Field study gives Shocker students practical experience
What do you get when you cross three grad students from the Elliott School of Communication with 18 undergraduates from the Geology Department and a landscape straight out of a postcard? In elementary school it’s called a field trip. In academia it’s a field study.
That’s just one of the practical opportunities that sets Wichita State University apart.
The group traveled in a convoy of SUVs marked with Wichita State logos through Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin, the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. They spent a week camping, another week in the residence halls at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., and a third week at a field station in the Wyoming wilderness.
The expedition was part of Geology Field Camp, an intensive, four-week capstone course in the Bighorn Basin and Yellowstone region. It was led by husband-and-wife team William Parcell, associate geology professor, and Lisa Parcell, associate professor and director of graduate studies for the Elliott School. Besides the team of Shockers, students from Kansas State University, Virginia Tech and Boston College also participated.
“The purpose of field camp for geology majors is to bring it all together,” said William Parcell, who directed the course. “It was neat to witness a similar purpose for students in the communication field.”
Cross-department collaboration is an important emphasis at Wichita State. Multi-disciplinary approaches give students better real-world experiences.
The advanced course comes towards the end of a student’s tenure. For the geology students, it integrated theoretical classroom lessons with field experience in sedimentology, mineralogy and structural geology, as well as how to map and interpret rocks, which involved critical thinking and communication skills.
For the communication students, the trip offered a chance to shoot video, design brochures and posters, create web content and interview real subjects under deadline conditions. Promotional materials created by the practicum communication course was intended to attract more geology students for Geology Field Camp.
“The Elliott School is expanding opportunities to get students beyond theory and classroom studies to a more practical approach to communication,” Lisa Parcell said. “Taking a class off campus and into the field makes both geology and communication seem more real, tangible and inviting.”
That’s a message WSU’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions is eager to share with incoming students who want more than a traditional educational experience. Field studies can introduce new subjects, ignite passion and inspire students to excel in professional opportunities.
For the Shockers involved in this field study, the experience was also an adventure.
“I had no idea what the experience would be like,” said Jessica Newman, an Elliott School graduate student. “Would I get eaten by a bear? Have the chops to quickly create the materials needed and the strength to hike? The memories and lessons of this practical experience are something I’ll remember for years to come.”