University of Miami Case Study

The School of Communications at the University of Miami partners with Special Olympics to teach students how attitudes can be changed with knowledge.


Students filming events at 2011 World Games in Athens

The famous German journalist, Henri Nannen, once said that the secret to the success of his stern magazine was that it told stories. Storytelling is an art that needs to be taught and practiced. This process requires not only creativity and imagination, but also certain skills and knowledge. We offer students opportunities to tell stories that are personal, emotional, universal and not often told.

For more than 25 years Special Olympics has worked in partnership with some of North America’s leading and most respected journalism schools, including the University of North Carolina and the University Of Miami.

These mutually beneficial partnerships provide opportunities for the Universities to enhance the quality of journalism amongst their students while helping to change public perceptions about people with intellectual disabilities.

 Students get the opportunity to practice and hone their skills by covering Special Olympics World Games as well as national and regional Games and other multi-sports events, gaining valuable experience in writing, researching, editing, photo captioning, broadcast production, live interview techniques, and much more. For the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games students ran a LIVE site full of stories, highlight videos and photography.

 Many of the world’s top sports stars and celebrities are Ambassadors to Special Olympics including Michael Phelps, Nadia Comaneci, and Dani Alves. Students have opportunities to interview these sporting legends as well as athlete Global Messengers. Have a look at some vignettes.

 By interacting and working with people with intellectual disabilities, students learn about and see at first-hand  the powerful role the media can play in changing attitudes. By working with our media guidelines, they have the opportunity to learn how words and language can build or break down barriers to acceptance and inclusion.

 Students are challenged to submit projects around certain themes and ideas. Watch the acclaimed Three Words project.


In 2011, seven multimedia graduate students from the University of Miami and 10 from the Hong Kong Baptist University, travelled to Athens, Greece to film, shoot and edit the opening ceremonies, athletic events and closing ceremonies of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Watch their Wonderful Winning World highlights video.

In advance of the World Games, some graduate students flew to Ecuador, Haiti, South Korea and Namibia during the spring semester to film team preparations, involving profile pieces of athletes, their families and coaches as well corporate sponsorship profiles of organisations that sponsored the athletes. 

Watch their stories here and read the Miami Hurricane report on their experiences.

Universities form partnerships with Special Olympics so their students acquire the skills and knowledge that can change attitudes and break down walls of discrimination for the millions of people with intellectual disabilities across the world.