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Monmouth Students Complete CSIS Bootcamp

A group of seven Monmouth students (Melissa Badamo ’21, John Papagni, Matthew Cutillo, Bryan Derr, Samantha Walton, James Brodowski, and Jessica Ciarczynski) recently participated in the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Journalism Bootcamp that was held virtually from June 21-25. Working together with mentors at the CSIS iDeas Lab as well as Marina Vujnovic, Ph.D., professor in the department of Communication and faculty adviser of this project, the students conducted original research and published a multimedia article on effects of COVID-19 on urban spaces, with a specific focus on how cities are balancing the needs of pedestrians, drivers, and businesses.

“It was a true honor to be able to serve as a faculty advisor to such smart, dedicated, and engaged students,” said Vujnovic, who expressed gratitude to Honors School Dean Nancy Mezey for her assistance in identifying participants. “I had the pleasure to observe the students first-hand working side-by-side with experts in the field and I was so impressed with their level of engagement, the seriousness with which they approached the topic, and the hard work they’ve put in. I felt that then and I still feel now that Monmouth should be extremely proud of these students. We were the smallest and the youngest group that ever participated in the CSIS Bootcamp and the mentors were so impressed with them that they’ve named them The Magnificent Seven. No doubt, they’ve earned that title.”

The goal of the CSIS Journalism Bootcamp is to provide aspiring journalists with a practical experience centered around multimedia reporting on international affairs in a volatile media landscape. Throughout the week, students interviewed restaurant workers, researched the impact of outdoor dining in New York City, and worked with industry professionals including Nikos Tsafos, interim director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at CSIS.

“Every day, we got to hear from knowledgeable speakers who gave us insight into the journalism field, the process of creating a story, or information about the story we were creating itself,” said Derr, honors student and junior communication major. “The speakers taught us how to properly conduct an interview and ask the right questions before giving us the opportunity to use our newfound skills throughout the week.”

Cutillo, a senior communication student and editor-in-chief of “The Outlook,” added, “Interacting and engaging with individuals who work in professional journalism settings was inspiring. It’s nice, as a communication major, to be able to speak with those who have found fulfilling careers.”

To tackle all angles of this project, Monmouth students were split into teams and assigned a specific focus: story, video, audio, or data visualization. Students then combined these elements to create a comprehensive multimedia article that was published by CSIS.

Badamo, former editor-in-chief for “The Outlook” and current English graduate student at Monmouth, was assigned to the video team, where she was tasked with writing a script, recording a voiceover, gathering B-roll footage, interviewing experts, and editing the project using Adobe Premiere Pro. “I have much more experience with print journalism than other types of media such as audio and video. I never used Adobe Premiere before the bootcamp, so getting acquainted with the program was a great experience,” she said. “’The Outlook’ will become more multimedia-focused as we reinvent our website this fall, so I am looking forward to bringing these skills to the newsroom and beyond as a graduate assistant. Multimedia journalism is so prominent in today’s digital age, so these skills will be extremely beneficial as I pursue a career in journalism.”

Ciarczynski, a senior honors student and communication major with a minor in English, who worked with the audio team, noted, “The bootcamp experience taught me to be more confident as a journalist (and communication professional in general). Going into the week I was nervous, but by the end of it, I acquired technical audio skills, learned how to work on a tight deadline, and I left with many new connections.”

As the sole member of the data visualization team, Walton, a junior honors student majoring in English and minoring in anthropology, was challenged to adapt and learn new focuses, tools, and projects. “The spirit of open and nonjudgmental development during the bootcamp was essential in allowing me to learn these new skills and thrive in a field I never thought to touch. Learning about [data visualization] has renewed my fervor and thirst for knowledge and developing skills and it is a lesson I won’t soon forget.”

She concluded, “I found the whole project to be very rewarding and will carry it with me for the rest of my career.”