Communication Connection

Friends of Com Newsletter

Department News

Seahawks Soar with WingSpan

Monday, December 21, 2015

By Becca Griffin

Dr. Jennifer Brubaker, UNCW Department of Communication Studies, is no stranger to applied learning projects, and wanted to come up with one the university would approve for additional funding. In the fall semester of 2015, Dr. Brubaker’s COM 351: Media and Politics class created WingSpan, a political television show with each student playing a role in one major area of the production.

With each project that Dr. Brubaker does, she tries to go bigger than before. “Since this one was Media and Politics, I wanted something media focused.” A political television show perfectly combined elements of both subjects.

How does the idea of a TV show become a tangible product? Dr. Brubaker started by finding someone who would oversee the studio. A student, doing a directed independent study supervised by COM Studies professor David Pernell, would run the WingSpan studio. Next, she began breaking down responsibilities and coming up with what her students would need to do, and from there the show took off. “It has been just a living organism throughout the semester,” Dr. Brubaker said. With a little luck, and a lot of planning, students experienced WingSpan.

WingSpan was not just a class project, it was an experience, and it completely exceeded expectations. When asked what she wanted for students to get out of the project, Dr. Brubaker responded, “just seeing how this experience, how it ties together the things that they have learned about in my classes, in other classes, how it takes those concepts that we have talked about and how they can see them actually happening in the real world. That’s the whole point of these applied learning projects.” Dr. Brubaker summed it up by saying, “It’s that learning thing, they are learning without necessarily, I think, realizing that they’re learning.” WingSpan brought plenty of challenges and successes, as any other project of its magnitude always does.

When successes of the show had reached their highest point everyone involved in Wingspan was invited to Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest’s office in Raleigh to film an episode with Lieutenant Governor Forest, and an interview about his campaign with Hal Weatherman. Also, a few students were able to go to the South Carolina Democratic Forum with Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and the rest of the Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Dr. Brubaker pointed out that the show featured local candidates and politicians of all political beliefs. Challenges came in all shapes and sizes, but Dr. Brubaker said they were not outside of what she expected. She knew it was going to be big, but she did not think it would be as big as it was. Some parts had to suffer in order for the most essential parts to be prepared. For example, the blog did not get as much attention because questions and scripts had to be prepared, and research needed to be done on the topics and guests.

WingSpan was an unforgettable experience for everyone involved, which is part of the reason why Dr. Brubaker will continue it in the spring semester. The show will not be a full class and it will not have as many episodes, but WingSpan will continue, which shows just how successful the project was.

All episodes are available on the WingSpan website,