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(November 29, 2001, Gazette)

SPARKs of success

(L-R) Deborah Inkpen, Office of Research; Wendy Monk and Alex Dalziel, SPARK students; and Ivan Muzychka, manager of Memorial’s News Service. Photo by Chris Hammond

(L-R) Deborah Inkpen, Office of Research; Wendy Monk and Alex Dalziel, SPARK students; and Ivan Muzychka, manager of Memorial’s News Service.

Thanks to cooperation with the Telegram, Memorial’s SPARK program has hit the big time. The Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge (SPARK) program has existed at Memorial since 1999. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council provided seed-money for the program, through which students gain experience in writing about the leading research at their home university, while giving the university an invaluable tool to promote the often underappreciated endeavours of its faculty and students.

“We have found the SPARK program to be a real asset to our news and promotional activities,” said Ivan Muzychka, manager of Memorial’s News Service and the person who brought the program to Memorial. “The Gazette in particular benefits greatly from having a team of student writers dedicated to generating content that highlights the research excellence of Memorial.”

While the Gazette was traditionally the main medium for SPARK student writers, starting in November, their articles started to hit the pages of the Sunday Telegram’s Science page. “SPARK gives us the opportunity to have local content on our Science page, which is wonderful for us, and it lets our readers get a glimpse of the research being carried out locally, at Memorial University,” said Pam Frampton, editor of the Sunday Telegram.

Deborah Inkpen, information officer (research), who manages the SPARK program, is equally enthusiastic. “The SPARK program give students who are interested in journalism, communications and public relations the opportunity to build up experience and develop a portfolio through working with Memorial’s communications team,” she said. “To get into the journalism and PR business, experience is the key, and SPARK gives students that experience.”

Memorial has had a number of students write under the program since its inception. Currently, there are two SPARK correspondents at Memorial: Alex Dalziel, a graduate student in history; and Wendy Monk, an undergraduate in physics. Both have had articles in the Telegram. “It was very exciting for me to get published in the Gazette, let alone the Telegram,” Ms. Monk enthused. “It’s great to see that your hard work academically can pay off, especially since I am getting to merge two things I love: writing and science.”

“I have always thought that making the knowledge created at universities accessible to the public central to the whole purpose of the university — that’s why I jumped at the chance to write for the SPARK program,” Mr. Dalziel explained. “Developing an idiom that is intellectually thorough but also easy to understand and enjoyable for the reader is something that takes time, and the SPARK program has helped me a lot in that direction.”

“The hard work and enthusiasm of the students who have participated in SPARK is why the idea has been such a success,” Ms. Inkpen said.
“As someone who has been in the communications business for some years, it is a lot of fun to share my expertise with students. I’m really glad they are getting the chance to show their stuff in the Telegram.”
Students wanting more information on the SPARK program are encouraged to contact Deborah Inkpen at 737-4073 or at inkpend@mun.ca.