Comm Lead students’ final projects tackle everything from cyberbullying to Native American history

In COM 536: Leadership through Story and Community, students are challenged to think creatively. Taught by Anita Verna Crofts, the first installment in the Communication Leadership core curriculum focuses on understanding leadership as an attitudinal, rather than positional, act – one that requires both creativity and storytelling for success. For the final assignment, each student must identify a communication dilemma of their choice and propose a creative solution to that dilemma. In keeping with the course definition of creativity, the solution has to be both novel and useful. This year, five student projects were voted to the top by peers for their thoroughness and ingenuity – explore the finalists’ work below:

CL1“Native Tacoma” by Joe Hunich –

As a coordinator for a Native American Education Program, Hunich has worked for with Native American tribes in the Puget Sound–and the Puyallup tribe in particular–for years. His chosen communication dilemma stemmed from a desire to make visible the presence and legacy of the Puyallup tribe in his hometown of Tacoma, because their stories are often left invisible. Hunich’s project, “Native Tacoma,” twinned a technology—smart phones—with storytelling that aims to educate and elevate the profile of the Puyallup tribe using videos, audio, images, and GPS.  In designing his prototype, Hunich reached out to the Office of Historic Preservation to build a network of support around the project and his mobile app is gaining traction to become a T-Town reality.

CL2“The Janga (Learning) Center” by Isatou Jallow

Jallow grew up in Gambia and moved to the United States for school. Her project looked to bridge the gap that exists for Gambian elementary school students between what they are taught in school and how those lessons are reinforced at home. She dug into research about early-childhood development and explored the relationship between play and learning. Her solution was an after-school program—The Janga Center, or “Learning Center”–that provided a space for students to extend their learning as well as play, and involved parents in ways that build one shared learning community, not just isolated spheres of school and home.

CL3“Have We Cured Deafness?” by Jacob Christensen  –

Christensen’s final project explored Deaf culture and the communication dilemmas present between the hearing and Deaf community. His video “Have We Cured Deafness?” addressed the complex impact of cochlear implants, but more broadly, his project explored larger issues of identity and communication, and what we as a society consider a “disability” that requires a cure. Christensen posed the question, what if we saw ASL as the same as speaking Spanish or another foreign language? More of Christensen’s work:



“Speak Green” by Cara D’Amato –

D’Amato was interested in the relationship between online bullying and empathy, and how one might take the concept of the online crowd—which can often operate as mob mentality—and harness it to be more mindful of the language we use online. Her solution was “Speak Green,” an algorithm-driven program that could be embedded in social media platforms and detect negative speech patterns in postings, increasing sensitivity. For instance, the Speak Green widget would highlight comments in red if they were deemed hurtful, and the platform’s users would have a chance to vote for a change in language to make it supportive, or “green.”


CL5“Seattle GCC” by Albaraa Albairuti  –

Albairuti saw a communication dilemma because he had lived it; as a new international student from Saudi Arabia he arrived to Seattle with next to no support network, and navigated the new culture by trial and error. He wanted to change this experience for others, so he designed an online Arabic-language platform, “Seattle Gulf Cooperation Council,” that would act as a clearinghouse of information for Arabic-speaking international students arriving in Seattle. Read the full story on Albaraa’s project: