JPC and Geological Sciences Classes and their Field Experiences

The College of Arts and Sciences offers our students unique educational experiences, both in and out of the classroom. The College offers interactive, off-campus courses, for example, the Journalism and Public Communications (JPC) course “TV Studio Production”, which regularly meets at the Alaska Public Media studio. The College also offers courses with field trip components, like the "Structural Geology" course that just returned from a field trip to Las Vegas. All CAS students can participate in activities outside of the classroom, like joining one of the 20+ student clubs and organizations. But we also want our students to have access to hands-on, in the field, experiences in the classroom.  

We sat down with John Sharify, Atwood Chair of Journalism and Dr. Simon Kattenhorn, CAS Associate Dean and Professor of Geological Sciences, to discuss these unique classroom experiences.

JPC Class in TV Studio

John Sharify with his class at the AKPM TV Studio

Geology students in Las Vegas on field trip

Dr. Simon Kattenhorn with his students on a field trip to Las Vegas

Can you tell us a little more about the courses and/or field experience?

Sharify: “The TV Studio Production course focuses on professional principles and practices of television studio production. The students learn all about the fundamentals, including set up, operation, equipment, safety, workflow, the team process of studio-based video production, and the aesthetics and use of studio-based video for communication.

Kattenhorn: “The field component is integral to a Geological Sciences education, so the majority of classes that our department offers have some kind of field component. All of our students - in every lab - are taken out to local field locations, and that includes the introductory level classes. The entire curriculum was redesigned about four years ago with an emphasis on getting students into the field earlier. The field experiences help students understand how we look at things in the field, how we collect data and what we do with that data. It comes down to the idea that it is really challenging to teach a geologist to be a geologist without taking them out into the world.

We even take students beyond the local destinations and experiences. For instance, I am taking students in my Structural Geology class down to Las Vegas, to focus on structural geology faults and tectonics.”  

 Production class in the tv studio

John Sharify, this question is for you. Can you tell us about the benefits of taking a course like TV Studio Production?

Sharify: “I’m thrilled that our JPC students get to have ‘real’ world experiences by taking this class.  They’re learning everything you need to know about TV production thanks to the partnership we have with Alaska Public Media and thanks to talented professionals at AKPM, like Valerie Kern. Valerie has been fantastic! The best part is the hands-on training they’re getting. And it has served them well. Because the students have learned so well-the different roles in studio production-they had an opportunity to help with the production of the LIVE gubernatorial and congressional debates. They can now put these shows on their resume and add these two programs to their body of work. They did a great job and I’m proud of them.

As I keep telling them, they’ve had a front row seat to history. And it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Dr. Kattenhorn, in the same vein, what is the benefit and appeal for students to get these field experiences as a part of their education?

Kattenhorn: “These experiences are valuable for students, because no matter how much you try to teach them in a class, until they have to go out and do it themselves they won’t know the hands-on aspects of field geology. Going into the field allows the students to bring everything they’ve learned in the class together in such a way that all of the pieces start to make sense.

Our students may have career goals to work in a GIS environment, or to work in an analytical lab, or they may want to work with geology on other planets. The field experiences allow our program to be accessible to all and to provide a more realistic and diverse range of options for students that really align with their career objectives. They  can enter any area they want, and they are not going to be completely devoid of the field experience needed to make a geological sciences education as rigorous as it can be for them.”

Students in the field in Las Vegas

Any final thoughts on these two unique classroom experiences?

Sharify:  “For me, it’s especially rewarding to see how engaged they are with journalism, storytelling and TV production.  It’s been so much fun for me to watch them put in the hard work and demonstrate, week after week, teamwork. This business is all about teamwork and, if you ask me, they’ve learned that lesson well.”

Kattenhorn: "Students gain so much from experiential, field-based learning. Not only does it reinforce and transcend learnings in the classroom, the students thoroughly enjoy being out in the field, sharing their observations, learnings, and love of geology with each other. As a teacher, field-based instruction is one of the most rewarding experiences for me, too."


Thank you Simon and John for your work! Keep it up!


Please help enrich student experiences in the CAS! To support Seawolf field experiences in geology, journalism, and supplemental experiences in all CAS programs reach out to Dean McNulty or make a financial contribution to the Student Success Support Fund.