‘Unmuted’ an Anti-Trafficking Podcast Series: Communication Practicum Project Yields Impressive Results
"We have joined the fight against human trafficking by providing a podcast platform for the personal stories of survivors, the challenges faced by anti-trafficking organizations, and the actions individuals can take to make a difference." - Members of Team 1
Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. Cesare Wright's Communication Practicum Course, COMM 4361, focuses on project-based learning, and the experience is paying big dividends for the students. For their two-semester project, Team 1 chose to investigate and bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking on college campuses through production of a podcast series called “Unmuted,” which can be heard on YouTube. Their educational journey is remarkable. These budding social justice leaders are indelibly changed by their professor's vision to have students learn through active engagement in real-world and personally meaningful projects.
“The Project-Based Practicum course challenges students to apply academic skills and solve real-world problems, while building a portfolio, developing a professional network, and practicing key leadership and teamwork skills,” Wright said. “Students engage with stakeholders and mentors, scope and execute a project, and reflect on their individual strengths, weaknesses, and aptitudes.
“Classroom learning is an important part of the college experience…” Wright said. “It is critical that students learn to work with a team to apply their skills and to effectively and efficiently complete real-world projects. More than any transcript, these types of project-based experiences will open doors to professional opportunities and prepare students for the demands of the workforce.”
The Team's Mission
"We want to JOIN the fight against human trafficking by providing a podcast platform for the personal stories of survivors, the challenges faced by anti-trafficking organizations, and the actions individuals can take to make a difference," Team Leader Rebecca Alcozer said. "Our vision is to build a sustainable project to educate the public, especially students, about preventing abuse."
Team's Project Timeline
This team not only investigated and produced a podcast platform to educate the public and college students about the prevention of abuse, but they also were instrumental in helping pass state and federal laws making soliciting, prostituting, or trafficking students in schools a criminal offense. Learn more about their successes below.
Meet the Team Members:
- Chaney Chiasson is a junior Communication major and serves as Podcast Host.
- Giovanna Ramirez is working on an MBA; she studied Communication and leads community engagement and digital marketing.
- Alexej O'Malley is a junior Communication major responsible for our Website Management and Content Creation.
- Dana Blanks is a junior Communication major who works with logistics and content creation.
- Mandela Afolabi is a senior Communication major who works in Social Media Content.
- Abdullah Keneway is a senior Communication major who works in Content Creation and (future) podcast hosting.
- Rebecca Alcozer is a junior Communication major and serves as Team Leader.
- Sara Sierra is a senior Communication major and a future news anchor.
Spring Semester 2022 focused heavily on research into trafficking trends and included instruction on "How to Interview Survivors" and "Appropriate Trafficking Verbiage." Students also gained in-depth understanding of domestic community trafficking versus cross-state trafficking, etc. Classes recorded their first five episodes and learned how to host a podcast.
Spring Semester 2023 focused heavily on taking action, including the recording of three new episodes at the University of Houston, learning how to create relevant graphics, attending multiple press conferences, being featured on numerous news channels, and serving as guests on their first talk show.
"I am incredibly grateful for my team members,” Alcozer said, “I have had the privilege of working with extremely talented students, like Giovanna Ramirez, and Chaney Liasson, who have been dedicated to benefitting their community through their invaluable skills in media production. This semester, we have been blessed with the addition of Alexej and Mandela, who are brilliant Houston creatives, Dana and Sarah, who are exceptional content creators, and Abdullah, who is a magnificent speaker. I'm looking forward to the future of our platform."
Listen to the Episodes on YouTube @theunmutedpod
· Introduction to Sex-Trafficking Ft. Jacquelyn Aluotto.
In this episode, we speak with Jacquelyn Aluotto, a passionate advocate for ending sex trafficking and protecting children from exploitation. As the Co-Founder of No Trafficking Zone, Jacquelyn shares her personal story of how she joined the fight against human trafficking and how it fueled her mission to protect the public from this heinous crime. We discuss the warning signs of trafficking, how to talk to children about staying safe, and the importance of community involvement in preventing exploitation. This episode will leave you with a greater understanding of the issue and actionable steps to protect your loved ones and contribute to ending sex trafficking.
· Non-Profit Coffee Shop Combats Trafficking Ft. Second Cup
In this episode, we sit down with Kathryn Rogers, the Executive Director at A 2nd Cup, a non-profit coffee shop dedicated to recovering victims of human trafficking. Kathryn shares with us the incredible work that A 2nd Cup is doing to raise awareness in Houston about human trafficking and provide resources for survivors to transition into a new life. If you're interested in learning more about human trafficking and ways to support the work that A 2nd Cup is doing, be sure to tune in to this episode.
· Keeping Kids Safe from Human Trafficking Ft. Jacquelyn Aluotto
In this episode, we speak with Jacquelyn Aluotto, Co-Founder of No Trafficking Zone, about how parents can protect their children from the dangers of human trafficking. We discuss the warning signs of trafficking, online safety tips, and practical measures parents can take to keep their children safe. Jacquelyn's expertise and experience in this field provide invaluable insights that every parent needs to hear. Join us for this important conversation and learn how you can play a role in preventing trafficking and protecting our most vulnerable.
· -How to Party Safe (Hosted by Chaney Chiasson)
Chaney dives into multiple personal safety tips for students who choose to attend parties.
· -How to Commute Safe (Hosted by Giovanna Ramirez)
Giovanna dives into multiple personal safety tips for students who choose to attend parties.
"We've learned SO many skills!" Alcozer said. "It is hard to condense it into a list, but we feel increasingly prepared to handle highly sensitive topics, manage tight deadlines, and work as a team toward excellence. We are very grateful for Cesare Wright's instruction and his dedication to providing students with highly professional opportunities while we are still students. This course greatly benefited our future careers and endeavors.
"Through our experiences hearing about human trafficking survivors and constant research, we knew we could not leave this project behind. It became personal to all of us," Alcozer said.
The Team Members Achieve Invaluable Experience and Tangible, Valuable Measures of Success
Testifying at the Texas Legislature, the Bill Passed in Texas
"It was an honor for our team member to testify for H.B. 3553 at the Texas Capitol,” Alcozer said. “This bill highly increases criminal penalties for anyone who dares solicit, prostitute, or traffick a student within a college campus or school-sponsored events. This bill PASSED in Texas, and carries a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum of 99 years in prison, and our team got the chance to be a part of that victory!
Here's more information about the bill:
Lobbying with National Political Leaders to Pass Necessary Legislation, H.R. 30
"We are pursuing and helping push through H.R. 30, as well," Alcozer said.
U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Mark McCaul are working on federal legislation. "We have and will continue speaking at their federal press conferences for the H.R.' Stop Human Trafficking in School Zones' Bill." Congressman Wesley Hunt is also sponsoring this bill. We have met with political leaders on both sides of the political spectrum to pass necessary legislation.”
Also, please view the attached addendum to witness the media opportunities these students experienced to achieve their goal of raising awareness about the scourge of human trafficking.