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.

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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

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