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I am So “CJ”: Yingxing Zhang on an Enriching 2014 CVSJA Conference

The CJ blog post this week is written by Yingxing Zhang. Yingxing is an international student from China. He is a senior studying public relations and is set to graduate this December. He took time away from deciding on a graduate school to reflect on his experience planning and helping to run the 2014 Chippewa Valley School Journalism Association conference this semester.

A post from Yingxing Zhang:

As a communication and journalism major, I have spent almost three years at UW-Eau Claire learning how to be a CJ 10818713_593094494147017_965355319_nprofessional. This also involves learning how to introduce the program to people outside of my field by creating a positive image for CJ, given that many people lack a basic understanding of what it all encompasses. My involvement in the 2014 Chippewa Valley School Journalism Association conference put those lessons to the test.

This semester, I have been attending CJ 351. The course is strategic event planning and it provides students a hands-on opportunity to plan and run a real on-campus event. The event is the Chippewa Valley School Journalism Association fall conference which each year invites high school students across Wisconsin to UW-Eau Claire to learn about the communication and journalism program. This year, the activities included campus tours, guest speakers and eight workshops. The workshops exposed the students to a real CJ professional environment by teaching them knowledge and skills such as photography, storytelling, writing, the use of social media and making a yearbook.

As an international student who had no idea about event planning and few experiences with it, everything in this class is new and exciting to me. At the beginning of this semester, 30 students were assigned to 17 different groups to take on specific responsibilities covering all of the necessary parts needed to run an event: design, media, social media, transportation, facility, awards, workshop, guest speaker, volunteer, hospitality, registration, and opening and closing ceremonies, etc. My job was evaluation director; it was more straightforward than other positions and most of my work was done after the event. However, my role made me feel more responsible for the whole planning process since evaluation directors are very important and ultimately tell if the participants’ opinions are truly reflected and if the event was run successfully.


Working with my partner, we designed three different surveys for high school students, their advisors and the workshop leaders in order to assess if certain objectives of the event were met. At the completion of CVSJA, it was hoped the students would:

  • Be able to apply new hands-on skills in communication and journalism.
  • Have greater knowledge of career paths available to them in communication and journalism.
  • Envision themselves as successful college students.
  • Have had an enjoyable day and will feel a sense of community.

More importantly, the event aimed at generating interest among participants in majoring in communication and journalism at UW-Eau Claire along with enhancing the visibility and reputation of the Communication & Journalism Department.

Most of these objectives were met and we successfully left the high school students and advisors with a positive impression as the representatives of CJ professionals. In my mind, besides the hard work of the planning process beforehand, it was also the flexible and concerted cooperation of each group member during the event that made for a fabulous and amazing experience. All of the event planners were highly involved and passionate on the day of the event and assisted each other’s work with helpful support. For example, when I felt helpless and had difficulty in helping my workshop leader, a couple other directors came to the room to give their support and kept telling me “good job, Brian!” This group bonding further inspired me to do my best in running the event and fulfilling my obligations.

The positive feedback from about 101 students and advisors attending really encouraged us, however, that is not the only success we accomplished. One of the benefits of CJ 351 is that it not only teaches students systematic theories of event planning, but more importantly, it allows students to transfer their knowledge into practical skills with hands-on experience. Going through a complete event planning process really enriches the experience. CVSJA strengthened our skills and made us more proficient.

From my perspective, it was a great experience that taught me how to more effectively communicate and work with people. By actively involving myself in the course and event, I feel more proud and excited to tell people, “I am so CJ.” I have become much more confident in sharing my experiences as a student who successfully integrated his cultural background with both the American and CJ culture.

I believe it is events like CVSJA that make communication and journalism particularly appealing. I invite interested readers to learn more about the event by checking out #ImsoCJ tweets from the day and the CVSJA Facebook page.

Yingxing Zhang

Katy Schulte on Finding Success in Unexpected Places

1327ea1I never actually saw myself graduating; it’s true, I was never able to envision myself walking across the stage and accepting a diploma. It’s like life just stopped for me at 22, it was all blank. Looking back I know it was a defense mechanism, a way to avoid the unknown and bask a little longer in the innocence of my youth. Standing here today I can see for miles. The education and resources I received while at UW-Eau Claire have made me a confident and goal-oriented woman. I am excited for my future and am secure in my career as an Executive Team Leader of Guest Experience for the St. Paul Midway Super Target. I even have business cards, how official is that! I manage all guest interactions within our store; this includes the checkout process, guest service and returns, whether or not our store looks brand new and how well we are driving loyalty within our store.

Heads up folks, I never expected to be doing this, my degree is in Mass Communication (Public Relations) and now I work in management.

I remember looking around me in April of my senior year and all I saw was the success of everyone else: my roommates already had job offers and the people I worked with could not wait to move out of the state to begin their careers. Then there was me: confused, annoyed and about ready to give up. I decided to step outside the box and look at other career opportunities that were available, that is when I saw the opening for an ETL GE at Target. I was hesitant at first because of my lack of experience with management but after just a few days on the job, I couldn’t believe how many similarities my role had to any other PR role. I am the one who guests seek out with any questions they are having about their experience at our store, I write action plans constantly and I am always “on stage” so being well spoken is a must. That is PR in a nutshell!

Many of my daily routines revolve around being professional and only one thing could have prepared me this well for my role: PRSSA. Without PRSSA, I know I would have made many more mistakes and would have struggled with corporate communication and professionalism a lot more. I am so thankful for the opportunities that PRSSA presented me with and will always stand by the prominence of that organization for every student, PR or not.

I could not be happier in my current role and would give any frazzled and stressed graduating seniors this piece of advice: It will all be ok, it really will. You will get a job, you will make money, and you may even like it! But make sure to join PRSSA, it WILL help you, whether you know it right away or not.

Please reach out with any questions or comments by emailing me at, I would love to chat with you about Target and my role specifically.

Katy Schulte

CJ Peer Advisors on Making Your Spring (and Winter) a Success

This week’s CJ blog is written by Alexis Benjamin and Amanda Krueger. Alexis and Amanda are peer advisors in the Department of Communication and Journalism. Peer advising is a relatively new program that uses the skills of some of our very best students to serve as academic advising support for CJ majors. Alexis is studying organizational communication and pre-professional health, and Amanda is studying journalism, psychology and French. As you will learn from the post, the peer advisors never take the place of the student’s assigned academic advisor. Instead they support the advising process by answering questions about the registration system, coaching students on completing their online degree plan and directing them to important campus resources.

Their post contains great resources for current students, and for the rest of you, a peek at the broad range of topics addressed through academic advising.

To learn more about how the Department of Communication and Journalism is using academic advising to help students navigate the college experience, gain meaningful experience in and outside the classroom, and graduate in four years, please visit the CJ advising webpage.

A Post from the CJ Peer Advisors:


We are the CJ Department Peer Academic Advisors—Amanda and Alexis! Our job is to help students understand their Degree Audits, create their Degree Plan and help them out with advising while guiding them to resources on campus.

Registration is coming up and it is important that students start to meet with their advisors! Even if you are a junior or senior and don’t have to meet with your advisor, you should check to see that you are on track and find out what resources are available for beginning to start your career. Bring your Degree Audit, Degree Plan, and any questions you have! If you are unsure of what you need to do to prepare for your meeting, you can always schedule an appointment with one of us.

Our office hours (Hibbard 172):

Mondays/Wednesdays: 9-11 am

Tuesdays/Thursdays: 12-2 pm

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I have to meet with my advisor?

If you need to receive your PAC code (if you are a Freshman or Sophomore) then yes!

For Juniors and Seniors: Meeting with your advisor is not a requirement, but they can be a great resource for career-related questions and networking options. Additionally, your advisor is likely one of the professionals who has known you the longest during your time here. They can be a great person to use a reference or to write you a letter or recommendation (of course be sure to ask their permission before you list them as a reference).

What can I do to graduate sooner?

Take Winterim and Summer courses! They could save you a lot of money in the long run! These are the courses that are being offered this winter specific to CJ:

  • CJ 202: The Fundamentals of Speech (a requirement for ALL CJ majors and minors)
  • CJ 205: Listening
  • CJ 300: Research Methods (a requirement for many CJ majors and minors)
  • CJ 307: Small Group Communication

Many of these courses are offered online!

Creating a Degree Plan as soon as you can will also help you to get a better idea of how many semesters it will take for you to graduate.

What classes should I take?

The answer is it depends.

The best guide to this is your Degree Audit, which can be found on your MyCampS account. Check out your course catalog for other details and the CJ advising webpage for Advising Sheets.

Your advisor can also help with this.

Where can I go for more information on what I can do with my major?

You can always go to your advisor or professors to talk about what types of jobs could be right for you. As people who know you well, they can also give you some insights related to where they think you would do well. You can also go to Career Services—one of the most important resources on campus! They can help you pick majors/minors, learn more about yourself and your values when it comes to careers, and more!

If I am graduating soon how can I get help searching for jobs or learning how to present myself as the best candidate for a job?

Career Services has some lesser known resources, such as resume reviews, mock interviews, InterviewStream, and resources for locating jobs and unlisted positions. Everyone should begin to take advantage of these resources as soon as they can, but especially Juniors and Seniors!

Are there any Study Abroad Programs that relate specifically to CJ?

YES! Dr. Dorsher is a leading faculty member on a summer study abroad program focused on multimedia journalism in London, Paris, and Nice! This is a great opportunity to expand on your journalism skills and to study in an international setting. For more information visit the Study Abroad website or contact Dr. Dorsher. The priority deadline is coming up on November 17!

As always, we hope that you will be able to meet with us and please email us with any questions or concerns you may have at

Abby Vidmar Reflects on a Summer Internship She Will Not Soon Forget

Movies and television portray the tasks of interns as getting coffee for the boss, endless wrestling matches with the copy machine and retrieving the boss’s dry cleaning. That was not the case this past summer with my internship at Hendricks Marketing, a marketing firm in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

Wendy Hendricks is the proud owner of the firm. She recruits and collaborates with different talents in advertising, public relations, website management, photography, video and other various businesses to create a customized campaign for her clients. I knew from the very start that this was not an ordinary internship.

On the third day, Wendy set the bar high by giving me the opportunity to meet Governor Dayton and the Mayor of Saint Cloud at a press conference. The experience exceeded my expectations during the few months I worked in “Minneapolis with a supportive community twist.”


Meeting Governor Dayton

Wendy granted me the chance to work directly with her colleagues to advance their business. I was able to conduct research for businesses interested in market expansion and industry design as well as sell advertising space for Business Central magazine.  In addition, I contributed to coordinating and planning events for fundraisers; I created promotional material to be sent through email blasts and direct mail, and attended meetings with businesses all over Saint Cloud specializing in an assortment of marketing aspects.

When people say “Work hard, play hard,” Wendy knows the significance of balancing work and life, and she taught me how to do it gracefully. She volunteers her time to organizations and brought me to several unique events. Not only did I get the privilege of oiling up attractive firefighters for a breast cancer fundraiser, but I also judged the Sauk Rapids Ambassador pageant. This internship definitely had some perks.


And those attractive firefighters!

Learning quickly throughout my internship that building and keeping positive relationships are crucial to success, these lessons have since carried over to my classes. It is important to keep goodwill and great relations with everyone I encounter. Doing the little things such as sending a thank you card or recognizing individuals for their hard work really matter. During my internship I was given a great deal of responsibility and was head of accounts. This has helped me with my job on campus as the Advertising Manager of The Spectator. I am able to take initiative, motivate my staff and stay focused on the objectives of the advertising team.

My internship at Hendricks Marketing has helped me gain perspective regarding professional relationships, confirmed my belief that I am on the right path to successful future endeavors in the workforce and shaped me into a better person. Overall, my internship experience was valuable and irreplaceable.

 Abby Vidmar

Looking at a New Course in Environmental Communication with Dr. Tschida


Dr. Tschida

A poll conducted in 2013 by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian Magazine found that 51 percent of Americans know that “fracking” is a process that extracts natural gas from the earth as opposed to coal, silicon or diamond. Does this mean that only 51 percent of Americans should be invited to participate in conversations about fracking? What role does the media play in informing the public about such a process? How do scientists communicate about fracking to the other 49 percent?

Environmental Communication & the Public Sphere (CJ 491) is a new special topics course being offered in the spring 2015 semester that aims to tackle questions like these and more. Dr. David Tschida will be teaching the course and it will be open to all students, has no prerequisites and can serve as an elective for any emphasis area. I sat down with Tschida to get a clear picture of what the course is all about.

“This will be a great course for students majoring and minoring in CJ,” he begins, “but those in the Watershed Institute as well as those in sciences, political science and sociology should all find relevance in this course material, especially if they are interested in environmental issues.”

“The course aims to get students thinking about the ways in which we communicate environmental issues in the public sphere and in different public formats,” Tschida tells me. To accomplish this, the course is broken down into different areas of content.

It begins by looking at the ways we define nature and elements within nature. As Tschida explains, “many of the words we use when talking about the environment are influenced by our families, our education systems and other values such as faith traditions.” An example he presents to me is nature. Nature may be defined as something we have dominance over or as something we have a responsibility to shepherd. Those definitions ultimately impact our responses, values and attitudes about an issue such as climate change.

“The course then switches gears,” says Tschida, “and investigates the context of discussions in the public sphere.” What sort of people are invited or not invited to participate in these environmental conversations? What do these citizen groups and public forums look like and how are they determined? As Tschida tells me, “average citizens will sit next to the scientist who is sitting next to the industrial person and a city council member. Yet at other times they’re restricted to only certain kinds of interests.” This section also looks at how access to information plays a role in these discussions.

After that is examining the role the media play in impacting and influencing environmental issues. This can range from news reporting to entertainment programs. Tschida’s primary research interest is in environmental communication and he has studied a wide range of areas involving the media.

“One of the things I’m really interested in is how the television series ‘Whale Wars’ on Animal Planet addresses issues and turns environmental advocacy into an entertainment program,” Tschida explains. “Some people may then view having a television program as conferring legitimacy to an issue and not pay attention to other issues that aren’t shown on television.”

This also touches on the next topic: environmental campaigns and advocacy. This involves advocates of clean environment, environmental protection and environmental justice issues. It will look at how these social movements form, the traditional and nontraditional communication strategies they use and what factors contribute to the success or failure of certain advocacy groups.

The final topic of the course will be scientific communication and risk communication. Scientific communication revolves around looking at the ways scientists communicate their research to an audience primarily made up of non-scientists. Risk communication is all about how scientists, government officials, health officials and others speak about risks involving dangers to people and to the environment.

“We are as a society quite scientifically illiterate and oftentimes misunderstand basic scientific terms as well as what a scientist’s notion of proof is,” says Tschida. “This leads us to falsely think that if there isn’t 100 percent certainty, which there never is in science, then we don’t have to be serious or concerned about an issue.” This creates a problem for the way we understand what science is contributing to discussions in the public sphere.

Tschida explains that the course is designed to meet three objectives. First, he wants students to be able to explain and critically examine the role environmental communication is playing in our formation of attitudes, values, beliefs. Second is to have students distinguish and be critical of the different elements of the public sphere where the environmental communication is occurring. The final objective is to think about the techniques that people use to be successful in addressing environmental issues when they are talked about in the public sphere and to think critically about strengths and weaknesses of these techniques people are employing.

This is a great course for anyone interested promotions of the “greening” of an organization through advertising or public relations and in environmental journalism and media.

Are there any alumni that would be interested in taking such a course? Share your thoughts about the new course by commenting below or emailing me at

Kris Knutson Investigates the Feelings of Family Separation Among College Students

Greetings! My name is Kris Knutson and I am a (relatively) new faculty member in the Department of Communication and Journalism at UWEC. I am really excited to be talking to you today about a study of mine that was recently published in Family Science.

I am a quantitative social scientist by training which means that I use statistics to help me understand the communicative phenomenon I am investigating. In this study, my co-author and I used mediational analyses to analyze our data. This is a fancy way of saying we were interested in answering the question of “How?”

We had two big “how” questions we attempted to answer in this study, but I am only going to talk about one of them today.

We began with the very common-sense assumption that college students would perceive greater separation from their families at the end of a typical college semester than they did at the beginning. We were interested in figuring out how that change happened.

So, we set out to find variables that would help us explain the phenomenon we were investigating. We knew that feeling an increasing sense of separation from one’s family is considered very normal for college students, and we thought that college students might feel more separated from their families because they perceive less social support from their families.

Social support, as we measured it, is experienced when individuals perceive that there are people in their lives who they can go to when things aren’t going right. These people will help them with their problems, help them deal with their emotions, help them make decisions, and overall just be there as individuals who will listen to them (Zimet, Dahlem, Zimet, & Farley, 1988). What is important to remember with social support is that a person has to perceive the support to be affected by it (Wills & Shinar, 2000). So, while parents might think that they provide a lot of support to their children who are in college, if college students feel like they shouldn’t need that support or that they can’t truly access it because of a large distance between them and their parents, they might not recognize and label the supportive messages they get from their parents as “supportive.” If they do this, they don’t reap the benefits of that support.

We predicted that social support was part of the explanation of how family separation increased across a semester, but we knew that there was more to it than that. So, we decided to look at loneliness as another explanatory variable; we thought if students felt like they weren’t able to get support from their family members then those feelings of separation from their families might make them feel lonelier. Once they felt more loneliness, it only made sense that they would also experience more stress.

In all, our predicted model indicated that students would feel greater separation from their families across the course of a college semester because they first feel that they are getting less support from their family members which leads to increased loneliness which then leads to feelings of greater stress.

In testing this hypothesis we found that students do report feeling more disengagement from their families at the end of normal fall semester than they do at the beginning of a semester. Also, the order of the explanatory variables in our model was found to be correct. You can explain changes in perceptions of family separation by a decrease in perception of family support which leads to an increase in perceptions of loneliness and then an increase in perceptions of stress.

So, what does this all mean? Well, it asks us to remember that although separation from one’s family upon going to college is considered a “normal” process, there are psychosocial consequences associated with that transition (e.g., increased loneliness and thus increased stress). Thus, it is important that students are consistently made aware of the support services that they can access on campus because they might not see their families as viable options for needed support.

As with all things, however, our model only answers part of the “How?” question. There are many other variables that would help us better understand how perceptions of family separation change across a semester, and those are things that my co-author and I (as well as other researchers) can look at for years to come!

Thanks so much for reading about my research! If you have any questions, you can feel free to email me at

Wills, T. A., & Shinar, O. (2000). Measuring perceived and received social support. In S. Cohen, L. Underwood, & B. H. Gottleib (Eds.), Social support measurement and intervention: A guide for health and social scientists. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Zimet, G. D., Dahlem, N. W., Zimet, S. G. & Farley, G. K. (1988). The multidimensional scale of perceived social support. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52, 30-41. doi: 10.1207/s15327752jpa5201_2.

Blugold Radio: Format Changes Lead to Threefold Increase in Listeners

Generations of UW-Eau Claire students have fond memories of getting great broadcast experiences working for WUEC FM 89.7.  The current generation of students are leaving their mark on the station with a change in format designed to feature more voices from around the university and the larger community. That change, along with excellent student reporting and 378210_480757651935281_1058995277_nadvisor support, has helped triple the size of the audience tuning in on Sunday evenings from 5:00-8:00 p.m.

According to Nielsen Audio, in the spring of 2014, Blugold Radio drew 1,300 listeners in an average week. This includes an average of 500 individuals listening to the show at any one time. To give the number some perspective, the average number during the fall of 2013 was 400 listeners and 100 fewer the semester before that. Breane Lyga, a UW-Eau Claire senior and Blugold Radio’s station manager, and Dean Kallenbach, a Blugold Radio adviser and regional manager for Wisconsin Public Radio credit the increase in part to the changes in format.

The new format, known as Blugold Radio, features three newscasts and three sportscasts per hour, as well as weekly feature segments on important issues involving the campus and the local community. There are also entertainment, arts, research and history segments.

A producer during the spring semester, Lyga made the jump to station manager this fall. She reacted to the increase in listenership with excitement. Looking back to spring, she remembers key changes. “It has gone from just interviews and music to movie reviews, a history segment and even a gaming segment,” she said. “A little bit of everything for everyone.”

Lyga’s role as station manager entails a lot of administrative work. This ranges from managing a team of 52 volunteers and paid staff, acting as the liaison between the staff and Kallenbach and hiring new staff to running the weekly budget meetings and meeting with Student Senate.


Senior journalism major Glen Olson on the air

Variety in the new format is just one of the reasons Lyga thinks there has been such an increase. The number of segments produced has more than doubled. In addition to her station management duties, Lyga finds time to produce a segment each week on research. Station staff have also added a segment that features student organizations every week. Not all contributions are coming from communication and journalism students, a trend Lyga encourages.

“We have a history major who does a history segment and a creative-writing major who does a radio drama,” said Lyga. “I think just that variety of what is possible on Blugold Radio has also helped with our listenership and increased volunteers.”

As for the pressure of expectations, she is more aware that people are actually listening and thinks it is definitely in the minds of the producers and volunteers but maintains that “the quality has been better than it’s ever been.”

Beyond those changes, Lyga recognizes Blugold Radio would not have such a significant presence if it were not for the involvement of Wisconsin Public Radio and Dean Kallenbach. “He comes here on a volunteer basis to train and work with all of the staff,” Lyga said of Kallenbach, “and having a professional come in and give us tips and pointers has really helped Blugold Radio be successful as a whole.”

Kallenbach oversees student programming on Blugold Radio alongside faculty adviser Dr. Maureen Schriner. When asked about the factors he believes contributed to the increase, he mentions a shift in focus. “The student broadcasters made a conscious effort last year”, he said, “to focus their efforts into a single three hour magazine program that is largely journalistic.” Kallenbach believes that the change in programming was followed by an increase in interest in the program.

Along with campus and community focus, Kallenbach also credited public relations efforts for the increase, mentioning, “our public relations team at Blugold Radio did a nice job spreading the word through campus events, social media, news releases, advertising trades and web activity.”

All of this increased listenership has also spurred interest in participating in the station, which Kallenbach sees as “a testament to the good work we’re doing to connect with the campus and community with our broadcasts.”

Does it change the approach to the current semester? Kallenbach thinks it reinforces the commitment students have made to focus on spoken word content. “I’m sure it will keep evolving,” he said, “ but this long-form journalistic style makes sense–it’s also very compatible for digital use.”

Remember to tune into Blugold Radio this Sunday and every Sunday during the semester from 5-8 p.m. on 89.7 WUEC-FM as well as through Archives of past shows and stories can also be heard on the WUEC website.

I would love to hear from WUEC alumni. What are your thoughts about the increase in listeners and the changes in programming? Email me at or comment below.

Home coming AND Homecoming

On this homecoming week, it is only fitting that one of our new UW-Eau Claire faculty members is a former student. I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Evan Perrault, the newest member of the Department of Communication and Journalism. A recent graduate of Michigan State University, Perrault is now teaching Communication in Contemporary Society (CJ105), Writing for Public Relations (CJ373) and Public Relations Campaign Planning (CJ374). Our conversation covered many topics but one thing was clear throughout: Perrault is enthusiastic about what he is doing and loves where he has ended up.

How is the new semester going?

I’m enjoying it. I’m really enjoying my students. The caliber of students here is unlike anywhere I know. They’re thirsty for knowledge;0926141425_Burst13~2 they are students who want to learn. It’s something that you don’t really find at bigger institutions, even at other institutions this size in the state. I’ve been able to visit many different schools during my graduate schooling and have interacted with their students. I don’t think there are any other students out there like the students here. I think part of it is the liberal education core that we have. We want students to not just be experts in their disciplines or sub-disciplines, but also well-rounded individuals who are able to approach problems from lots of different angles.
I think that is why I am where I am today, because I had that broad knowledge base and liberal education. I think there is a whole culture here surrounded by this idea that we can do more than just what our discipline says we can do.

How does it feel to be back in Eau Claire?

I love it. The learning curve is a lot less steep, which I really like, because I know where I’m going; I know where the resources are and how to find them. I think that is one of the biggest challenges when you start a new job anywhere is just trying to figure out the little things to help you survive. Luckily I’ve been able to focus more time on my teaching because of the high level of familiarity I already have with the institution.  

What is your academic background?

I graduated from UW-Eau Claire in the winter of 2006 with a double major in political science and broadcast journalism. Then I was a TV reporter for a little more than two and a half years at two different stations in Wisconsin, but decided the TV life wasn’t for me and decided to go back to school.

During my time as a reporter I did a lot of stories on health care. I always thought, there had to be better ways we could improve how people learned about health and how we could communicate about it more effectively through the media. As a result I looked for graduate programs that had a strong health communication focus, and found Michigan State University’s to be one of the top programs in the nation for health and risk communication.

The funding I received as a Master’s student required me to teach undergraduate courses, and I immediately fell in-love with teaching. Unlike television news where I never knew if my messages were having an impact, with teaching I can see if my messages are really taking-hold in my audience – my students.

After that first year of my Master’s program I knew I was in the right job, so I decided to continue my graduate studies. I just finished my Ph.D. in communication from Michigan State University in May of this year.


What are your interests in public relations?

My core interest is in health communication. I am specifically interested in how patients choose their primary care physicians, and what healthcare systems can provide to patients to help them make more informed decisions. For example, I have performed a few content analyses about the kind of information that appears on doctors’ online biographies. The amount of information that is provided to help patients make an informed decision is very limited. It’s normally just a name, their education, where they did their residencies, and that’s about it. Personally, when I am searching for a new doctor I want to know if this person is someone with whom I would feel comfortable disclosing highly personal information. We know that we like to disclose information to our friends because we know personal information about them, and they are similar to us on a number of dimensions. So I thought, why can’t we try to make doctors seem a little more like us; a little more human? My dissertation tested this idea by showing prospective patients biographies of doctors that had either professional or personal information about the doctor within them. People overwhelmingly chose to want to visit the physician that included personal information about herself within the biography. This is a simple addition healthcare systems could make to their current biographical offerings that could help patients make better decisions for themselves about the kind of doctor they want taking care of them. I’m interested in continuing this line of research during my time here at UW-Eau Claire, and hopefully being able to partner with the health systems in town to find the best ways to improve their physician information online.

Second, I’m also broadly interested in campaign design and evaluation, which is why the PR campaigns class is a good fit for me. I’m interested in how we can gather data from target audiences and use that data to try to make the most effective messages possible.

What do you think of the direction of the CJ department is heading?

I’m excited about it. I think there is a void in this region, and even in the state, with regards to higher education beyond the bachelor’s in health communication. Next year we’re starting a graduate certificate in health communication and hopefully moving into a full blown master’s program. That is something I think this region could really use. With the health systems in town, and the excellent nursing school at UW-Eau Claire, I think a graduate program in health communication is a great way to bridge all these fields together. After all, you cannot have effective health care without effective communication.

What are your interests outside of work?

In what little time I can find, I like to watch football (of course the Green Bay Packers), but also try to find some time to cheer on my Michigan State Spartans. My wife and I recently bought a house, so there have been lots of projects that have been taking up my time. Other than that, we like to travel and cook together, and we look forward to discovering some new places to eat in the Eau Claire area.

Alex Jansen

Nice, France: An Understatement

We begin in Canada

10449895_10152173475007882_7385697600840653028_nThe story of Nice, France begins in Montreal. Yes, Canada. Dr. Mike Dorsher won a 2008-09 Fulbright Scholar research fellowship in Montreal at McGill University. It was during this fellowship that Dorsher gained an appreciation for the French culture that is an enduring way of life in some parts of the country.

A few years later, after a study abroad trip to Peru, Dorsher proposed the idea of a journalist workshop in Quebec to the Institute for Education in International Media (ieiMedia), an organization offering journalism study-abroad programs. The response from ieiMedia was that students want to go to Europe. Thus began his role as Program Director: this included the budgeting, itinerary planning and syllabus writing that would take 20 students (12 from UWEC) and seven faculty members to Nice, France.

The study abroad program ran from July 4 to August 1 with a one credit direct study during the spring semester. Quick geography lesson: Nice is on the southeast coast of France on the Mediterranean, located conveniently between Cannes and Monaco.


The journalists become les journalistes

The students and faculty generally began their days with French lessons at Actilangue, a French language school in Nice. After that was journalism class until the school would lock up for lunch, which offered a definite reminder they were in the south of France; as Dorsher explains, “everyone took at least a full hour for lunch and oftentimes, as the French do, would take two, two and a half hours for lunch.”

After what quickly became more of a working lunch, the students and faculty would break into groups of four to five students and one or two faculty members to work on assignments. A planning mix-up left the teams with only one interpreter to work with.

“We only had one interpreter for 80 hours of time,” said Dorsher.  “We had been told, I had been told and made plans for four interpreters for 20 hours a piece and so that was a big challenge, for only one group at a time or one person at a time to have a professional interpreter.”

The misunderstanding led to some frustration from the French people and students alike but quickly more niceforced the issue of improving their language skills. The resulting students’ stories comprise two blogs: Nice Nous and Nice du Jour-nalisme.

When asked what he thought the students got out of the program, Dorsher said, “maybe the largest benefit is just that it gives them confidence or at least the suspicion that in the future they are able to handle what is thrown at them or what they need to do in order to get a story under difficult and uncertain circumstances.”

“Once they have been able to get a story, several stories, in a foreign language they speak little if any of, and in a foreign place that is very different from any place they’ve ever lived before,” he continued, “it’s the case that when you have to get a story in English on the other side of Eau Claire instead of just on campus, it has to be a lot less daunting.”

As for the experience as a whole, Dorsher sums it up perfectly: “It’s the fabulous sights that we saw, fabulous food we ate, the fabulous people that we met and talked with, and if not made friends with, at least got to see first hand what their life was like.”

Public relations and terrible packing

One of those students on the trip was Larissa Jackson, a senior double majoring in public relations and liberal arts with a larissaphotography emphasis. She decided to go because she always wanted to travel abroad. Despite having very little French language knowledge beforehand and finding that the most challenging barrier, she is certain she will be back.

As a public relations student, Jackson’s role involved writing about, as she describes, “the students and the experiences we all took part in.” An example of this is a story she wrote describing the ieiMedia students touring the Matisse Museum in Nice.

Asked what she learned, Jackson expressed matters both philosophical and pragmatic:

“That there is so much of the world that I have yet to see. That traveling really does open your eyes to so many new things. To keep an open mind, being in such a new environment with new people, you just have to take it day by day. I also learned that I am a terrible packer and next time, because there will be a next time, my packing tactics will be so much different.”

When asked if she would do it again, Jackson simply responded, “when are we leaving?”

“Coming back home everything seemed so boring and blah compared to everything back in France,” she said. “It was a trip that I will never forget: the place, the people, the food, that wine.”

Nice 2.0

Dorsher made sure to let me know they are working on a return trip to Nice for next summer. Hoping to learn from and improve upon this past trip, the plan is to fly into London and spend three or four days there doing some initial journalism in a familiar language and touring the BBC. They are also planning the timing to coincide with Wimbledon in hopes of enjoying some early round matches. From there, the group will get on the Eurostar and ride under the English Channel to Paris. After three or four days in Paris, it is off to Nice for the remaining three weeks. Those interested should check out ieiMedia’s Nice, France study abroad page for more information.

Have a study abroad story to share? I would love to hear it: email me at or comment below.

Alex Jansen

Welcoming a New Familiar Face AND a New Brand

Greetings, and thanks for keeping in touch with the UWEC Department of Communication and Journalism through this blog.  As we move through the third week of an exciting new academic year, it seems like a good time to update you on a newish face in the department and a new brand.

Dr. Evan Perrault: A familiar face, a different role

Dr. Evan Perrault

The department is very pleased to welcome Dr. Evan Perrault back to UWEC and to the department.  Evan began work this fall as an assistant professor with primary teaching duties in the public relations area.  He recently completed a Ph.D. in Communication at Michigan State University. He is particularly interested in public relations messages in health care contexts. Evan is a 2006 UWEC graduate with majors in broadcast journalism and political science, and he has professional experience in broadcast journalism. Even though the campus looks quite a bit different than it did when he left in 2006, Evan says he feels at home. The department looks forward to the wonderful knowledge and experience he will bring to students.

A note on The Power of AND

In May 2014, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire launched a new brand, designed to better reflect what it means to be a Blugold.  As the brand launch website saysUW-Eau Claire helps to unleash The Power of AND by challenging students, faculty, staff and alumni to explore their multiple passions and academic pursuits. Blugolds are not defined solely by one interest or discipline. They are competitive, successful graduates with much to offer the world.”

As you might guess, the Department of Communication AND Journalism is no stranger to The Power of ANDOur students combine mastering theoretical knowledge AND gaining applied experience, they are strong students AND working professionals, and they are leaders on campus AND active in the community. Check out the brand launch page for much more information on the new brand, and for lots of photos of students identifying their Power of AND.

Over the course of the year, this blog will share many stories of how students experience The Power of AND in the Department of Communication and Journalism. Alumni—let us know how The Power of AND has played out in your lives by contacting Alex Jansen, social media intern at or commenting on this post.

Mary Hoffman, professor and chair of the department


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