Policy studies senior seminar project to air on PBS39

In 2016, the policy studies program held an election-night broadcast on PBS39. (Photo courtesy of Clay Wegrzynowicz)

The spring 2019 senior policy studies seminar’s semester project will be featured on local television channel PBS39. The class, taught by professor and policy studies chair Mark Crain, will show a broadcast on the station.

“The spring production, entitled ‘Trade vs College,’ is the eighth in our partnership between Policy Studies and PBS39. The goal is to communicate complex topics at the intersection of business, policy and technology through the visual broadcast media,” Crain said in an email. “The students in our senior seminar performed brilliantly to accomplish this goal.”

Bridget Coffey ‘19, one of the students in the seminar, explained that the class focused on work force development in the Lehigh Valley for the broadcast project.

“The amount of under and unemployed people is greater than the number of jobs available in the area. The purpose of looking at workforce development lets us see how the Lehigh Valley got to this point and where the current workforce is going,” said Coffey.

Originally, the class began by separating into three groups and brainstorming ideas for the project. Potential topics that were suggested included criminal justice reform, workforce development and broadband access.

“PBS producers, the chief content officer and executive producer came to our class and we did pitches and they decided that workforce development would be what we’d do. Once we had the topic selected, we broke into individual assignments,” said Coffey.

“Each person in our class wrote their storyboard and script of their individual package. We went through multiple drafts of the storyboard and found the right interviewees for the [assignment]. Next, we went to go interview, and PBS filmed the interviews,” said Coffey. “The students then selected what parts of the interview they thought were best. We then went to the PBS39 studio [in Bethlehem] to edit our packages.” 

Each student had a different role in contributing to the project.

“My role was to look at public sector solutions in place. I interviewed the supervisor at the Career Institute of Technology in Easton, the principal at Pen Argyl, where I looked more into what school districts are doing to get people into career and technical education, and I went down to the Career Institute of Technology (CIT) and interviewed them,” said Coffey.

Another part of Coffey’s assignment was to set up and host a panel discussion with leaders focused on the issue in the Lehigh Valley.

“I reached out to stakeholders in workforce development and got a group together to come in and talk on the panel about what they think is going on in the Lehigh Valley and why the workforce is so important,” said Coffey.

The panel was made up of members from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, and IBEW local 375 or the Electrical Workers Union, and was filmed in the PBS39 studio in Bethlehem.

“I think we did a really good job of showing how we got here, why it’s still a problem and the current solutions,” said Coffey. “Our hope as a class is to show that the labor market in the Lehigh Valley needs work. The Lehigh Valley is a place that’s growing and has many different industries and is a good place to be. Viewers will be able to see that while the labor market isn’t perfect, there are policies and programs in place to ensure long term economic success.”

Coffey shared that Jane Gold ’19, one student in the class, interviewed people at the Lehigh Valley Health Network in order to determine what their workforce needs to look like in order to have long term economic success.

“I really like policy studies because you have exposure to all different fields. It’s an interdisciplinary look into how policy gets created. You see an intersection of economic development, private companies and public policy,” Coffey said. 

“I’m really excited to see it. It’s really cool because I don’t think any other class has the opportunity to show a program to 3.3 million people, which is the PBS39 audience. It’s pretty exciting,” said Coffey.

Coffey is unsure of when the program will be aired, but hopes it is in early May.

“Professor Crain and the senior PBS39 team have worked to create this long-lasting partnership that Lafayette will have for a long time. Everyone put in their work and it is a great final product as we wrap up our senior year [which displays] a good culmination of policy studies.”

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