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.


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