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Students take a bite of the Big Apple with KEY trip

October 28, 2019

KOKOMO, Ind. –  Before she toured NBC Studios at Rockefeller Plaza, Taylor Smith had never considered working in broadcasting.

She returned from an Indiana University Kokomo-sponsored trip to New York City ready for a career behind the scenes in television production.

“After seeing everything at NBC, I’m really interested in that field, which is one I’d never thought of before,” said Smith, from Fairmount. “This trip planted the idea of a lot of job opportunities I never saw before, and ideas how to get there. I saw that New York isn’t too much for people from small midwestern towns. We can do what we want, and follow what we want to do.”

Smith was among about 50 students in communication, history and political science, and new media, art, and technology (NMAT) who spent five days exploring potential careers in their fields in New York City, as part of the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program. The program’s goal is to provide students chances to connect with people and participate in real-world experiences. 

The trip also featured a networking dinner with nearly a dozen IU alumni, including Jillian Sixsmith-Cox, coordinator of ticket operations for the New York Mets; J.D. Biersdorfer, New York Times staff editor; and Luke Hollingsworth, workday senior analyst at Walmart eCommerce.

Students visited art galleries in Chelsea, toured the United Nations, viewed masterpieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, traveled on the Metro, experienced the 911 Museum and Ellis Island, and saw the Statue of Liberty up close, among other activities. The group was led by Mark Canada, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, Todd Bradley, associate professor of political science, and Minda Douglas, associate professor of fine arts. 

Adrian Gazcon, an NMAT major from Logansport, plans to change how he approaches his own artwork after seeing work by his favorite artist, Jean-Michel Baquiat, at the Guggenheim.

“I already knew what his artwork was, but seeing it in person changed my whole experience,” he said. “He expressed his own life experience through his art. It’s given me ideas of how I can put my own experience and how I view things into my work, so people can learn from my experiences.”

Seeing the success of other artists inspired him to continue his own art.

“You can see from their example that if you work hard enough, you can do what they are doing,” he said.

Marcus Pruitt, from Topeka, participated as part of Bradley’s Model United Nations class, and appreciated the opportunity to tour U.N. Headquarters. He was especially impressed to see the meeting rooms used by the security council and the economic and social council.

In addition, he said it was interesting to experience the culture of New York City, with the diversity of the population, the languages spoken, and the opportunities available.

“I found a lot of the stereotypes are incorrect,” he said. “The people were nicer than I expected, and it was easier to get around than I thought it would be.”

For Douglas, the trip was an opportunity to expose students to some of the best artwork in the world, through visiting museums and galleries and giving them a glimpse of life in a big city. 

“They were pretty immersed in art, both in the museums and on the streets,” she said. “We saw public art everywhere, sculptures and murals. They came up with lots of inspiration for their own future work.” 

A smaller group also met with the owner of a design agency.

“He talked about what he looks for in employees, what skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the field of design, and showed them projects they had done with clients,” Douglas said. “He was able to look at their portfolios and give them honest feedback on what they should work on. That was really impactful.”

Bradley wanted students to see the potential careers available to them with a degree in history and political science, that they might not have seen closer to home.

“We planted seeds for them to consider jobs in politics, or more specifically, in diplomacy at the international level,” he said.

A personal highlight for him was building relationships with students.

“As we all traveled and spent time together, we find out more about them, why they came to IU Kokomo, and their experiences,” he said. That connection makes it likely students will seek him out when they need career advice or a listening ear in the future.

Students paid less than $300 for the trip, which was funded by the KEY program. The program offers authentic learning experiences for students, starting with a supportive freshman learning community, and including travel, internships, connecting with people who work in their field, researching with faculty, and more.

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

Last updated: 10/29/2019