SMU students in Washington to cover presidential inauguration

SMU students are in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration, working as journalists and communicators.

Washington D. C.

By Sarah Hanan
SMU News

Twenty-one SMU students are in Washington, D.C., where they not only are participating in Inaugural events but also working as journalists and communicators.

The group of communication studies and journalism students are in the nation’s capital as part of the Meadows School of the Arts’ Hilltop on the Hill program. Endowed by the Bauer Foundation, the program takes students studying political communication to political party conventions, the Presidential Inauguration and the G8 Economic Summit.

“This is the fifth time we have attended an Inauguration since 1996,” says Rita Kirk, professor of communication studies, director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, and founder of the Hilltop on the Hill program.

Kirk is leading the trip with Daniel Schill, assistant professor of communication studies, and Carolyn Barta, journalism professor. “We want the students to learn about D.C., meet alumni who are thriving in D.C., learn the political ropes and consider the wide range of career opportunities available there,” Kirk says.

During their four-day trip, the students will volunteer at Texas State Society's Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball, visit media and government sites, and meet with policy analysts, political communicators and journalists, in addition to SMU alumni. The group plans to watch President Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony from the Mall and from ticketed seats.

Marc Bullard, a sophomore communication studies major, says he's looking forward to experiencing the energy and "general chaos" in Washington this weekend. "For someone interested in political communication, this entire trip is something akin to being a ball boy at Wimbledon," he says. "We will be on the sidelines watching some of the biggest political players in the country. This trip to Washington also brings a wave of reality to my studies. Seeing the political world up-close and meeting the many alumni in D.C., we can see what life after SMU will look like."

The five journalism students are reporting on the weekend’s events online at, in the print edition of The Daily Campus and on The Daily Update on SMU TV. They are submitting stories, blogs, photos, videos and Skype reports, and are Tweeting using the hashtag #SMUinDC.

“This is a learning experience not just for the five students on the trip, but also for the student editors and news directors back home on campus, who will be assigning, coordinating, editing, directing and producing,” Barta says. “An opportunity such as this enables students to work across platforms and to be involved on both sides of journalism, producing content and delivering it to the readers and viewers.”

Meanwhile, the communication studies students will be working during the Inauguration on social media for the project A Thousand Artists. Sponsored by a nonprofit arts service organization, A Thousand Artists is promoting art-making of all types on the Mall during the Inaugural festivities.

“We will be Tweeting, writing Facebook stories, and making video clips to promote their work,” Kirk says.

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