By Nerissa Young, associate lecturer
ATHENS, Ohio—Take Global Leadership Center students from Ohio University and mix with Institute for American Studies students from the University of Leipzig. Add a helping of OHIO journalism students, and toss in a dash of OHIO chemistry students.
The result is the OHIO-Leipzig Trans-Atlantic Student Summit 2018 in Leipzig, Germany, in May 2018 for 15 OHIO students to gain a deeper understanding of the opioid crisis from a global perspective.
While the leadership and chemistry students joined the American studies students to draft policy statements that could be presented as solutions to governments, the journalism students prepared a website to host the summit’s work and developed story pitches for their own opioid projects.
For the past decade, OHIO Global Leadership Center students have partnered with students from the Institute for American Studies to develop policy proposals. This is the first year that chemistry and journalism have been part of the program, which is expected to continue for the next two years.
“Journalism and chemistry have been two of the most active academic units at Ohio University when it comes to working with colleagues in Leipzig,” said journalism school director Robert Stewart. “During the fall (2017) semester 25th anniversary celebration of the Ohio and Leipzig relationship, a faculty member who teaches environmental journalism for us started brainstorming with a faculty member from OU’s chemistry department about how to develop a study abroad experience in Leipzig, focusing on
science reporting. The decision was made to bring all of these entities together, along with our Leipzig counterparts, and to focus on the current opioid crisis — but more from the actual chemistry (i.e., science) angle and less from the usual policy angle.”
The two-week program was a mix of cultural tours, media tours, chemistry lectures, policy meetings and story pitches leading up to project presentations on the last day.
Stewart added: “It is a challenge to run a program like this at a time that is perfect for everyone. Leipzig’s semester is still running full steam in May, so the students didn’t have much time to engage in the project this first go-round. We’re hopeful that with an entire year’s preparation, the faculty on the Leipzig side will be able to build into their syllabuses a robust level of engagement in this collaboration in the coming two years.”
Global Leadership, American studies and chemistry students were placed on teams. Each team was given a challenge for which to develop a policy statement. The teams represented government agencies, nonprofits and corporations all with a stake in the opioid industry.
Journalism students reported daily about the program via social media, built a website to host program products and developed story pitches they will turn into reporting projects.
Chemistry professors Eric Masson, Jennifer Hines and Steve Bergmeier taught students about molecules, how opioids are made and how opioids function in the body’s systems. Global Leadership Director Matthew LeRiche and Institute for American Studies professor Crister Garrett taught students how to compile research for and write policy proposals. Journalism professor Nerissa Young taught students how to communicate with journalists and news media audiences.
Journalism sophomore Ashton Nichols said: “I really enjoyed going to Leipzig. It gave me a view of more than just the bubble that the United States often lives in. I definitely would like to spend more time abroad and work on my journalism degree from a world perspective, not just from the lens of Ohio or the United States.”
Journalism junior Julie Ciotola said: “This was a life-changing experience for me. As a journalist, I believe it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone and typical environment and take the time to appreciate different aspects of the human experience. I am lucky to have had this chance as both a young writer and curious individual.”
Stewart said despite the challenges, the primary objective is clear. “Our goal is to broaden our students’ ability to navigate unfamiliar territory, whether it be organic chemistry or central Europe.”