Network, College of Communications team up for wider outreach

As researchers from around the world are coming together this week for the fourth annual Penn State Child Maltreatment Solutions Network conference, Penn State College of Communications students will be helping to further the discussion.

This past spring, the college began a translational communications collaboration with the Network, where students have gotten involved to help communicate the purpose and findings of the conference to a wider audience.

Spearheaded by College of Communications Dean Marie Hardin, the initial plan was to produce one video about the Network, but the collaboration has expanded to two videos, a blog, news coverage and live tweeting at the conference on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

“Our faculty can make unique contributions to initiatives such as the Network because of the skills, experience and expertise they have in translating scientific research into effective public messages and campaigns,” Hardin said. “This partnership, which has also involved our students, is exciting because of the impact it will have.”

About a dozen students have participated over the past two semesters, some for college credit and others just to gain experience while working for a good cause.

“This collaboration has given our students a chance to gain hands-on experience in a multifaceted project,” College of Communications senior lecturer Boaz Dvir said. “They work individually and in small groups on a variety of industry tasks such as filming interviews, conducting research and blogging about the great work the Network is doing. I’m thankful to Dean Hardin and Network leaders Jennie Noll and Susan McHale for having the vision to create such a wonderful opportunity for our students.”

Dvir has worked as an adviser to the involved students, who represent all of the different majors in the College of Communications. He said that some students who completed independent studies in the spring have continued to be involved on their free time “because they value it.”

In addition to helping spread the work, the students themselves are learning more about the Network’s mission and how they can help. This year’s conference is exploring the biology behind child maltreatment, which can translate into applicable strategies for diminishing and reversing its negative effects.

“Until child maltreatment is eradicated, we will be fighting, pledging to abolish it. Students working in different fields are likely to come in contact with this issue, and it is important they know what they can do,” said Sandee Kyler, the assistant director of the Network. “It is everyone’s responsibility.”

Senior journalism student Taylor Clayton has been blogging about this year’s conference, where she writes about Penn State’s effort to advance research in child protection from a first-person perspective.

“This research being done is incredible,” Clayton said. “More people need to learn about it.”

Clayton and other students will be live tweeting from the conference using the hashtag #PennStateChildProtectionConf. Clayton hopes her work will leave a positive impact on the University community and beyond.

For more information about the conference, visit the Network’s website.