So thrilled were they with their experience from the fall 2018 semester course Dateline Silicon Valley that six Lehigh students persuaded their professor, Jack Lule, chair, department of journalism and communication, into extending the class into the spring semester.
The on-campus work speaks beyond an internship—the students are producing and distributing multimedia material like a well-oiled public relations team to help the communication efforts of the Lehigh@NasdaqCenter and partner the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, both in San Francisco.
Launched in January 2017, the Lehigh@NasdaqCenter delivers high-impact immersive learning experiences, offering a West Coast campus extension for Lehigh students based in one of the most active startup panoramas in the world.
Dateline Silicon Valley is another Lehigh example of building an academic bridge from Bethlehem to the resources and alumni in the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem.
“It would be a shame to stop now that the semester is over,” said Carina Bonasera ’19, a science writing major. “We know the voice and the content they are looking for.”
The experiential learning that Bonasera, Kendall Coughlin ’19, Kelli Frank ’19, Jessica Hicks ’19, Diana Nicholas ’19, and Lindsey Taub ’19 are receiving stems from a concept sparked by entrepreneur Craig Gordon ’76, founder and managing director, Blueshift Research. While touring the media studio at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, Gordon imagined Lehigh students utilizing the facility to gain experience and build portfolio samples while helping the center capture and distribute the content being created through their educational seminars and high-profile speaker events.
An adjunct professor in Lehigh’s journalism department, Gordon spoke to Lule about the possibility. Lule, Gordon and Samantha Dewalt, managing director of the Lehigh@NasdaqCenter, developed the boutique class that included regular interactions with entrepreneurs, business leaders and alumni on the West Coast. The syllabus also included a field trip to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley for days of interviews and production at the Nasdaq studios.
“This is time for students to put something on their resumes that looks impressive. I think all six of them did that,” said Gordon. “I think this is a great example of Lehigh innovating in a course where there is nothing like it anywhere in the country. The enthusiasm was unbelievable. You want that at any experience you have at any university.”
Keeping the journalism curriculum current to prepare students with the latest media and communications skills needed for the workforce, Lule knew the interactive course would not only benefit the students and the centers that they were working for, but the entrepreneurs who were being featured and the audiences absorbing the content.
“Our students are our best ambassadors, and I know that everyone who worked with them were incredibly impressed by their talents,” said Lule. “I could not say ‘No’ to keeping the class going. As a continuation of our fall work, the students will be doing research, conducting interviews, and writing news stories and blog posts about personalities and companies in the Silicon Valley.”
Officially called “Lehigh@Nasdaq Media Fellows,” the six students’ majors span the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and Economics, and the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. The interdisciplinary mix works well in producing a breadth of media content that is dispensed on multiple platforms from both centers.
“The media fellows report on programs and events at the center, interview featured entrepreneurs and produce multi-media stories across a range of platforms about the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship,” said Dewalt. “We work together to select projects the students are excited about and ones that will benefit both Lehigh and Nasdaq Center communities.”
Targeting aspiring and current entrepreneurs and the Lehigh community, the media fellows created webpages and fueled existing social media vehicles, including blog posts, the Nasdaq Center Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and Twitter and Instagram accounts with interviews, stories, videos, and related articles and resources. Faces of Entrepreneurship is an example that features weekly interviews with entrepreneurs, including Lehigh students, alumni and professors.
Kelli Frank ’19, a computer science and engineering major, worked as a programming intern for OSIsoft in San Leandro, California, the summer before the Dateline Silicon Valley class. Constantly looking to stay updated and learn more about technology in the Silicon Valley area, she said the Dateline course was an opportunity to continue to work with technology in a completely different field.
“I learned so much seeing the more human side of a lot of the business and technology that is going on,” said Frank of her experience working in communications.
Diana Nicholas ’19, a marketing major with an entrepreneurship minor, also completed a summer internship in the business operations department at vArmour in Mountain View, California.
“After spending my summer working in Silicon Valley, it was refreshing to return to Lehigh and work on a cross-functional team of six extremely motivated individuals. Working with four journalism students and a software engineering student to produce content for Lehigh@NasdaqCenter, I learned so many things outside of my discipline,” said Nicholas. “I also learned more about my abilities to write in the Dateline Silicon Valley class than in any other class offered to me at Lehigh. I am so thankful for this out-of-classroom opportunity and all the new skills it’s given me.”
Dewalt said that during the semester, she and the Nasdaq Center team were “blown away” at the quality content the students were producing. She is looking forward to the media fellows helping with launching a new website and working on Lehigh@NasdaqCenter marketing and communications strategies to promote programs such as the Start-Up Academy that is gearing up for its second cohort of students in summer 2019.
“The magic of the Lehigh@NasdaqCenter partnership is where the academic and professional worlds collide. Our students have access to real-world opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have, and at the same time, the Center is getting great value from the work of incredibly talented students,” said Dewalt.
A pinnacle of the fall class included a four-day trip to the San Francisco Bay Area where the media fellows met with prominent Lehigh alumni, entrepreneurs and industry leaders. At the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center media studio that originally inspired Gordon, the six students gained reporting and on-camera experience by interviewing entrepreneurial business leaders, including Lehigh and Nasdaq leadership.
Gordon, who has a history of philanthropically supporting the departments of journalism and marketing, funded the trip and said the students had “access to great people” and were impressive themselves.
“It was not just the students getting this great experience from the entrepreneurs, but on the flip side, the entrepreneurs were really impressed by the Lehigh students,” he said.
Other trip agenda items included attending the guest lecture of Brynne Kennedy, founder and CEO, Topia, whose presentation was being broadcast live from the Lehigh@NasdaqCenter classroom to the Entrepreneurship and Enterprise class taught on the Lehigh campus by Dale Falcinelli, professor of practice, department of management.
“Lehigh’s close partnership with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco has raised the bar for entrepreneurship education by bringing Silicon Valley ecosystem players into the classroom,” said Falcinelli.
Special meet and greets were arranged that included receiving career advice from Audrey Cooper, the first female editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Chronicle. The students traveled by train to San Jose to Adobe Systems, Inc., and met with Ann Lewnes ’83 ’22P, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, who spoke about the value of her Lehigh journalism education and succeeding as a woman in Silicon Valley. Recent Lehigh global studies and journalism graduate Nadine Elsayed ’18, marketing communications specialist, shared her journey from Lehigh to her first job at Adobe.
Jessica Hicks ’19, a journalism and sociology/anthropology double major with a marketing minor, said the trip to San Francisco was a great opportunity to use the skills she acquired through the class in a real professional setting.
“The trip itself taught us to be jacks-of-all trades—we conducted studio interviews, helped run social media accounts, networked with Lehigh alumni and figureheads from the Silicon Valley, and kept up with our responsibilities back on campus,” said Hicks. “It was also a way for us to step outside of our everyday routines and become comfortable being uncomfortable in a new environment.”
Since the trip coincided with the San Francisco launch of GO: the Campaign for Lehigh, the students attended the Oct. 27 event at The Legion of Honor and had another opportunity to network with alumni.
Kendall Coughlin ’19, a journalism major and marketing minor, is pleased the course has been extended to the spring semester.
“Dateline Silicon Valley was unlike any class I have ever taken throughout my four years at Lehigh. I had the opportunity to interview CEOs, venture capitalists, and some of the brightest minds in Silicon Valley,” she said. “I am eternally grateful to Craig Gordon for making this class a reality and serving as a mentor for myself and the other media fellows throughout the semester. I cannot thank him enough for making it possible to travel to San Francisco and visit the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center and to explore Silicon Valley. We had the privilege of meeting and working with incredible people."
Story by Dawn Thren ’21P