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Minnesota PRSA: Pro-Am Day 2014

There are countless opportunities to tour companies in one’s interested field before you graduate.  Touring a company allows you to learn more about yourself and what you want to pursue in the future.  Rachel Vick had the chance to tour Weber Shandwick in Bloomington for Pro-Am Day.  The more you choose to tour, the more you grow as a person.

Public Relations Student Society of America (or PRSSA) is a national organization and network of more than 11,000 students devoted to professional development and the public relations industry. As a PRSSA member, I have so many opportunities to enhance my career. One of these opportunities is sponsored by Minnesota’s chapter of PRSA: Pro-Am Day.

ImagePro-Am Day (Professional-Amateur Day) is a program that sets people up with PR professionals in the Twin Cities from either an agency, corporation or nonprofit. For one day, students shadow their given professional and talk to them about their career in public relations. 

Personally, I’m most interested in agency life, so I was placed at Weber Shandwick in Bloomington. Weber Shandwick is a global agency that specializes in research, reputation management, engagement and more. They work on clients in agribusiness, consumer, financial, healthcare, multicultural and sports. I was lucky enough to be paired with the Senior Vice President of Financial Services, Brooke Worden.

It was an incredible day. While listening to Brooke talk about her work, I could feel my insides screaming with excitement. She showed me some of the projects she’d been working on, some of the social tactics they’ve been using and even asked for my opinion on some campaigns! After lunch and a tour of Weber, I was able to sit in on a client call with her.

The main thing I learned from Pro-Am Day was that the PR field will never be the same. Everyday will bring something new to the table; you can’t go into the day expecting everything to go as planned. You also must stay up to date on trends to keep your clients happy. There has never been a more exciting time to be in the communications field; it’s an ever-changing industry with a need for more young professionals. 

I love this field and agency life because you get to wear a lot of hats. I’m excited to launch my career and I couldn’t have made it this far without the support and opportunities PRSSA and PRSA offer!

Rachel Vick

Applying Your Degree

This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Danielle Widmer to discuss her path in the workplace.  Danielle graduated from UWEC with a degree in Organizational Communication and then began working for the Admissions office full-time that July.  She said that her internship with the Admissions office, while she was a student, prepared her nicely for her transition into the Admissions Counselor role.  

Danielle touched on her struggle of earning respect from her peers when she initially made her transition from an intern to a full-time employee.  She explained that she was moving into a role where she would be supervising interns, some of whom were older than her or who knew more than her about certain events in the office.  She embraced this situation with honesty and sincerity, while attempting to immerse herself in her new leadership role. Image

Danielle’s love of our campus and community was so apparent throughout our conversation.  She spoke to the authenticity of her job and how she adores working in higher education.  She has a plethora of knowledge and credibility when representing our campus because she was a student and understands all that that entails.  She enjoys telling personal stories about her time on campus and touching on her favorite professors.
Our ever-changing campus is so beautiful and welcoming to prospective students.  Danielle’s favorite part of campus is the Davies Student Center because of the culture and atmosphere that are present.  Tours can walk through Davies and witness students going about their normal days and picture themselves doing the same.  There are so many places to enjoy in Davies, whether it be the Cabin or simply sitting by one of the fireplaces while doing homework.
Danielle spoke about how she applies her degree quite often in her job but that her ability to build and maintain relationships was her biggest takeaway.  Communication and understanding what drives other people are two invaluable skills that apply to Admissions and countless other professions. 
Alumni and friends – What was your biggest takeaway from your college degree?


The Power of Twitter

Words are so powerful in the world of communication.  One must choose their words wisely in order to made a lasting impression on their peers.  This concept of strategically choosing your words is beyond applicable in the world of Twitter.  Every user is given 140 characters to construct their point and convey their message to their followers.

Hashtags are powerful tools that have exploded throughout Twitter. Many members use hashtags to elaborate on their main message and to find other members that are interested in the same subjects as them.  Members use hashtags to connect their message to others and seek out other users who are conversing about similar topics. Every member of Twitter shows their character and personality through the things they choose to tweet.  Some individuals choose to focus on current events and share stories that they deem worthwhile or intriguing.  Others use the site as a networking tool to connect with people they admire.  Who doesn’t love a retweet from a celebrity they adore? Image

Countless CJ alumni are on Twitter and are choosing to showcase their passions through their words.  Kevin Hunt (@kevin_hunt) is the Social Media Manager in Global Communications at General Mills and has over 2100 followers.  Hunt utilizes his Twitter to share several news stories during the day.  He posts stories that directly correlate to his professional life, including social media trends and preferences in breakfast choices.  Staying up-to-date on these trends allows Hunt to have a competitive edge in his position.

Twitter is seen as a social, personal branding opportunity for many Millennials.  Clair Casey and Paige Skeie, both Blugold alumni, fully embrace this opportunity to market themselves.  Casey (@Clair_Casey) is an Account Coordinator at The Brandman Agency in New York City.  She showcases her lifestyle and hobbies in New York through her tweets.  Twitter just announced that it will be adding photo tagging and collages to its site to appeal to members, such as Casey and Skeie.  It will be fascinating to see this new chapter unfold and see how it evolves along the way.  Skeie (@paigeskeie) is a Content Migration Specialist at Sport Ngin in Minneapolis.  Skeie flaunts her love of sports and her adjustment into the working world on her Twitter page.

Expanding one’s presence on Twitter allows for new doors to open in the future.  What is one way you engage others on Twitter or show your personality through your words?


Image: Retrieved March 27, 2014, from: /files/2010/11/twitter-follow-achiever.jpg.

Chair’s Update: Learning and Doing (and Learning) in Communication and Journalism

Although “High-Impact Practices” are a hot trend in higher education today, they are long-standing practice in the Department of Communication and Journalism. CJ students have always practiced their profession as they learned it. Those of you who are alumni remember working on Update News or Inside Eau Claire (, or completing communication audits in organizational communication or campaigns for advertising and public relations. 

Educational researchers have now caught on to the value of these types of experiences.  Work by George Kuh (2008) and others suggested that a collection of ten learning experiences increase rates of student retention and engagement. The ten experiences found to be helpful are first-year seminars and experiences, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, undergraduate research, diversity/global learning, service and community-based learning, internships, and capstone courses and projects. Image

We are proud of our long standing tradition of using what are now labeled “high- impact practices” and committed to using even more of them.  In our strategic plan, the Department of Communication and Journalism commits to “Provide every CJ major with two theoretically grounded, in-depth, applied learning experiences. Provide 60 % of students with three experiences” during her/his time at UW-Eau Claire. In order to accomplish the two-experience goal, we will embed experiential or project-based learning in at least two courses in each of the five departmental programs (we’re almost done with this). To achieve the three-experience goal, we will continue to promote domestic and international experiences in CJ, internships, and CJ-specific service learning opportunities. 

There are literally dozens of high impact practices used each year in the Department of Communication and Journalism. Here are just two current examples:

Students report from the Civil Rights Pilgrimage: Collaborative Project, Diversity Learning, Community-Based Learning

During spring break, journalism majors will join other UW-Eau Claire students on this semi-annual trip to study the civil rights movement in its social and geographical context.  CJ students play a special role in the trip by documenting the experience and conducting interviews with figures active in the civil rights movement.  This spring two students and instructor Jan Larson have a very special opportunity to create and document a historical conversation:

Students design messages for UW-Eau Claire departments: Collaborative Assignments and Projects

Each semester organizational communication students in CJ 355 (Message Strategies in Organizations) design a communication intervention for campus client.  Emy Marier wrote of her experience in the course:

What I learned from the project was how to effectively conduct a needs assessment of existing messaging, beginning by gathering and then analyzing data. I also learned how to design and implement a communication intervention based on the needs assessment. While I did not evaluate my intervention on effectiveness, because it was not implemented in real life, I understand the importance of this step. Overall, my experience with strategic message design taught me how important branding strategies, language choice, and organizational pattern decisions are for organizational websites and organizational communication in general. 

Representatives of the client organization visit class early in the semester to discuss their perceptions of communication needs and return at the end of the semester to view intervention presentations.  Assistant Vice Chancellor Dr. Karen Havholm reported that after hearing a recommendation made by one project team last semester, representatives of the Office of Research and Sponsored programs immediately launched a Facebook page to communicate with students about CERCA (Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity).  This semester, ORSP hired a CJ intern to work on social media for the department.  Other clients include the College of Arts and Sciences and the University Liberal Education Committee. 

These are just two of a wide range of high impact practices used in the Department of Communication and Journalism.  If you would like to be a part of our commitment to experiential learning as an internship supervisor or as a community client please contact me at

Alumni—please use the comments to tell us about your high-impact experiences at UW-Eau Claire!

Others—please use the comments to tell us what kinds of high-impact experiences you think we should provide for students!

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access

to them, and why they matter. AAC&U.

Rachel Minske Reflects On Her Time At The Post

The Ann Devroy Memorial Fellowship is given each year to a journalism student that shows tremendous promise.  Rachel Minske was awarded the fellowship in 2013 and spent three weeks at The Washington Post as a result.  Here is part of what she took away from the experience.

I sat in the lobby of The Washington Post waiting to meet someone I’d admired since day one of my college career. With my back leaning against the window panes, I took several deep breaths and scanned the faces of everyone in the room, searching for my 2 p.m. appointment. I was about to meet Dan Balz, not only a political correspondent for The Post, but also a friend of the late Ann Devroy.

Bursting through the lobby doors, Dan waved to the security guards before approaching me. He flashed me a kind smile and we shook hands. He led me across the street to a gorgeous coffee shop adorned with white tablecloths, checkered tiles and a wait staff dressed to the nines. I was ecstatic that a prestigious reporter such as Dan took the time to meet with a college student eager for career advice.

We spent time talking about the reason I was in Washington D.C. in the first place: Ann Devroy. A 1970 journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Ann led a prestigious career as a reporter. Working her way through the ranks of Gannett News Service, USA Today and eventually The Washington Post, Ann left a legacy of tenacity and diligence in her wake following her death in 1997. Dan and Ann worked closely with one another while  covering the White House beat for The Post. It was neat to hear Dan reminisce about the fair, yet fierce competitor that Ann was. Only a handful of Ann’s colleagues still work at the paper and it was a treat to hear first-hand accounts of her career.

We also discussed my career dreams and aspirations. Dan offered me an insightful piece of advice during our meeting: to continuously strive to challenge yourself. To never get too comfortable in a newsroom. Once you feel you have your bearings, move on to the next big story, the next city, the next market. I have carried that piece of advice with me everyday since and I encourage my peers to do the same. We can only grow as journalists and humans when we are thrown outside our comfort zone. So ask the tough question, take the big risk and work harder than you ever thought possible. Not only will your readers be fulfilled, but you will lead a more rewarding career, too. 


I spent a week working for PostTV, the video production department of the newspaper, a few days working for the interactivity desk and three days working on the digital production desk. I had the opportunity to meet dozens of interesting people along the way. By the time I left Washington, my notebook was completely filled with a broad spectrum of software-specific hints and career development advice I’d picked up along the way. I met reporters who had just returned from an assignment in Africa, producers with backgrounds at CNN, NBC, ABC, and so on. One day I was a member of the paparazzi scrambling to get footage of R&B singer Chris Brown outside a Washington D.C. courthouse. Another day I was participating in a studio interview with Will Tracy, editor of The Onion. The next day I sat in a meeting with Snapchat experts (yes the phone app) to discuss how news organizations can effectively interact with readers through photos that appear for just seconds on a mobile device. Every day was an adventure.

I was constantly surrounded by incredibly talented and brilliant people. I couldn’t help but think, “What do all of these people have in common? How do I someday have a career like theirs?”

Tracy Grant, a senior editor at The Post and my fellowship coordinator put it very nicely on my first day at the newspaper.

“Everyone who works here was at one point the smartest person in the room,” she said. “Whether it was in a college classroom or at another job, they were the smartest person in the room. It takes a special kind of person to flourish in this newsroom.”

From that point forward, I made it my goal to be that “special kind of person.” I left the fellowship feeling more energized, inspired, and irrevocably in love with the news industry than ever before.

On the plane ride back home, I promised to never allow myself to get comfortable, to take risks, to ask the tough questions and to surround myself with people who challenge and motivate me. I challenge my peers to do the same. We are capable of more than we think and more intelligent than we let ourselves believe.

Etched into one of the walls of The Newseum, Washington, D.C.’s massive media museum, is a quote from journalist H.L. Mencken. It says this: “I know of no human being who has a better time than an eager and energetic young reporter.” I know I speak on behalf of journalists across the globe when I say there is no field more rewarding than the news industry. I am so, so grateful for the opportunity to have learned more of Ann Devroy’s legacy and work alongside some of the best in the field. Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible. 

Rachel Minske, Journalism student

How to Tackle a Job Fair

I attended the Minnesota State Universities Job and Internship Fair Feb. 18 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  Over 100 employers were present, so I embraced it as a wonderful networking opportunity.

There were only a handful of students from UW-Eau Claire compared to the multitude of students from Minnesota State schools, but every one of us had our game faces on. Student lounges were available for us to research companies and prepare questions for speaking with a potential employer or recruiter.  The lounges were almost dead silent and tension was extremely high because each student was shooting for the same goal — a job right out of college. Recent graduates are aware of the challenges present in the job market at the moment, and each was trying to identify their edge or qualities to make them stand out from the crowd. Image

One thing I learned from the experience is that your resume is important but engaging with employers and making a memorable connection is more influential.  Recruiters want to hire an individual who is driven, outgoing and compatible with current employees at the company.  Companies, regardless of size, industry or work ethic, are seeking individuals who not only meet the required qualifications needed for the position, but also someone whose personality aligns with the organization’s culture.

When you pitch yourself to an employer you have to acknowledge your experience but sell them on your personality. Throughout my CJ classes I have prepared and developed my elevator speech and I can present that in a timely manner. From a student’s perspective, you must shine outside of the piece of paper you are handing them.  Recruiters saw countless amounts of students during the five-hour career fair, and there is no way that they are going to thoroughly peruse all the resumes handed to them.  Most recruiters jot down notes as they are talking to you and those notes significantly contribute to your initial chance for an interview.

I would love to hear from friends and alumni as to what they look for in their hire and how much personality is a factor in their decision.  How much does the resume truly count compared to how candidates present themselves?

Moira Caulfield

Hello!  My name is Moira Caulfield and I am in charge of the blog for this semester.  I will be graduating in May with a major in Mass Communication and a minor in Business Administration.  I am currently applying for jobs in Minneapolis and am ecstatic about the next chapter in my life.Image

I have loved my time as a Blugold.  I have met wonderful people along the way as well as being a member of PRSSA, BUS and working at the Service Center.  My favorite part of Eau Claire is Mona Lisa’s, I eat there as often as I can!  In my free time I love to run, bake and spend time with my roommates.  

I am looking forward to this final semester and reading all of your comments!

Terrence Chmielewski Explores the Myths Surrounding Communication

As a communication professional, I’m often asked about what makes for good communication. I would much prefer to talk about what isn’t. I can do both by talking about what I see as some myths about communication, and the realities behind them.

Myth #1: Silence is Golden. My mother used to always tell me … well, maybe not always, just when I opened my yapper once too often. She would say, “Children should be seen and not heard!” Maybe your mom said the same thing to you. Her thought in saying this is that if a person doesn’t say anything, then he or she isn’t communicating. I couldn’t get in trouble if I just didn’t speak. ImageA more grown up version of this old saying is, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Here again, society is telling you that if you just keep your mouth closed, then you can’t make a fool of yourself.

The Reality: In both cases the common misconception is that talking is communicating, and not talking is not communicating. But think about it. Children should be ‘seen and not heard’ means that the daredevil 5th grade boy climbing to the top of the garage to jump off is not communicating anything. And does biting your lip to keep from saying something you might regret tell your conversational partner your opinion just as much as if you let loose with your true feelings? The truth of the matter is that we “speak” with more than just our voices. Our facial expressions, jittery hands, vocal pacing, posture, and a host of other nonverbals can communicate just as loudly as our words. As long as we perceive our partner perceiving us, and our partner does the same, then we’re sending messages back and forth. In the words of a famous communication theorist, Paul Watzlawick, “One cannot not communicate.” Anything we do once perception of perception is established, can communicate something.

Myth #2: Meanings are in Words. “I say what I mean, and I mean what I say.” Students are constantly trying to wiggle my words. If I say an assignment is due on Tuesday, they will turn it in at 11:59 p.m. If I say that it’s late, they say that 11:59 p.m. is still Tuesday. Should I have said Tuesday at class? Of course, I should. If meanings are in words, then everyone who hears a particular word, phrase or sentence would mean exactly the same thing by it.

The Reality: The fact of the matter is that meanings are not in words. If I told a cat lover that I went out in the back yard and climbed on a cat, that feline fanatic would likely call the ASPCA on me. If I said the same thing to a cat hater, he or she might snicker. And a construction worker might think I was just going back to work if I climbed onto the Caterpillar tractor. Even a moment’s reflection tells us that “meanings are not in people; meanings are in words.”  The word “cat” means different things to different people.

Myth #3: Communication Solves All Problems. “You have to talk about it.” “Let’s talk this out.” “We haven’t solved this problem yet, … but we’re talking.” Friends, business associates and spouses use the refrain, “We just don’t communicate anymore.” It’s as if the golden key to resolve all the worlds’ ills is to talk about it. Then presto, the problem is solved. No matter what the roadblock, impasse or problem, more communication is the solution.

The Reality: Communication can solve the worlds’ problems, … but it can also be the root of evil. Communication can make things better … or worse. The main effect of communicating—of communicating well—is not to solve problems. Its main effect is to make positions clearer. And making positions clearer can help solve the problem, or make it worse. People can have the clearest, most transparent communication possible. Now comes the difficult part … resolving the problem. Unless the problem is itself communication, communication can have surprisingly little effect on a problem. For a married couple, there’s not enough money at the end of the month. For friends, there’s not enough time to spend with the other. For neighbors, there’s not enough peace and quiet in the neighborhood. Communication can help, but that’s about it.

Myth #4: Communication skills exist. Perhaps this is the most mythical of the myths of communication. At least it is the myth to which there is the most disagreement. Let me explain. The Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us a skill is, “the ability to do something that comes from training, experience, or practice …, to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance.” The thought is that communication skill is an ability that makes itself known through the execution of certain behaviors.

The Reality: There are behaviors that we call skills, yes. Take, for example, what is often taken as the epitome of skill—perspective-taking. The ability to take another’s perspective or point of view when speaking with him or her is an absolute necessity for good communication. Thus, whenever one executes an episode that involves “perspective-taking,” it is a skill. But the same behavior of perspective-taking can be used to harm another person, such as when it is used to “con” the other. A skill is actually an attitude-plus-behavior amalgam. It is a behavior that is used with a certain attitude—empathy, or concern for the welfare of the other—to back it up.

Terrence Chmielewski, CJ Faculty Member

Say Hello to Alyse Brunella, A Savvy PR Writer


Every semester students have a plethora of opportunities to enrich their learning both on and off campus.  The CJ department strongly encourages this and frequently sends out internship and job openings.  Whether it is participating in a group project through a class or taking an internship with a local business.  There are also paid opportunities for students on campus to strengthen their resume and gain valuable hands-on experience.  Alyse Brunella is one of three student writers at the News Bureau this semester.

What is your position at the News Bureau?

I am a student writer. My responsibilities include writing news releases relating to scholarship and award receipts and on-campus events, basically any news story that affects UW-Eau Claire. I also update the university’s calendar with upcoming events.

What is the most challenging situation you have faced there?

We do EVERYTHING in AP Style! It’s important to learn because it’s used in all PR and journalism writing, but it is very different from other writing styles. I find myself constantly checking the style guide.

How will you apply the skills you are learning in your future endeavors? 

I’ll most likely be writing everyday, whether it’s releases or emails, so that skill will constantly be applied.

Professional development: I’ll be working in an office for many years to come, so knowing how to interact with others and represent yourself in a good manner is important.

What is the key to writing a quality press release? 

Having good sources of information. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down at the keyboard and not knowing the detailed facts of a story.

Going along with that, I think it’s important to have good quotes. Personally, I think quotes can really make or break your story. Also, a good headline is key!

Did you apply the skills you have learned in classes to your position?

Yes. I use most, if not all, of the writing and AP style skills I learned in CJ 373. Also, being a good interviewer is important for this job. I need to know which questions to ask in order to develop a good, quality release, which I learned in CJ 222.

How important is writing in a PR position? 

IMPORTANT! Any industry professional that I’ve talked to has said write as much and as often as you can.

That would also be my advice to students who are just beginning their communication journey. Your writing doesn’t need to be published, but just working on your style and technique will help tremendously.

Alyse is a Mass Communication major – Public Relations emphasis who will be graduating in May.

Alumni and friends – please share your advice for student writers in the comment section!

A CJ Student’s Summer: Learning to Love Editing with the Dow Jones News Fund

Back in October, I took the Dow Jones News Fund, Inc. editing test. In December, received my results – a phone call from DJNF alerting me that I’d won a summer internship through the program and would be spending my summer working as a copy editor at Minneapolis’ Star Tribune.

I’m nearly two months into my internship, and while I’ve learned a lot here in Minneapolis, I think my favorite part of the experience was the eight-day editing course at the University of Missouri I took in late May. All of the DJNF editing interns – eight of us total, from all corners of the U.S. – participated in the week of intense editing exercises and lessons. Our instructors jokingly referred to the experience as “editing boot camp” – and they weren’t far off. We spent about nine hours a day in a classroom setting studying the details of everything from headline writing to double-checking numbers used in copy to whether to use “lie” or “lay.” In the evenings, we’d all go to work at The Columbia Missourian, the University of Missouri’s student newspaper.

The days were long, but incredibly rewarding. I left the editing course not only with a much deeper knowledge of copy editing, but with seven new close friends. From our separate newsrooms across the country, we still keep in touch – usually to laugh together when we see a funny headline or egregious AP wire story error (if we learned one thing during that editing course, it’s that absolutely everyone makes mistakes – that’s why copy editors are so important!).

Our DJNF instructor Brian Brooks, a retired journalism professor at the University of Missouri, said something during the week that has stayed with me all summer: “Editing is an art, not a science; you’re not always going to come up with the same answer.”

I carried that quote with me to the Star Tribune newsroom, where I see the importance of a strong copy desk every single day. Copy editors correct everything from fact checking to photo captions to headline writing. We’re the last eyes that see a story before it goes to print, so it’s our job to ensure accuracy.

It’s like the saying that every person should work as a waiter at least once in his or her life. That way, you fully appreciate the effort, and sometimes stress, that goes into serving a meal, and in turn you’ll be a better patron (and better tipper). The same holds true for copy editing. Since my very first newsroom job, I’ve worked as a reporter, and I still plan to pursue a reporting job after graduation. I just love talking to people and listening to their stories. But now that I’ve worked as a copy editor, I see all the “behind the scenes work” that goes into putting a story on the page and triple-checking it for errors before it goes to print.

Copy editors are a newsroom’s last lifeline and last chance to ensure accuracy before a story is released to the public eye. Reporters can’t – and shouldn’t – do it all by themselves, and if they do, quality will surely suffer. Through working on the copy desk every night alongside the attentive, hardworking editors at the Star Tribune, I’ve learned that a newspaper is only as strong as its copy desk.

Taylor Kuether, journalism major


Taylor Kuether (fourth from right) and her classmates at the DJNF “Editing Bootcamp.”


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