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News & Events
CNU Students Document Life Stories and Wisdom of Area Elders
(Newport News, Va.) -
Christopher Newport University journalism students documented the life stories of elderly area residents during weekly, one-on-one visits throughout the fall 2009 semester. Using written stories, photography and video, students worked to challenge ageist stereotypes and to produce a multi-media website that brings viewers into close contact with the elderly subjects.
“Our goal,” says CNU professor Dr. Terry Lee - who developed and taught the course- “was to use web-savvy multi-media technology to bring us all closer to seniors so we could see them for who they really are, not what stereotypes tell us. Students found their elderly subjects interesting, active and wise.” The project, titled “The Wisdom of Age Project: Hampton Roads 2009,” is available for viewing at www.wisdomofageproject.org.
Over a period of four months, students visited the same retirement home residents. Their approach to documenting stories, said Dr. Lee, was a simple one. “We emphasized the need to listen, to listen actively to their stories and to hear about their everyday challenges.”
According to a recent report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities titled “High-Impact Educational Practices,” a liberal arts education should emphasize broad knowledge, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and integrative learning. “By studying in the classroom and working in the community," Dr. Lee explains, "students benefited from “high impact practices” that integrate abstract and practical knowledge.”
Students were initially apprehensive about spending so much time with elderly subjects. “But after a few weeks,” Lee noted, “they told me they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.” Part of the students' class assignment in “Community Storytelling & Documentary Studies” included writing reflective essays on their experience.
One student’s reflective essay written mid-way through the class stated: “I want to honor them and my fear is that I will fall short of explaining how admirable these people really are... I wonder sometimes if I can do that, if I am capable of re-creating the dignity of their stories.”
Other CNU professors and students are connecting their classrooms to the community, working through the CNU Center for Service Learning & Social Entrepreneurship. To date, classes with community service have focused on hunger, housing, aging, health, the environment and politics, among others. Community members are encouraged to contact Dr. Roberta Rosenberg, center director, for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or (757) 594-7149. For more information on service learning is available at http://service.cnu.edu. For the Wisdom of Age Project, contact Dr. Lee at email@example.com.
A four-year public university in Newport News, Virginia, Christopher Newport University enrolls 5,000 students in rigorous academic programs through the College of Arts and Humanities, the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, and the College of Social Sciences including the Luter School of Business. CNU offers great teaching and small classes as well as an emphasis on leadership, civic engagement and honor. For more information about CNU and its programs,
please visit www.cnu.edu.
A four-year public university in Newport News, Virginia, Christopher Newport University enrolls 5,000 students in rigorous academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences through the College of Arts and Humanities, the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, and the College of Social Sciences, including the Luter School of Business. CNU offers great teaching and small class sizes with an emphasis on leadership, civic engagement and honor.
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