Syracuse University School of Information Studies senior Aaron Quiah ’11 said he has learned a lot about applying technology and policy to problems through his semester-long projects at the iSchool. However, this semester in IST 400 Digital Content Creation for Communities, he gained something more.

“Usually, we are simulating environments and developing solutions to theoretical problems,” he said. “In this course, we can actually see the impact our work is having. You feel a sense of fulfillment after it’s done.”

Quiah and his project partner Yan Huang G’12, a student in the M.S. in information management, created a web site for, and video about the Determination Center of CNY, an agency that provides after-school and evening programs for children and teens in Syracuse’s Near Westside. They officially handed over the materials to the organizations during public presentations in their final class meeting on December 7.

They were one of four student teams who worked on digital content in iSchool Prof. Marilyn Arnone’s course, which was developed with funding from an Imagining America grant. The Imagining America (IA): Artists and Scholars in Public Life Grant supports new courses that allow students and faculty to collaborate with the community in developing innovative solutions to local issues.

Staff members at SU’s Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service (CPCS) helped match the student teams with community partners.

“This is one of our favorite courses to work with,” said Associate Vice President for Engagement and CPCS Director Pamela Kirwin Heintz. “Our community partners really value these materials the students develop and they can then use them for marketing and promotion. And I fully suspect that the organizations have made a contribution to the students as well.”

The team of Heather Drost ’10 and Jamie Arkin ’12 also created video for the Determination Center, with their focus on its founder Bettie Graham. “We wanted to learn more about Bettie because she’s doing some amazing stuff at the center,” Drost said. “This is probably the best class I’ve taken at the iSchool, and I like that our work doesn’t just end with the class. It can help the organizations even after we’ve graduated.”

Arkin said the project also challenged her to merge her creative vision with the ideas of her partner and the organization itself. “We really learned a lot,” she said.

The student teams worked with the Brady Faith Center and the North Side Learning Center, and developed videos that shared stories about the community agencies and ended with a call for support for these non-profits.

When graduate students Julia Allis G’12 and Kristen Link G’11 met with North Side co-founder and SU School of Education Director of the OnCampus Program Yusuf Soule, they heard the organization’s needs clearly stated: “They need to get the word out so that people know who they are, and they needed support—both financial and in terms of volunteers,” Allis said. “We created digital media to answer those needs.”

“What I think is really impressive about the students’ work is that these community projects represent only part of their creations this semester,” Arnone said. “They also created ePortfolio and digital media toolkits. I think they’ve done a terrific job.”

To view the students’ work this semester and last spring, check out: