The impact of public media to be featured in conference with higher ed leaders

Two WPSU proposals have been selected for the 2020 Engagement Scholarship Consortium Virtual Meeting

WPSU senior producer Lindsey Whissel Fenton interviews someone for the public media station's "Speaking Grief" documentary. Credit: John DavisAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two WPSU proposals that showcase the role and impact public media can have in local communities and beyond have been included as part of an international conference that includes presentations from higher education leaders from around the country.

The Outreach and Engagement Practitioners Network will host its virtual meeting on Monday, Oct. 19, as part of the 2020 Engagement Scholarship Consortium Virtual Meeting. The meeting will examine ways that engaged institutions can leverage existing partnerships, create new relationships and lead outreach efforts to improve the quality of life for members of their communities.

The two proposals from WPSU Penn State — central Pennsylvania’s public media station and a Penn State Outreach service — showcase how outreach and engagement efforts made by the public media station can help serve the needs of central Pennsylvanians and beyond.

The proposals are:

  • "Addressing the Inequality of Broadband Access for Rural Pennsylvania Schools: A cross-sector partnership between PBS, Penn State University, and K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic”
  • “Speaking Grief: Leveraging the Power of Public Media to Create Societal Change.”

WPSU, along with the College of Education’s Penn State Center for Science and the Schools (CSATS), partnered with three rural Intermediate Units to address the needs of schools that serve underserved and under-resourced populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is developing a pilot project utilizing an open-source platform to deliver education materials to learners who do not have access to the internet.

Media internet speeds across most areas of Pennsylvania do not meet the FCC’s criteria as a broadband connection, according to a research study conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania with Penn State.

Amanda Smith, Penn State assistant professor of education and STEM outreach and engagement liaison for CSATS, said her team’s proposal can deliver critical resources for school children in those areas.

“We envision a long-term plan to impact K-12 schoolchildren who are underserved, underrepresented and lack broadband access,” Smith said. “They are in need of resources to reinforce and enhance their remote learning experiences, especially if many schools must move to hybrid or full remote models due to the pandemic.”

For the second proposal, the WPSU multi-platform public media initiative “Speaking Grief” explores the reality of grief and offers guidance on how people can do a better job supporting those who are grieving. The initiative includes a documentary, a website with resources on grief and grief support, a social media campaign and community engagement events, all aimed at starting a national conversation about grief.

The virtual meeting’s presentation will demonstrate the impact public media can have on important societal issues, according to WPSU senior producer Lindsey Whissel Fenton, who produced, directed and wrote the film.

“The success of this project has been the result of relationship building and strong, sustained collaboration with grief organizations throughout the country, as well as University faculty,” she said. “Those collaborative efforts between engaged institutions and public media stations can translate new knowledge into meaningful stories that reach diverse audiences and have a profound impact.”

The “Speaking Grief” documentary has aired on 82 percent of public media stations across the country. A Facebook Live documentary premiere that included a Q&A session with members of the grief community drew nearly 14,000 people, and the following two-week limited documentary release resulted in more than 40,000 total views.

WPSU-TV serves one of the largest geographic coverage areas in the nation, reaching 515,000 households in 24 counties of central Pennsylvania. WPSU-FM serves more than 450,000 listeners in 13 counties.

Visit the WPSU website for more information about central Pennsylvania’s public media station.

Last Updated October 21, 2020