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Experiential Learning

The World is Our Campus: CFAC Students Venture Out on Experiential Learning

CFAC Students Travel Nationally and Internationally to Gain Real-World Experience and Share Their Talents While Studying Abroad, Competing, Interning and Performing

Photo by Emma Olson

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 across the United States to travels abroad, students had impactful learning experiences to bring home as they continue their education. Read more to see what our students are learning during June 2023.

Department of Art | Art in Berlin, Prague and Basel

The Brandenburg Gate in the morning.
Berlin's Brandenburg Gate in the morning.
Photo by Ella Henricksen

Several art and design students traveled to Germany, the Czech Republic and Switzerland to participate in art courses that focused on local museums, artists and cultural institutions. Students dove into the complex cultural, historical and political backgrounds of the three countries and learned about how historical climate affected the artists and art produced. Students also visited museums and developed “a greater awareness of art and its development throughout history.”

The experience was funded by the Department of Art, and the experience was headed by professors Christopher Lynn and Joseph Ostraff. The students studied for two weeks in Prague and four weeks in Berlin. The group concluded their time in Europe with a visit to Switzerland and the famous international art fair, Art Basel.

The full-page ad in the Washington Post.
Photo by Washington Post

School of Communications | Washington Media Scholars Foundation

Two advertising students, Katie Russell and Harrison Haycock, took part in a week-long experience in Washington DC where they networked with leading professionals, presented their research and competed in the Washington Media Scholars Foundation competition. The students visited news media outlets such as the Washington Post, Politico and iHeart Radio.

Russell and Haycock represented the School of Communications well by taking second place in the competition and winning scholarships from the Washington Media Scholars Foundation. Their photos were printed in a full-page ad in the Washington Post on June 9, 2023.

School of Communications | Documentaries in Poland and Latvia

Several students from the School of Communications traveled to Poland and Latvia with staff mentors Melissa Gibbs and Alan Neves to create two documentaries about the Riga Ghetto Museum and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial. The students worked with museum staff and professors from multiple disciplines that established the connection between BYU and the museums.

Student filming a part of one of the documentaries.
Photo by Megan Brugger

The documentaries are titled “BYU collaborates with Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial” and “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief Verse 6.” Verse 6 is part of an ongoing project in the School of Communications that takes thematic elements from verses in the hymn, “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” Jacey Carpenter, a Comms outreach coordinator, says that the documentary “tells the stories of those who were imprisoned, held captive, and suffered, mirroring the words in the hymn [in verse 6].” “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief Verse 6” focuses on the work the Riga Ghetto Museum is doing to recover the names of all of the Holocaust victims in Latvia.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau documentary focuses on BYU’s collaboration on a project that ensures that the victims of Auschwitz are not forgotten by digitizing museum information. Megan Brugger, a Journalism student that worked on filming, says that she feels both lucky and blessed to be able to help share these stories.

Professor Tony Brown, featured in both documentaries, facilitated the connection between BYU and the two museums, and has been sending student interns from departments in the Humanities to the museums for years. Brown says that he hopes that the documentaries will strengthen the relationship between BYU and the two museums. “We have much to benefit collectively from our shared commitment to preserving life histories and making them available to the general public. Ultimately, such a quest transcends religious and ideological differences and reminds us of our common heritage as sons and daughters of a living God.”

Department of Dance | American Folk Dance Ensemble Tour

With an array of traditional costumes and live music, BYU’s International Folk Dance Ensemble (IFDE) presents a program of dance and music that showcases aspects of American heritage. When they attend these festivals, they go as the American Folk Dance Ensemble as they are representing the United States in their dances. The Ensemble’s program features traditions from the Appalachian mountains and Western America. It also includes pieces originating in urban dance halls such as the Charleston, Lindy Hop, Western Swing, clogging, square dancing and more.

American Folk Dancers dance joyfully at a festival.
BYU Dancers perform joyfully at a festival.
Photo by Jeanette Geslison

This June they embarked on an international tour to Hungary and Czechia. One highlight of the tour was performing at the Danube Carnival in Budapest. Artistic Director of IFDE Jeanette Geslison says, “In addition to sharing and performing American dance and music traditions, we were also invited to perform a Hungarian dance choreography by Zsolt Juházs (artistic director of one of the Hungarian host groups at the Carnival).” Many audience members approached the dancers afterwards and said that they thought the students were Hungarians because they performed so well.

The dancers also performed at the Strážnice International Folk Dance Festival in Czechia. These festivals are sponsored by CIOFF (International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals), which is under the umbrella of UNESCO. The goal of this organization is to preserve and promote intangible cultural heritage and foster cross-cultural collaboration and friendship.

Department of Dance | Costa Rica

Professors Karen Jensen and Jana Shumway took five students to complete a research documentary project in San Jose and Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. The students taught dance classes at local elementary schools in San Jose and at an adult dance school in Puerto Viejo and created a dance film with the students. Their final film and research will be presented at the National Dance Education Organization conference held in Colorado.

Department of Dance | BYU Ballroom Dance Company Europe Tour and Competition

Students hold up a trophy and celebrate their win at Blackpool.
Students celebrate their win at Blackpool.
Photo by Zara Mina Brunson

Artistic Director Curt Holman took the BYU Ballroom Dance Company (BDC) to compete in the British Open Championships held in Blackpool, England. BDC has a long history of wins at this prestigious competition, and this year they continued the trend, winning first prize for the British Ballroom Formation and British Latin Formation categories. The company debuted new competition medleys including “Somebody to Love” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

They also participated in VIP engagements in Brussels, Belgium where students talked with representatives from different groups and cultures. Student performer Jane Rigby said, “I was able to talk to a few people from another faith and their appreciation for the arts was unlike I had ever witnessed. This competition was something I always knew that I wanted to do, but I had no idea it would have such a profound impact on me and my teammates.” All of the dancers are grateful to be a part of BYU Ballroom's legacy at Blackpool.

Department of Dance | Kinnect and Dance Ensemble in Global Water Dances

On June 10, 2023 ten dance majors from the Kinnect and danceEnsemble groups participated in the Global Water Dances (GWD), a global event that works to raise awareness of local and global water issues through dance performance. Utah dancers, choreographers, scientists and environmental activists gathered at North Lake Park where the dancers performed the same choreography as dancers who were gathered at over 130 water sites on a total of six continents. The dancers also performed one faculty work choreographed by Professor Keely Song and a student work choreographed by Emma Seegmiller.

The Utah Lake event was a collaboration between Global Water Dances Organization, BYU ARTS Partnership, BYU Dance Department, BYU Plant & Wildlife Sciences, ArtWorks for Kids, the Utah Lake Authority and several Utah dance companies and community volunteers. GWD Artistic Director Vannia Ibarguen says, “The magic of this event is that there are dancers performing outdoors, beside a body of water. Dancers and audiences get a heartfelt, somatic connection to the importance of water to our planet.”

Design Department, Department of Art, School of Communications (School of Family Life) | Fashion and Design in Europe

An example of fashion design that students learned from.
Photo by Cameron Christensen

CFAC students participated in the Fashion and Design in Europe study abroad hosted by the School of Family Life. Students majoring in Media Arts Studies, Art, Graphic Design, Design and Advertising were among those who attended. The students studied in Edinburgh, London, Paris, Florence, and Venice—the centers of fashion and design in Europe. They experienced the woolen mills of Edinburgh, the historic museums of London and the haute couture houses of Paris, as well as the artisanship in Florence and Venice. Students visited the Accademia Gallery and a leather school to experience first-hand lace making. In Paris, they visited historic monuments, cathedrals, couture houses and museums including the Palace of Versailles. These cities also showcase apparel fabrics, fashion accessories and interior design.

Art student Cameron Christensen said, “I consider the most impactful appointments to be those where we’ve met with creative professionals. Seeing their process, hearing their story and being able to ask them questions has been inspiring and encouraging.” Advertising student Aubrey Leonard said, “One of the reasons I love art and design is because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I feel like my mind is bursting with new ideas of what it means to design and create.”

Students pose together for a photo.
Photo by Elle Martin of Facts and Dreams