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Student Study Abroad Magazine Claims 3 National Awards

Journalism major Carlo Holmberg ’19 in Guatemala during a 2017 interim trip. Students used photos and journalistic stories from the trip to produce and design the national-award-winning Textura magazine. (Photo Credit: Morgan Peterson ’17)

“We either didn’t place at all, or we won.” That was the prevailing thought Callie Schmidt ’18 had as judges at the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) National College Media Convention slowly revealed 10 Best of Show Feature Magazine recipients, starting with tenth place and agonizingly working their way to the top. Schmidt, news editor of Bethel’s student paper, The Clarion, and her colleague Kendall Soderstrom ’18, design manager, had traveled to Dallas, Texas, to attend the annual convention and competition October 25–29 as Clarion staffers. But they had also brought a different publication—one they thought had a fighting chance of claiming a Best of Show victory.

The publication was Textura, a magazine Schmidt and Soderstrom helped create during their 2017 J-Term trip to Antigua, Guatemala. The trip—a cross-departmental collaboration between Bethel’s journalism and graphic design programs—gave journalism students the opportunity to practice courageous storytelling, design students the chance to study and incorporate local art styles into a magazine layout, and all students hands-on experience as photojournalists. Students from other disciplines—like music and computer science—also found ways to flex their unique skill sets, like creating a website to promote the magazine and trip.

Soderstrom and Schmidt submitted Textura for consideration in the ACP Best of Show competition upon their arrival in Dallas—feeling hopeful, but uncertain about what to expect. Two days later, when the judges announced Textura as the top Feature Magazine submission, both students jumped out of their seats. “We were very proud of Textura, so we really wanted that to shine through,” Schmidt says. “Getting that external recognition for a job well done was really rewarding.”

It was one of three major victories the publication received in October. The University & College Designers Association (UCDA) also granted Textura awards of Excellence in the Magazine (Complete Unit) and Student Classroom Work or Assignments categories at the 2017 Design Competition. The publication was displayed at the UCDA design conference October 7–10 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Associate Professor of Design Jessica Henderson says these national achievements acknowledge both the passion that her students had for the project and the hard work they put into it. “It was really, from the beginning, a tremendous group of students who were driven and interested,” she says. “They wanted to learn more, meet new people, get out of their comfort zone, understand a different perspective—and I think that really came out in the quality of their work.” Henderson says the Magazine (Complete Unit) Excellence award in particular is a testament to the students’ design achievements, as the category most frequently attracts submissions from professional offices within academia rather than student work.

Schmidt believes the project drew its outstanding quality from the focus that she and her classmates put on authentically sharing about Guatemala. “We tried to do each story justice, and we tried to spend as much time as possible with our sources—getting to know them on a deeper level,” she says. That rings true from a design perspective, too. Graphic designer Mattie Kidder ’18 says she and other designers on the trip paid close attention to “even the smallest of details,” when roaming the streets of Guatemala to “develop a design aesthetic that portrayed the culture,” in a truthful way.

From a production standpoint, the project’s successes depended largely on support from the wider Bethel community. Even though the total cost of the J-Term trip—including printing the magazine—came in under budget, Henderson acknowledges that the magazine was pricy to assemble. “The study abroad office and deans had so much support for this project,” she says. “It turned out because people were willing to make it turn out.” Those people included Bethel President Jay Barnes, whom Assistant Professor of Journalism Scott Winter credits with making the trip possible in the first place. “It’s the kind of hands-on experience that he wants a Bethel education to be all about,” Winter says.

But more than crediting the excellence of the J-Term trip, these three awards showcase the strength of both the journalism and design programs as a whole and their tradition of creating value-enhancing experiences for students. For example, The Clarion has taken first, first, and fourth at the ACP convention’s Best of Show competition in its category for the past three years, respectively. This year, The Clarion staffers also entered their website for consideration and placed in the top 10 of the Website Small School category for the first time.

Henderson says she hopes all of her graphic design students will graduate with a finished project like Textura to show prospective employers—and as Bethel continues to support and encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, that hope may quickly turn into a reality. Henderson and Winter plan to facilitate another J-Term trip in 2020—likely to Ethiopia, India, Nepal, or Sri Lanka. For J-Term 2019, Associate Professor of Journalism Yu-Li Chang Zacher and Professor of Nursing Kristin Sandau are proposing to lead a similarly innovative trip to Taiwan, where students of any major can study “Justice in Healthcare and Culture.” The Department of Art and Design has begun to investigate ways that art students and psychology and kinesiology students can benefit from shared studies.

“Bethel talks about educating whole and holy persons, and that’s not just a pious phrase,” says Wayne Roosa, university professor of art and department chair. “A journalist tells a story, an artist makes a picture but the picture’s also a story, and journalism creates an image. So it’s richer, it’s better, it’s more truthful, and that’s what we find when we collaborate with any group—it makes for wholeness, for connectedness. [Textura] is a shining example of why the liberal arts matter.”

Learn more about Bethel’s journalism and design programs. 

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