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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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An Unlikely Pair

The School of Journalism and Media Studies will come together with the Department of Geological Sciences to provide a unique course that tests San Diego air quality.
By Kristin Riemedio

“Collaboration” is defined as the action of working with someone to produce or create something. In San Diego State University’s case, the School of Journalism and Media Studies is collaborating with the Department of Geological Sciences to provide students with a unique learning opportunity.

Headed by journalism professor Amy Schmitz Weiss and geology professor Kevin Robinson, the two departments are coming together to teach an exclusive class just for science and journalism students that has a unique community service component.

In this class, students will use open-source electronic digital sensors to test the air quality in San Diego. Students will be building their own sensors, deploying the sensors into the city and collecting the data themselves.

Coming together

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to have this kind of collaborative class,” Schmitz Weiss said. “Bringing students together from different disciplines will give them a chance for new opportunities, perspectives and outcomes.”

Through this collaborative effort, journalism students will learn more about the scientific side of reporting and figure out how the data they are collecting is relevant to the community. Science students will learn how their field of study applies to the world around them and how to efficiently communicate their findings.

SDSU’s School of Journalism and Media Studies and the College of Sciences have been working together for several years through a series of workshops that bring journalism and science students together; but this is the first time the work will be formalized with a class.

“This is the first interdisciplinary course focused on field-based Earth investigation and science communication,” Robinson said.

“It was a natural fit to move in this direction. We were simply taking it to the next level,” Schmitz Weiss said.
This course will also be in collaboration with inewsource, an independent investigative nonprofit news source on the SDSU campus.

“Students will also have the chance to have their stories published on a professional journalism website,,” said Lorie Hearn, executive director of inewsource. “We plan to dedicate a special section of our website to the class project.”

A perfect match

This course was made possible by a $35,000 grant that the School of Journalism and Media Studies won through the Online News Association.

The application asked a series of very detailed questions ranging from an estimated budget to an explanation of how the project will provide an educational experience for students above and beyond their current learning. One hundred and twenty-five schools applied for the grant, and only twelve were selected.

SDSU’s application stood out among the rest because of the unique nature of the project. Currently, there are not a lot of news organizations that are working with digital technology for reporting.

“San Diego State University's project had all the ingredients for experimentation,” said Irving Washington, director of operations for the Online News Association. “Journalism and geology students are working together on data gathering using open-source sensor technology. The school's partnership with inewsource is exactly the type of collaboration we wanted to support.”

Community involvement

Moving forward, both departments, along with inewsource, hope this project will open new doors. They want to start the conversation about the impact air quality has on the community, beyond the SDSU campus.

“We are looking at how much we can understand the environment around us,” Schmitz Weiss said. “We often take for granted where we live, breathe, play and work. Air quality is no different in understanding that.”

If you are interested in taking the course and would like more information, please email Professor Schmitz Weiss directly at or visit