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Settling into the Semester

615762_10100190585697223_1454025601_oHello everyone. My name is Alex Jansen and I’ll be managing the blog this semester. I will be graduating in December with a degree in public relations. Unlike most students here, I don’t have a minor because I am a second-degree student; I received a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from UW-Madison in 2010.

I decided to come back to school and study public relations because after graduating the first time around, I moved to Los Angeles and quickly found I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Public relations to me represented an area where creative language and critical thinking could be used in very practical, relevant ways. Oddly enough, the reason I ended up in Eau Claire is because I was originally accepted as and spent one semester as a graduate student studying English Literature.

I look forward to sharing news, research and more from our Communication & Journalism department faculty, students and alumni. I would also love to hear from alumni, so feel free to email me at

Summer is no Vacation for Journalism Students at UW-Eau Claire

The corridors of Hibbard Hall are pretty quiet in July. Most faculty members are off campus–teaching online, conducting research, and preparing fall classes. The summer orientation rush is over, which means all of our new students are registered for fall semester. Although some students wander through on their way to face-to-face classes, more and more students are opting for online coursework during the summer.

But as quiet as it may be in Hibbard Hall, UW-Eau Claire journalism students are busy, busy, busy this summer applying what they’ve learned in the classroom. Here are just a few examples of the great things our student journalists (and recent alumni) are doing:

Awesome Internships:

Dow Jones News Fund: Katie Bast, a 2014 graduate is spending her summer at the Sacramento Bee as one of only 85 students across the country to be named Dow Jones News Fund Interns. This is the second time in the last three years that a UW-Eau Claire journalism student has received this highly competitive internship. For addditional information from the UW-Eau Claire News Bureau see:


Katie Bast (Communication and Journalism, 2014) visits the newsroom at the Austin American Statesmen in preparation for her summer internship with the Sacramento Bee through the Dow Jones News Fund. (Photo courtesy of Bradley Wilson).

Green Bay Press-Gazette: In addition to spending three weeks at the Washington Post this winter, Devroy fellow and 2014 graduate Rachel Minske is completing a summer internship at the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Check out her introductory column:

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram: As I am reminded every day when I read the paper, a number of our students are also interning with the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram this summer. I love to see the work of Elizabeth Jackson, Courtney Kueppers, and Breane Lyga in print (or in my case, on my screens)! Keep your eyes open for their bylines at

Eye-Opening International Experiences:

Dr. Mike Dorsher and several journalism students leave this week for a month-long reporting and writing adventure in Nice, France. They’ll be exploring beaches and castles, but more importantly learning to identify interesting and important international stories and report them in a variety of formats. For more about the program:

One of our biggest goals in the Department of Communication and Journalism at UW-Eau Claire is to make sure that students practice their professional skills and apply their professional knowledge in the field at the same time as they learn about them in the classroom. Summer is great chance for students to continue doing and learning journalism.

If you’d like to host a UWEC CJ student intern in journalism, public relations, advertising, organizational communication or communication studies, post a comment here, or email Mary Hoffman at



Intermediate Journalism Students Provide Online Coverage of Annual Devroy Forum

By: Associate CJ Professor Mike Dorsher

Students in this semester’s CJ 321: Intermediate Journalism class began planning their coverage of the April 17 Ann Devroy Memorial Forum a month ahead of time. But they had to throw out much of that planning and scramble to catch up to events when the Devroy Forum’s originally scheduled keynote speaker, Washington Post “In the Loop” columnist Al Kamen, suffered a back injury and had to cancel just three days before the event. The Post’s White House bureau chief, Scott Wilson, quickly and graciously volunteered to take Kamen’s place, but the Intermediate Journalism students knew almost nothing about him, so they had to dive into researching his background.
Three days later, the 16 Intermediate Journalism students were ready to cover every facet of this year’s Devroy Forum: the reception for Wilson and community/campus leaders, his question and answer session with them, the awarding of the Devroy Fellowship to a top journalism student, Wilson’s keynote address and the audience questions that followed. Plus, several of the CJ 321 students sat in the following morning when Wilson stayed over and met with the CJ 303: Research Methods for Journalists class and then had an exclusive lunch with a half-dozen journalism students in the Second Year Experience program.

You can see and hear all of the Intermediate Journalism students’ coverage of this year’s Devroy Forum events at

The site – thanks largely to the CJ 321 students’ enthusiastic social media promotion of it – had more than 500 page views in its first week, and the site’s editors continued to refine it all week long. Because as today’s journalism students know, news happens, and the story is never complete. Keep reading the Communication and Journalism Blog for the ongoing story of the CJ Department and its students!

Civil Rights Reporting

Every year UWEC students have the opportunity to go on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage.  Students have the opportunity to visit sites of historic importance to the U.S. civil rights movement and also make a stop in New Orleans to see the famous Preservation Hall. Amy Hahn went on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage this spring break and here is her experience.

I grew up just outside of Minneapolis and graduated from a rather diverse high school. Coming to a university like Eau Claire was exactly the opposite from the diverse student body I had known in high school.

When Jan Larson presented her special topics course “Civil Rights Reporting” to my CJ 427 class, I didn’t jump at the opportunity right away. In my personal ignorance, I thought I was well versed and understood racial issues because of where I grew up, but I could not have been more wrong.

The entire immersion experience was eye opening, and even uncomfortable at some times. You get thrust into an experience that you’ve only ever read about in textbooks or seen in movies, but it wasn’t until we made our stop in Selma, Alabama that the importance of this trip hit home. Selma is home to the historic Bloody Sunday beatings of civil rights protestors, and you can still feel the race and class inequalities today. Image

While we were in Selma, I had an assignment to get a story on a local youth group called the Random Acts of Theater Company, or RATCo for short. Listening to this group of kids share their stories of inequality through poetry, song, and hip hop dance moves was awe inspiring. They lit something in me that I didn’t realize existed. 

The Civil Rights Pilgrimage or CRP as us veterans like to call it, had an unforeseen influence on what I wanted to do with my future and my career. If I am fortunate enough to get a job within the journalism field, I want to write about things that matter – Carrie Bradshaw and her life as sex columnist doesn’t seem to be quite as fulfilling as I once imagined. I also want to make it my job to make media representation more diverse and inclusive.

It was an amazing opportunity to flex my journalism muscles. Working with a small team of journalists all of whom have a story to complete before the 10 day trip is up teaches you how to think on your toes, and how to adapt when a situation doesn’t go quite as planned.

It was also great to get out of the Midwest bubble. It’s easy to report around Eau Claire in a personal safe zone where everyone is that special ‘Midwest nice’ I’m accustomed to. The immersion trip introduced me to an array of southerners that served you with a lot of sass if you forgot your ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir.’ Reporting in a new environment taught me a lot and forced me to get out of my comfort zone to get the information that I needed.

Although Jan Larson isn’t offering CJ 491 this upcoming year while she is on sabbatical, I would recommend the Civil Rights Pilgrimage to any one who is considering going. The experience and the learning alone make you a more informed citizen of humanity. The trip begs you to think critically and start asking questions about why things are the way they are. Going on this trip with an open mind and heart will change your life.

Amy Hahn, Journalism Major

Utilizing a Public Communication Major

Just last week, I was invited to present my research program to my school’s chapter of Lambda Pi Eta, a national communication honors fraternity. If you’ve never had the opportunity to present your body of research to undergraduate students, let me tell you: it’s a treat! As I sat down to figure out which of my research projects to highlight, which to ignore, and how to make it all sound interesting to a captive audience (which is the most challenging part!), I took a few moments to reflect on my experiences as a Public Communication Major at UW-Eau Claire. My little trip down memory lane was nostalgic, but it also helped me understand the preparation UWEC gave me for my career. Let me share some of these reflections with you:

I graduated from UWEC in 2010 with a BA in Communication. My emphasis was in Public Communication, which I realized after graduation made me a professional in public speaking.  After a two-year stint in a Master’s program, I am now currently pursuing a PhD in Communication Studies from Ohio University. For those of you unfamiliar with the type of work that goes into getting a PhD, let me elaborate: I currently take three courses each semester (I took 4 once, and that was a mistake!), teach an undergraduate course in Communication Studies, and serve as the Associate Director of Forensics for our speech and debate team. In addition to all of these things, I do research projects on the side! It’s definitely a lot of work, but I get to do all the things I loved doing as a communication major for my job, and that’s fantastic! Image

Once I finish my PhD work, my hope is to get a job teaching Communication Studies at a 4-year public university. Also, because I’ve had so many fantastic mentors during my education (including the phenomenal Karen Morris, Kelly Jo Wright, and Dr. Mary Hoffman!), I would like to be able to advise and mentor undergraduate AND graduate students. Some of the most fun and interesting conversations I had in school were one-on-one with my (many) mentors, and now I would like to do my part to help encourage future students to achieve their very best.

Fortunately for me, my experiences at UWEC prepared me well to accomplish all of these things. As an aspiring Communication professional, I’m concerned with messages – what types of messages do we send in different situations? Why do we send them? How do we send them? What do we want those messages to do? And how are those messages being interpreted? These are some of the broad questions that every Communication professional is concerned with, and those are the questions I was taught to answer through my coursework and my involvement with speech and debate. 

My training began with the speech team, and the intensive coaching I received to research topics, find information, organize ideas, write coherent and concise arguments, and deliver those arguments in a compelling fashion. The hands-on guidance and practice I received through my participation with the UWEC Forensics team helped me cultivate superb speaking abilities, and those abilities have made me a better teacher and a better citizen. I also received training in speaking through my Public Speaking, Advanced Public Speaking, and Persuasion classes, which taught me about the nuances of different speaking situations and how to tailor my presentations to be successful in different contexts. In addition, I learned how to critically analyze messages by taking courses like Communication Criticism, Communication Theory, and an independent study in Rhetorical Theory. These courses taught me how to look deeper into a message and understand its many complexities—the subtle ideas that many people are unaware of.

I’ll bet you a dollar (graduate school doesn’t pay well!) that if you ask any employer what skill they desire most in a potential job candidate, they will tell you they want excellent communication skills. Many people make the mistake of thinking that “excellent communication skills” mean “I can speak in front of people,” but this is just the tip of the iceberg. What these employers want is someone who can read reports (often confusing ones) and relay the information to others so that it makes sense. They want someone who can critically analyze a message to make sure it appeals to the people they want to appeal to. They want someone who can write clearly and concisely, so that information is conveyed quickly and smoothly. And they want someone who can do all of this without boring people to death! Cultivating “excellent communication skills” is a difficult task, but my experiences studying Communication and participating in forensics helped me do just that. So, gentle reader, if you’re asking yourself “how can I learn to communicate better?” or “what can I study that will be interesting and useful?” or even “what group can I join to have fun and learn useful skills?” then I believe you, like me, will find the answer in Communication.

Justin Rudnick

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


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