SF State News {University Communications}

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Students' video to promote social justice

September 10, 2008 -- For the fifth time in a decade, Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) students traveled abroad to improve their production skills and benefit local communities.

A photo of women weaving in a village in Guatemala.

Women from Trama Textiles, a Guatemalan weaving cooperative, at work.

Professor Betsy Blosser and nine students traveled to Guatemala in June to produce a video that will benefit Trama Textiles, a weaving co-op run by indigenous Mayan women. The video, filmed in the nation's second-largest city of Quetzaltenango, will be produced in Spanish and Mayan with English subtitles to help the organization promote its handmade products abroad. BECA alumna Sonia De La Cruz, now a doctoral candidate at the University of Oregon, directed production for the project. 

"Following the Guatemalan civil war, this group of women banded together and started weaving," Blosser said. "They have modified their traditional products so that they appeal to a Western audience, so they're looking for ways to increase demand for their weavings."

The trip was part of the media and community service class, which focuses on using video for social change and community service. Students enrolled in the class produce videos for Bay Area nonprofits to attract funds, then produce international videos during the summer.

The trips began in 2000 when one of Blosser's students approached her about producing videos about life in Peru. In 2001, Blosser led a group to Peru where the students developed public service announcements for a local nonprofit. BECA students returned to Peru in 2003 before traveling to Brazil in 2005 and Thailand in 2007 to work with local nonprofits.     

Blosser has introduced community service, video production and social change into the class' curriculum. Students pay for their own trips, and return with improved skills and a different outlook on life. 

"I instantly fell in love with Guatemala and the people of Guatemala the second I set foot on their land," student Rai Poquiz said. "I also love being able to communicate and connect with other people, given the huge language barrier between us."

Following the video premiere, Blosser will begin looking for new destinations for future students. She said seeing how her students are changed by the experience keeps her going.

"A student came up to me and said, 'I'm rethinking all of the plans in my life based on what I've seen here,'" Blosser recalled. "I think the students learned a lot more about how people live. It is definitely a transformative experience."  

-- Michael Bruntz


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