WFI Student Activities

The Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society (WFI) — housed within Villanova University’s Department of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — was founded on the principle that the study and practice of communication requires attention to values, ethics and social justice. Properly understood, communication is central to the creation of positive social change.

One of the ways that we enact this mission is through funding a collection of student-run and -centered activities, working to display the importance of communication in the creation of social change.

Supporting Student-Centered Projects and Activities

From giving Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel an online presence to filming stories that matter on the streets of Philadelphia and beyond, Villanova students have the opportunity to influence and change society through communication internships and other activities funded by WFI.

Communication That Matters:  Villanova University’s Vatican Internship Program

A Student intern in the Vatican

Studying communication and its role in society forms the basis of the Waterhouse Family Institute. We are honored to support the field’s preeminent scholars as they examine critical issues that impact all of our lives.

Tackling these issues from an academic perspective is undoubtedly important, but it is also crucial to live our work. We strive to engage students in concrete discussion of social change and social justice and also in the practical application of responsible, thoughtful communication.

One of the ways that our scholarly mission yields tangible results is through support of Villanova’s Vatican Internship program. WFI proudly provides financial assistance to students who travel to Rome each semester to take part in this prestigious work experience.

Communicating with more than one billion Roman Catholics across the globe is a task that comes with great responsibility. Given the profound effect messages can have, this work must be approached with a clear understanding of the power of language and the significance of images.  Nowhere does the act of communication promise to impact people in a more personal way. 

As they assist with social media outreach and other tasks, the Vatican interns see firsthand how people from vastly different backgrounds and cultures are united by words that capture shared beliefs. This seemingly unlikely combination of youth, technology and a timeless institution did not go unnoticed during the Papal Conclave and the Installation of Pope Francis. Many media outlets reported on Villanova’s interns and remarked on the uniqueness of the program.  

Installed in March 2013, Pope Francis has shared with the world his plans to advocate for those who are marginalized by society, addressing subjects that are closely connected to the WFI mission. We are fortunate that our students have the opportunity to support the Pope’s mission- truly taking part in “communication that matters.”

For more information on how WFI engages students in issues of social justice, please read on about the work of the Social Justice Documentaries produced by Villanova Communication majors.

Social Justice-Themed Documentary Films

Students Filming Coming Off the DL

It’s not every day that a college student gets to learn life’s lessons alongside an ex-con inspiring others to create a better life, a teenage Burmese immigrant as he confronts the challenges of a new country, or two students with cerebral palsy who overcome the prejudice and fears of others to excel in the classroom and as managers for the Villanova men’s and women’s basketball teams.

For the students of WFI’s Center for Social Justice Film, it’s just another day in the classroom.

As part of this unique program, students spend the semester learning about film and then creating documentaries that allow them to become advocates for important societal issues. To date, three classes of students with little to no prior filmmaking experience have told remarkable stories that have changed the lives of both the students and subjects involved, while challenging society’s view of the issues.

A Hand in Changing the World

Jessica Lu, ’11

It was just an article she read online; but when Jessica Lu, ’11, a Communication student, first discovered the Girl Child Network, she knew she had to get involved. Part of a series entitled “CNN Heroes,” the article profiled Girl Child Network founder Betty Makoni, who started the organization to combat sexual abuse against women and children in Zimbabwe.

Today, Girl Child Network Zimbabwe, along with the Girl Child Network Worldwide (GCNW), and other chapters provide support, treatment and education to abuse victims. And now there’s a Villanova chapter thanks to Lu and the faculty support she received at the University. On Oct. 1, 2009, Girl Child Network Worldwide: Villanova — or GCNova for short — became the first United States university organization to officially affiliate with GCNW.

These are just some of the ways Villanovans are using communication as a tool to create positive change for our society. With the establishment of WFI, students have the opportunity to make the world their classroom and impact society for years to come.

On Thursday, June 17, 2010, The Philadelphia Inquirer featured an article in their Magazine section on the life of Burmese refugee Meh Sha Lin and how Villanova students documented his plight as part of the Waterhouse Family Institute's Social Justice Documentary Program. The link below will take you to a full PDF of the article.
Promotional Poster for "Price of Life"
Promotional Poster for the Student Documentary "Price of Life"
Promotional Poster for "Meh Sha"
Promotional Poster for the Student Documentary "Meh Sha"
Promotional Poster for "Coming Off The DL"
Promotional Poster for the Student Documentary "Coming Off The DL"