Julia Cumes, a graduate student in visual and interactive communications (VIC), rarely finds reminders of her native South Africa in Syracuse. That changed when she was working on a photography project in a local community and met a 97-year-old resident reading a philosophy book by former South African president Nelson Mandela. Cumes and the woman bonded instantly, and the woman became her photo subject.

Last October, Cumes was one of 28 advanced photography students who spent three days documenting life in Elbridge, a small community outside Syracuse. The Syracuse Newspapers featured the students’ work in a weekly pullout section last November. "It’s fashionable today to bash the media," says VIC professor Mark Dolan, who helped supervise the project. "This project gives students and people in the community a concrete example of the positive effects the media can have."

With financial support from the University’s Vision Fund, the project—the brainchild of VIC professor David Sutherland—has expanded and will include the creation of a web site and a magazine.

                                                            julia cumes photo
A resident of a supportive living community for seniors in Elbridge, New York, holds a photo of her housemate's great-granddaughter.

Students will photograph community life in another small town this fall, and multimedia classes will post the photographs online. Graphics classes will use the photos to create a magazine for students, professionals, and the community during the spring 2001 semester. The project aims to have students work together and raise awareness of Newhouse programs. "It’s the perfect bridge for them creating something tangible," says graphics instructor Sherri Taylor.

Project organizers hope to have editors from The New York Times and National Geographic on hand this fall to share their expertise while students shoot photographs. "The students get to know important people in the business, and the important people in the business get to know us," Sutherland says.

Novice and experienced photographers alike say they have benefited from the field experience. Emilie Sommer ’00, a photojournalism major, landed an extra assignment when photographing a soccer game. A soccer player approached Sommer, announcing it was her sixth birthday. That afternoon, Sommer photographed the girl blowing out candles on her Barbie birthday cake. "I still get letters and e-mails from the people I met. That’s the nice part of it," Sommer says. "And you are giving people something to hang on their refrigerator."
                                                                                              —STACEY FELSEN



Information management isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when the nursing field is mentioned, but it plays a vital role in the proper care of patients. Prompted by the increasing use of new technologies to keep track of the myriad data each patient generates, the College of Nursing developed a certificate program in informatics–a blend of computer, information, and nursing sciences that maximizes a nurse’s ability to keep patients healthy.

The state Department of Education recently approved a proposal for the graduate program, which is being developed by professors Eileen Lantier and Bobbie Harris. "It’s important that students understand how information and computer sciences can interface with nursing science to provide better care for clients," Lantier says, "whether that involves teaching clients to take care of themselves, helping them evaluate their own health, or providing supportive care in an institution or hospital."

In addition to viewing interaction with clients from a therapeutic standpoint, Lantier says, nursing students should intuitively consider the importance of gathering data on those clients. "Nurses may collect 400 different data points–pieces of information–about their patients in a day," she says. "We can take those data points and process them, through computer and information sciences, to answer such questions as which particular nursing strategies were most helpful, which were not helpful, and why."

Lantier says once the informatics program is implemented, it will deal with the basics of information technology, preparing nurses to both use and develop information systems. "I look at nursing informatics from two fronts," she says. "One is how we prepare beginning nurses to enter the health care domain with strong technological skills. The other is using technology as a tool in education–a way to involve students right away with the notion that technology is part of everyday life." Lantier does this in her current undergraduate classes, where students read the online version of The Washington Post health section for four weeks, selecting three interesting topics each week. They then choose three of those topics and research them through medical journals. "It engages students in the world of information, and they see what the general public is reading about, what the health concerns are," Lantier says. "These are the issues citizens want information on and nurses need to be informed about." Lantier also uses electronic bulletin boards for her classes, allowing students to post messages that can be read by all. E-mail is used for those concerns best addressed in private.

Using such technologies may be second nature for avid computer users, but not necessarily for nursing students, she adds. "Anybody can use a computer, but the important thing is, how can it help you as a nurse? And how can you translate that into better care, better preparedness, when you interact with the public?"
                                                                                                                                       —GARY PALLASSINO

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