Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

November 11, 2013

Students from Ball State University’s immersive learning experience BSU at the Games are preparing to pack up their newsroom and head to Russia, for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

Twenty-four students will have the opportunity to gain experience in journalism, telecommunications, photojournalism, public relations and graphic design by providing behind-the-scenes coverage of the winter international competition through BSU at the Games, which serves as a student-managed news agency.

This innovative immersive learning opportunity allows students to interact with Olympic athletes and work alongside national media outlets to produce news coverage in addition to their own reporting.

“The Olympic coverage this year will be a mixture of social issues, sports culture and what we experience as a part of the Russian lifestyle,” said Ryan Sparrow, project director and journalism instructor. “There are going to be a lot of hot topics addressed during the games, and our students are going to have the opportunity to break the news at the same time as other media outlets or hopefully even before.”

During their visit, students will stay on cruise ships near the official Olympic competition grounds. Sochi is on the coast of the Black Sea in southwest Russia.

Students are using fall semester to prepare for the trip before traveling to Sochi from Feb. 7-23. Members of BSU at the Games recently attended the United States Olympic Committee Team USA National Media Summit in Park City, Utah.

"During the last media summit, we found that we could fill a real niche in the types of different stories that are covered,” Sparrow said. "The media summit conveys to journalism students that this the real deal and that the athletes are nice people, all while they are standing next to a reporter from The New York Times, Sports Illustrated or any other national media outlet.”

Journalism major Matt McKinney, a junior from Brazil, Ind., will be a sports reporter at the games.

“This is a great experience for us to be able to be here and be immersed with the other media outlets because we are doing the same thing that they are doing,” McKinney said. “It’s the best way we could be preparing for the real world right now.”

In addition to the students going to Russia, another five to eight will work in Chicago for the Chicago Tribune, producing news graphics for the newspaper. Several students will remain on campus to handle media relations, edit content and maintain the website.

BSU at the Games made its debut at the London 2012 Olympics. More than 250 student-produced stories, news graphics, photos and videos were featured in major news outlets such as the Huffington Post, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune.

“The London 2012 Olympic Games taught us a lot, created a solid following on social media and opened a lot of doors that are still available for us in Sochi,” Sparrow said. “We are always looking for more opportunities to work with media outlets, but it’s great to know that the quality of work we presented in London was so memorable that they’re looking to us for Sochi, as well.

“The experience the students gained from participating in the London event has led to several graduating with job offers in their communications field. We believe our Olympic project provides students with the skills that employers are looking to add to their staffs.”

Additional program instructors include Colleen Steffen, journalism instructor and features team adviser; Adam Kuban, journalism professor and sports team adviser; and Suzy Smith, telecommunications professor and video team adviser.

Fans may follow the road to Sochi through the eyes of the students on social media through Twitter at @bsuatthegames and at The project’s website,, will have original stories, blogs and photos.