bellion and one International Folk Dance Ensemble member, Braden Duke, received experiential learning funds in Fall 2022 to conduct research in Los Angeles, CA. Bybee and Bellion staged two pieces which were performed in “On the Move,” and featured their research on Filipino dance.

Their show included hybrid dances such as the Lindy Hop, which was created in the integrated Savoy Ballroom in New York City in 1927. The Lindy Hop mixes African music and movement elements with European partner dancing. They also danced two different polka—one is from the Czech Republic, where the polka originated. The second is from Northern Mexico, influenced by the Czech and German settlers. According to Jex, “they are similar in the steps but very different in character.” A crowd favorite was the Indigenous American Hoop Dance which was performed by one of Traditionz’s Native American dancers.

Student performer Naomi Lin-Anderson knows first-hand the importance of these outreach tours. “I grew up in Taylorsville, Utah and I remember BYU Folk Dance coming to perform for us every year. Being on Traditionz and performing for my old elementary school has felt like coming full circle for me. I love that we represent so many different backgrounds and cultures—I feel part of something so much bigger than myself.”

Service Design Study Abroad | Design Department

Design Students in the WKSP Group. (Courtesy of Bryan Howell)

Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication, media and components of a service to improve its quality and the interaction between a service provider and their customers’ experience. Service designers place a heavy focus on the user to create a purposeful service that provides meaningful value. In this two-week study abroad, headed by Professor Bryan Howell, students from the Design Department began in Copenhagen, Denmark where they participated in a week-long service design workshop, facilitated by Maria Vitaller de Olmo, with faculty and students from the service design master’s program at Aalborg University. Their project involved improving the flow and effectiveness of the school cafeteria. Student, Zoe Zaharis Norton, said, “Our team worked on a project to increase accessibility and inclusion in the university’s cafeteria through both physical and systemic changes. I loved learning more about the complexities of services and designing for all stakeholders involved.”

BYU Singers Pacific Northwest Tour | School of Music

BYU Singers in performance at the Bellevue, WA LDS Stake Center. (Courtesy of BYU Singers Tour Blog)

BYU Singers spent the first week of May on a Pacific Northwest Tour, with a total of five stops in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. The choir was joined by various high school and university choirs including those from Rocky Mountain High School, Kennewick High School and Gonzaga University. BYU Singers were involved in various service projects and workshops, one of which was a workshop at the University of Washington with Dr. Geoffrey P. Boers. The choir performed in high school auditoriums, university performing arts centers, cathedrals and LDS meetinghouses. Their audiences often included BYU Singers alumni. The BYU Singers Tour Blog said, “Once a BYU Singer, always a BYU singer.”

Wind Symphony Tour of Spain | School of Music

BYU’s Wind Symphony rehearses in the Palau de la Música Catalana (Courtesy of BYU Performing Arts Management)

The BYU Wind Symphony traveled to Spain in May, performing and exploring in cities from Bilbao to Barcelona. Director Shawn Smith said that the tour was, “a life-changing opportunity for our students. They [learned] what it means to be a professional musician.” The students performed in several cities and historic venues including Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana and Madrid’s Teatro EDP Gran Vía and played with local professional musicians. They also visited the Madrid Spain Temple and several significant cathedrals (most notably, La Sagrada Família). The group played for the public in Valencia’s city plaza and connected with visitors and locals. They also attended (and performed at) devotionals in several cities and made friends with young adults and others all across Spain. They concluded their three-week-trip with a final performance in the Teatro EDP Gran Vía.

Music Students Trip to Pointe-á-Pitre, Guadeloupe | School of Music 

BYU students perform in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul (Courtesy of Hannah Klassen)

Several BYU students visited the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in April and stayed for a week in the city of Pointe-á-Pitre. When they arrived, the students performed solo pieces and full choir numbers for the local members of the Church, the program concluding with the choir and congregation singing, “I am a Child of God” in French.

Each day of the trip, students and faculty rehearsed with the Pointe-á-Pitre School of Music. 56 singers participated in this concert and weeklong workshop. BYU students led sectional rehearsals to prepare for the concert that would happen at the end of the week.

At the end of the week, the combined choir of BYU and Pointe-á-Pitre students performed for around 500 people in the beautiful Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. The eight BYU students also performed a unique set of pieces for the crowd and a significant amount of money was raised for the refurbishment of the building.

Because the students stayed in one area for a while, they developed friendships with local singers. As they were departing, the students waved goodbye to their new friends.

2023 TMA Writers Conference | Theatre & Media Arts
Many students attended the 2023 TMA Writers Conference at BYU’s Timp Lodge. This conference allowed TMA students to gather together to discuss their craft and to learn from industry professionals. This year’s guests included several prominent filmmakers, show-runners, directors and writers. Wim Wenders, David Mamet, Bryan Woods and Scott Peck were among the guests, as well as featured alumni. These guests shared “their thoughts regarding writing, approaches to storytelling, other media related careers and advice for those just starting out.”