Strat Comm Instructor Virtually Recreates Study Abroad Trip

By Margaux Nersesian, Strategic Communication major, Class of 2021

This summer, Instructor Stephen Levering and his TCU Strategic Communication students faced the difficult circumstances that COVID-19 presented head on by embracing the new virtual format. The Strategic Communication elective course, STCO 32502 Images, was originally scheduled to take place in London during the study abroad program “Strategic Communication in London and Paris” this June. Although Levering and his students were thoroughly disappointed in the cancellation of the abroad program, Instructor Levering was still determined to provide his students with an enriching learning experience and virtually recreate the London trip as best he could.

To bring the London experience to his students virtually, Levering explains that “During many of the discussions, I linked to specific London landmarks or museums. Sometimes we used YouTube videos to experience things vicariously and other times we used the Google Arts & Culture site to visit virtually.” Students praise Instructor Levering for his efforts to make the most of their virtual learning while sharing the London culture. Kendall Brown says, “Professor Levering was great, even though we could not study abroad, because he created assignments that still allowed us to explore London culture a little bit. Like, recreating the image challenge and giving us a link to a virtual tour of London museums.” Fellow classmate Vy Dang agrees. She says, “Professor Levering is my favorite in our department. He is so nice, kind, and creative. Although we were really far away from the U.K., he still tried his best to bring and give everyone in the class the feeling that we were in the U.K. to visit the street as well as observing all the paintings from the museum in the most realistic way. He showed us a lot of videos, images, photos and projects about different topics for us to visualize what was going on and happening to keep up our imagination and let us think that we were actually there.”

One project that became a favorite among students and was highlighted on the Schieffer College Instagram page was the Getty Photo Challenge assignment. This spring, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles prompted people to recreate the museum’s artwork using items they had at home as a fun quarantine activity. The challenge gained popularity and allowed people to interact and engage with the museum’s artwork while stuck at home. Inspired by The Getty, Instructor Levering put his own twist on this challenge by having his students choose artwork from the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which houses art they would have been able to see in person had they been in London. The students picked artwork they were drawn to and thought they could recreate best using their at-home resources.

Students found this project engaging and unique and allowed them to look at the artwork through a different lens. Brown, who recreated Noel Desenfans and Sir Francis Bourgeois by Paul Sandby, explains that “it was an engaging way to get us looking through lots of photos and studying the details to see what we could use. If I hadn’t had to recreate it, I probably would’ve glanced over many of the details.”

Both Brown and Dang were shocked by the difficulty of this challenge. Dang explains her process for making her nearly perfect replication of Luis del Mazo by Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo “so I really pay attention to each and every little detail. I had to think of what outfit I needed to wear as well as find the closest background like how it was in the drawing. As I remembered, I retook about 50 images to find the perfect shot, in my opinion.”

While there have been many changes in the world due to the pandemic and the world’s response to it, many people are finding the silver linings in spite of these disruptions. Brown reflected on one positive aspect of the course being moved online, explaining “I might not have had as many resources in London physically as I do online. Being able to see details up close by Zooming in was definitely helpful and not something you can always do in a museum.”

This virtual experience has made both Brown and Dang even more excited to visit London in person in the future because they got a unique glimpse at the country through Instructor Levering’s guidance.