Dec. 13, 2011Vol. 42, Issue 3

International Cognitive Visualization Program: First Cohort of Students Now in Germany

The commute to school this fall for three California State University, Chico students is a meandering path through a lush wood to the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany. “A palette of warm colors when fall ends—maturating grapes and chestnuts—and a Christmas tale as soon as winter calls,” said one of them, Simone Simpson.

forest in germany

Simpson, Laura Evans, and David Sarmento (both Laura and David graduated from CSU, Chico last spring with BAs in psychology) and five other international students are in Landau as part of the first cohort of the International Cognitive Visualization (ICV) Program, a 2-year dual master's degree program awarded from the University of Grenoble, France, and CSU, Chico, in association with the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany. Neil Schwartz, Psychology, the U.S. coordinator of the program, calls them “a delightful, very international group of graduate students: three American, one French, two German, one Russian, and one Brazilian.” 

The students are studying the new field of international cognitive visualization, “situated at the nexus of cognitive science, instructional design, applied computer graphics, communication studies, education, and business,” according to the program website. “This program explores the relationship between individuals’ emotional and mental responses to media. Most simply, how images affect the mind,” explains Sarmento. “We are also looking at the interaction between text and images, and the influence that images can have with accompanying text.”

a street in Landau, Germany, location of the University of Koblenz-Landau, where the first cohort of ICV students are studying during the first semesterThe ICV students will come to Chico next fall after a stint in Grenoble, France, doing month-long language immersion intensives before semesters of ICV coursework. When they complete the program in 2013 with a dual degree, the students will be trilingual specialists in visualization graphics. “Visualization media and tools are everywhere,” says Schwartz. “Students, executives, lawyers, engineers, Internet venders, textbook editors, and many more rely on graphs, pictures, illustrations, and animations to stimulate interest, ensure comprehension, persuade, and inspire—in short, to connect with the human mind.”

“Our field of study, the cognitive visualization, is incredibly broad, and it is presented in our everyday life, from the newspapers daily read in the morning, for instance, with placement of information occurred in a three-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional surface to a communication device in a leisure setting,” says Marcela Wolff of Brazil, who is particularly interested in how pictograms and symbols are used. “During our everyday lives, we are not aware how important it is to build an efficient and meticulously studied visualization of information or messages.”

Wolff and the other students are excited about the range of opportunities they will have at the end of the program. They just returned from a week in Berlin, where they focused on the real-world applications of the program, visiting with different advertising agencies, news agencies, and government entities. Their career goals range from advertising to political campaigning to news editing. Others hope to become consultants or pursue a PhD in the field.

Photo Captions. Photo 1: Neil Schwartz is the U.S. coordinator of the ICV program. He met the CSU, Chico ICV students, Simone Simpson, Laura Evans and David Sarmento, in Landau before the beginning of the semester. Photo 2: A street in Landau, Germany, location of the University of Koblenz-Landau, where the first cohort of ICV students are studying during the first semester. Photo 3: A vinyard near Landau. The best thing about the experience so far has been learning how to communicate effectively across cultures, says Laura Evans, who got a bachelor’s in psychology at CSU, Chico in 2011. She says all eight of the ICV students relish the chance to work and learn as a close-knit multinational group. “The ease with which our group came together as a cohesive working unit surprised us,” she says. “Although we come from such different backgrounds, educations, and cultures, we fit together perfectly—not only on a social level, but also on a working level—we work extremely well together. The constant exposure to different cultures allows us the opportunity to network internationally, learn multiple languages, learn about our own cultures while simultaneously exploring others,” she says. 

“The multicultural aspect of our group can always bring the most random results!” adds Simpson. “For example, it has been a lot of fun to bring Halloween to Germany, organize an authentic Sunday afternoon American barbecue, while we also discovered French crepes with magic flour. The results are never what they are expected to be, but in any case they are better for each of us. Learning the basics of Russian or French under the rain in front of a falling-apart hamburger might not seem like a success in terms of barbecuing, yet it was a wonderful experience for all of us.” 

—Anna Harris, Public Affairs and Publications

A vinyard near Landau