Congratulations to Veronica A. Polanco!

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Ms. Polanco is the first recipient of the Mary Rose Brown Endowed Scholarship.  She is a freshman Electronic Media major from Roma, Texas.  Veronica was a featured speaker at the Endowment Appreciation Luncheon hosted by President Denise M. Trauth and the Texas State University Development Foundation. The luncheon, held on March 28th, recognized the many donors who make a difference in the lives of our students.

We are proud of Ms. Polanco and excited for her future here in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication!

Texas State’s 2017 NSAC Team Continues Winning Streak

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication and McCoy College of Business is proud to announce that Texas State’s 2017 AAF-NSAC team has placed third at the AAF District 10 Convention and Student Competition for its campaign for corporate sponsor Tai Pei. The team also won the Special Judges Award for Best Media Plan.

In addition to the team win, advertising and communication design student, Angela Rhys received the Jeanie Ruedy scholarship for $2,500, and Breonna Ruffin was recognized for being selected as one of AAF’s Most Promising Multicultural Students for 2017.

Because the Tenth District is a super district, the 18 entrants from universities across Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas are split into two pods of nine schools each. Led by co-advisors Dr. Rick Wilson and Ms. Jenny Buschhorn, Texas State competed directly with the University of Central Oklahoma, who won first place, second place winner Texas Christian University and other past district winners including Texas A&M.

SJMC alumna and PR professional Jennifer Walsh visits Texas State

SJMC alumna Jennifer Walsh visited Texas State University on Friday morning as a guest speaker in an Intro to Public Relations class. Walsh, who is currently Head of Communications at Covestro, highlighted the importance of writing, personal branding and crisis management as a public relations professional.

Walsh, a former journalism major, said she never imagined she would be working in PR.

“When I was a student, I worked at newspapers and was heavily involved in writing. I never thought I would work with public relations, but now I love it. And I apply my journalism background into everything I do,” said Walsh.

Day-to-day, Walsh is in charge of both internal and external communication for the Bayer subsidiary located in Baytown, TX, including the planning and development of content for electronic billboards, the printed newsletter, the e-newsletter, and even flyers and posters.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re going – you need a foundation in writing,” said Walsh.

Much of Walsh’s job also focuses on building Covestro’s corporate reputation and developing a plan for crisis management. Because most crises can’t be predicted, Walsh explained the importance of being “a good corporate citizen,” saying, “If you haven’t made any donations to charity or you don’t have a presence on social media before a crisis happens, it’s too late.”

Walsh said Covestro has a strategic approach to the events and philanthropies it supports, but it mostly focuses on STEM initiatives, environmental causes, education and workforce development.

“We’re a chemical company, and we have emissions. So much of our strategy is built on how we can offset some of those negative impacts,” said Walsh.

One such initiative is Solar Impulse, a plane that flew around the world last year running completely on solar energy. Covestro not only funded the plane, but its products went into its development.

While Walsh said she loves being part of these positive company-wide efforts, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is giving back to her local community.

“Especially in this job, I get to do things that benefit the local communities where I live and where my kids go to school,” said Walsh. “It’s things like that that make you feel good.”

Walsh advised students to bone up their digital portfolios and social media. “If I’m hiring someone, I’m looking at your social media,” said Walsh.

Walsh said Twitter, Instagram, Linked In and her personal website have helped her secure her online brand.

Many thanks to Ms. Walsh for speaking to our students on Friday. We love hearing from professionals in the industry, especially SJMC alums!

Mass Media & Society Cyber Club

Dr. Susan Weill is launching a new TRACS-based club for SJMC students! The club has no dues or fees and focuses on how the mass media interprets the world, especially through movies, television programs and documentaries.

Here’s how the Mass Media & Society Cyber Club will function:

  • A movie, television program or documentary will be posted monthly for members to watch. (Members will receive a notification email.)
  • After members watch the movie, television program or documentary, they will then post an observation and reply to other members’ observations.  Observations should focus on how the movie, television program or documentary might impact society.

Interested students should email Dr. Weill at weill@txstate.edu to be added to the Mass Media & Society Cyber Club membership.

PRSSA members visit Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and Dallas Mavericks’ communication teams

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PRSSA members and faculty on the Texas Rangers field.

On Friday, March 24, Texas State Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) members traveled to Dallas to gain sports public relations (PR) knowledge through speaking with the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Mavericks’ communication teams.

PRSSA Faculty Adviser Paul Villagran coordinated the trip to give members the opportunity to network and learn from PR professionals, with hopes to begin traveling to different places every spring semester.

“I really want to grow PRSSA and begin taking the members on trips every year,” Villagran said. “As a test-run, I could not think of a better place to go than Dallas. But I hope in the future we can maybe even do San Francisco or somewhere further.”

The group of 15 members and two faculty advisers, Villagran and Prisca Ngondo, arrived in Arlington, Texas, Thursday evening, where they stayed in a near hotel and woke up at 7 a.m.  for our first visit to the AT&T Stadium, also referred to as Jerry’s World or Cowboys Stadium.

Joe Trahan, Dallas Cowboys’ media relations and corporate communications coordinator, gave an exclusive tour of the 100,000-plus seat and 300 suite stadium. Trahan pointed out works of art that Jerry Jones’ wife, Eugenia Jones, put throughout the stadium, along with bringing the group to ground level to the VIP access area where the players run to the field. While Trahan showed off the million dollar suites and the 300-seat capacity press box, he explained how the industry is very demanding and rewarding.

“I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving or Christmas since I started 10 years ago,” Trahan said. “But, I mean I love what I do. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Trahan also said that his job is to bridge the gap between his players and the media and that the most important thing to do is to build his player’s trust. Ways that he can build their trust is reaching out to fellow sports PR professionals, such as Sarah Melton, director of communications for the Dallas Mavericks, and getting her to provide tickets to Dak Prescott, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, when he asks for five courtside Mavericks tickets the day of. Trahan also goes to mention that the network of professionals is very small and one of the many perks is free games when he travels to the Cowboys’ away games.

Next, the group traveled down the street to Global Life Park, which is home to the Texas Rangers. There they were toured the press conference room and the dugout, then spoke with the directors of marketing and advertising, PR and social media. It was a great opportunity for the members to get a well-rounded view of all sides of communications, especially since the Texas Rangers are one of the few MLB teams that do all their marketing and PR in-house.

The group agreed that it was interesting to see how the Rangers communication team handled different issues and delegated tasks. For example, director of social media Kaylan Estepp mentioned that the Rangers are on 10 social media platforms, however they give access to MLB staff to live-tweet on game days.

The last part of the trip, the group visited the Dallas Mavericks’ PR team at their office – the American Airlines Center. they met with Sarah Melton, director of communications, and two others: the communications manager Scott Tomlin and the communications coordinator Alan Rakowski. All three professionals had a few things in common:

  • They gained their most valuable experience in their universities’ sports information office
  • They were willing to move wherever the job took them
  • They worked hard to be known in the industry.
  • Their connections are what landed them a job

The PR professionals mentioned that sports PR world is a niche market, which makes networking important to get into the field.

“I was obsessed with Indiana basketball,” Melton said. “But once my former boss came to Texas and offered me this job, I could not pass it up.”

Melton also went on to say that being in sports PR, the fan in you must die.

“You’re there for work and you have to be professional,” Melton said. “Much of our job is media relations, so when one of the players have a bad game and they’re too upset to talk with the media, it is up to us to be the example and not let an emotional loss or a bad call get in the way of holding a press conference.”

The demand of 82 basketball games keep life for the communication team very busy, to the point where most days of the season they’re working from 7 a.m. until midnight; then up at work again the next morning. However, much like what Trahan said, all three of them said that it’s all worth it when you love your job.

Katie Stone, sophomore PRSSA member, has been to a few PRSSA events and said that this was by far her favorite and looks forward what other opportunities PRSSA will bring her in the future.

Story by Kristen Lavone Torrez

Featured Student: Ryan Reissig

Reissig Media began with a model Compag computer with Microsoft Paint and games. Mass Communication junior, Ryan Reissig, started capturing memories with his brother and their Polariod cameras.  Reissig Media is a product of the dynamic duo simply doing the things they love.  Last summer, Reissig Media was created after they used a drone to capture real estate footage of their cabin at the Frio River.  The duo produced a couple more real estate videos, which allowed them to upgrade and add equipment.  Reissig Media is now the proud owner of a Panasonic GH4, lighting and sound gear.  Now they have been able to produce promotional videos for RedBull, concert videos for Parker McCollum and weddings.

Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced having your own company?
Reissig: “The hardest thing about owning a small business is marketing yourself and finding work.  Recently, I came to the realization that if you truly love what you build your company around, the work will come as you begin to master whatever it is you love to do.  Someone who builds their company around their passion will progress far more than someone who establishes a company for the sole purpose of making money. With this mindset, I have been able to lift stress off my shoulders and focus on making more videos for pure enjoyment.  The more we create and share videos for fun, the more people notice them and send us job requests.”

Q: What advice do you have for students looking to venture out in the industry like you did?
Reissig:
“I will advise any individual to take a jump and follow their passion. Personally, my biggest fear is to give up on my dream and spend my life building the dreams of someone else. My brother and I have progressed more in a year than I could have ever imagined simply by truly having a love for all these components that make up Reissig Media. The more we focus on creating and the less we focus on money, the more progress we make. This mindset applies to any passion an individual possesses and I encourage you to go for it because you will forever look back and wonder what could have been.”

Q: What’s coming up next for you?
Reissig: “On a small scale, we plan on getting another camera soon with an electronic stabilizer and create a branch of Reissig Media that does primarily weddings. On a larger scale, we plan on hiring employees eventually to do work locally so my brother and I can have residual income while we travel and network in other states. I plan on getting a degree in digital innovation and meeting people in my classes to do work with.  We never focus on the setbacks and will continue to move forward. We are excited to see what the future holds for the company.”

Alumni Lecture Series, featuring Heloise

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication is honored to feature Southwest Texas State alumna Heloise on Tuesday, March 21 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center Recital Hall.

A 1974 graduate, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Education with a double major in Business Administration and Mathematics along with a teacher’s certificate. She is also a recipient of the University’s Distinguished Alumna Award.

Her syndicated newspaper column, “Hints from Heloise,” appears seven days a week across the United States and internationally. She is a contributing editor to and monthly columnist for “Good Housekeeping” magazine, radio host, and author of several books.

Heloise was recognized in 2009 as a Communicator of Achievement by the National Federation of Press Women. She was given the Headliner Award by the Women in Communications and was the first recipient of the National Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Mission Award for her outstanding contribution to mental health education.

The presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception at 6:30 p.m.. Parking is available at Edward Gary Garage.

Dr. Cindy Royal speaks on integrating digital culture in academia at SXSW

In Saturday’s SXSW Interactive panel “Disrupting J School with Digital Culture”, SJMC’s Dr. Cindy Royal explained how academic institutions can be more nimble by developing a culture of innovation. Joined by University of Southern California Annenberg’s Robert Hernandez, the session started with an introduction to digital culture, then discussed how innovation is happening at each of their respective schools, and ended by providing advice for other academics seeking to introduce digital concepts and topics into curriculum.

Dr. Cindy Royal began by explaining how students have three options when it comes to digital courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. They can either take digital-focused electives, add a digital concentration to their major, or sign up for a Digital Media Innovation major. With digital courses like the Fundamentals of Digital and Online Media, Coding and Data Skills, Social Media and Analytics and one-credit short courses like Digital Tools: 360 Video & VR, any student has a wide variety of curriculum options from which to choose.

At USC Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism, Hernandez said he’s not just preparing students for disruption; he’s preparing them to be leaders of disruption. Through innovative courses that partner with leading media companies such as NPR, the New York Times and ProPublica, Hernandez said diversity in his courses breeds creativity.

“What was magical was the diversity of students from different disciplines and watching them learn from each other. We have students from public relations, communication, gaming, engineering, and each one brings his or her craft to the table. These are different cultures coming together to collaborate, which is what they’ll experience when they enter the real world.”

Overcoming Challenges

Developing innovative curriculum in academia does not come without its challenges. Both Royal and Hernandez explained the disrupting traditional systems is not easy and that funding can often be an issue.

“We do a lot with a little,” said Royal. “Our director Dr. Judy Oskam is great at finding pockets of money for us, and she’s been very open to find funding to support our efforts.”

However, one major misconception about innovation is that it is too costly. While some digital equipment is highly expensive, many tools and hardware isn’t as bad as one might think. The Insta360 camera that Hernandez set up to live-stream the presentation, for example, only cost $199.

“Sometimes, smartphones might be all someone needs for an innovative project.  You can do this with little to no money,” said Royal.

Being a product of a newsroom with a bootstrap budget, Hernandez said he’s used to “hustling with nothing.” Consolidating resources has been one solution for USC, where the school even eliminated some computer labs because so many students already had their own laptops.

Outside of a budget increase, Royal said grants are also a valuable source for funding.”If grants don’t cover equipment, you can set up trips for training,” said Royal. “Get creative, and prioritize your needs.” Both Hernandez and Royal also advised academics to partner and share resources with other organizations and even academic institutions that value innovation.

Building A Culture of Innovation

While a lack of funding can be difficult, affecting the overall digital culture of an organization can be more of a challenge.

“One person can’t do this,” said Royal. “You can’t have that token ‘digital’ person in an organization — you need people who are willing to take their spare time to learn this stuff.”

Hernandez said he often has be his own “hype man” for his projects and goals, especially for those who don’t truly understand what he does.

Overall, the duo’s advice for developing a more innovative culture in academia was to model the behavior first.

“When you show off student projects and successes, people start to take notice. It becomes attractive to other faculty,” said Royal.

Big Apple offers Bobcat Promotions a reality check

By Mark A. Alvarez II

NEW YORK — Seeking to make a mark in the world capital of media, Bobcat Promotions, Texas State University’s student-run public relations firm, took its fourth annual trip to New York City this past January.

Twelve young practitioners were given the opportunity to broaden their PR perspectives by engaging in numerous professionals at top PR firms, museums and the United Nations.

BPR Executive Director Kristen Torrez, a senior, explained that visiting the Big Apple was both a personal milestone and a professional development opportunity.

The Jan. 10-14 trip was Torrez’s first New York visit. She was surprised that it was not as overwhelming as she anticipated. “I thought visiting firms in New York would be intimidating, but actually it gave me more confidence once I got there,” Torrez said. “There was a lot going on, of course, but it was exhilarating. It made me want to jump in and tackle challenges alongside leading PR professionals.”

For Vanessa Mora, public relations senior and a BPR account executive, this trip to New York, not her first, would provide an opportunity for professional growth.

“I have been to New York before,” Mora said. “Quite a few times in fact, but this was the first time I could experience New York with the capacity as a young PR professional. I have always had a firm grasp on the types of firms I would want to work for, but this was a world I never could have imagined. This trip completely raised my expectations and redefined the professional goals I had for myself.”

In its fourth year, the New York trip, created and organized by adviser Chuck Kaufman, continued the tradition of attending a mixer of Texas State mass communication alumni at the host Park Central Hotel, where they welcomed 10 alumni, including Christopher Henry of Edelman and Maira Garcia of The New York Times.

The students got to dig into a variety of subjects from their professional development to simply surviving the hustle and high cost of living in New York City.

The leap from the cozy college life of San Marcos to the bright lights of New York is quite a transition.

Mondy Hobbs, former BPR Account Executive, is now working for Weber Shandwick in New York. “She’s been living in New York City for six months now,” said Danielle Martinez, PR senior and Bobcat Promotions Website Manager. “So, seeing her there made me feel like making the big move is possible.”

Edelman’s Henry advised fellow Bobcats on ways that he believes helped him land a job in the big city. He cleverly sought out a temporary phone with a New York area code so that employers would think he was from New York, he told Torrez.

Actually, Henry is from New York but moved to Houston with his family at an early age. “He thought if he had a New York area code he would be more likely to get hired, and he did. He thinks that was a big part of it,” she said. Of course, Henry was a huge talent for BPR and as an Honors College graduate as well at Texas State.

Apart from getting to network with Texas State alumni, the Bobcat Promotions team got the opportunity to speak with the communications director of the 911 Memorial and Museum, attend a media briefing at the United Nations and visit some of the world’s largest and most prestigious public relations firms.

“I still can’t believe that we had the privilege to sit it on a media briefing led by Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary general at the UN headquarters,” Martinez said. “We got to listen in on real life situations during a live teleconference with a UN official in Mosul. I wouldn’t have been able to read or know about such events until it was carried by international media the very next day. I mean, how crazy is that?”

“Along with the briefing, we had the privilege of touring the magnificent and historic headquarters, from the general assembly hall to the security council. The institution is so full of history, diversity and human rights. It was truly a remarkable experience.”

These Bobcats experienced an unforgettable experience that not only provided insight into the professional world beyond college, but also an experience that would inspire them to follow their own vision within an ever-changing world of mass communication.

Taylor Carfield, a senior and PRSSA social media coordinator, said, “Visiting the 911 Memorial and Museum was by far one of the most somber experiences of my life. We spoke with the communications director and my biggest take away was that in representing the museum and memorial, people’s lives and families were very hurt and torn apart by these events, and the director explained that as a communicator we need to practice doing our job with the utmost sensitivity when dealing with such a tragedy.”

These kinds of insights gave the students a redefined sense of understanding of media and media relations and their place in it.

“After the trip, I felt more motivated to reach for the stars in all aspects of my life, including Bobcat Promotions,” Carfield said. “This trip really taught me to be confident and that if I want something, I can work hard enough to get it.”

After meetings, the students explored the full menu of the exciting opportunities and hustle of the city — the museums, restaurants, theater, Times Square, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, the subway system and shopping.  By all accounts, there were no shortages of lifetime memories.

“The trip never fails to achieve its mission of developing students professionally,” Kaufman, BPR adviser, said. “Students return to Texas fully charged to take on the world. They are more than simply motivated; they’re inspired. And that’s very gratifying not only for them but for me as a faculty member.”

No more classrooms, no more books for outdoorsy SJMC students

February was an unconventional month for SJMC students who wanted to get out of the classroom and into the “wild”.

On the first Saturday of February, senior lecturer Jon Zmikly took his Digital Tools: 360 Video & Virtual Reality course to the Meadow’s Center for Water and the Environment on the campus of Texas State University-San Marcos. This one-credit “Digital Dash” hybrid course revolved around immersive storytelling and giving students hands-on experience with virtual and augmented reality. Armed with 360 video cameras, smartphones and GoPros, students learned how to plan, shoot and edit video content for these new platforms.

“My favorite aspect of this course was the hands-on experience at Spring Lake. I am a very visual learner, so physically working with the technology allowed for me to fully grasp what I was learning in the modules,” said student Savannah Stockton. “I enjoyed the change of devices and the ability to work different parts of the story using the different technology, and I feel as if it not only expanded my professional qualities, but also my level of coolness.”

Zmikly said all 18 students enjoyed getting outside and had fun with the unconventional “classroom.”

“I was amazed at how many students were excited to get up early on a Saturday morning for class,” Zmikly said. “They also picked up quickly the nuances of filming for a 360 environment. It’s a different world than flat video, so there was a lot more to think about than just shooting one subject. I was really impressed.”

The team worked with the Meadow’s Center for Water and the Environment in celebration of the Center’s 15-year anniversary. Multimedia intern and SJMC student Dy Rios also joined the team to help provide content and act as a liaison between the class and the Center.

“I can’t tell you how much I loved working with the students at the Meadow’s Center,” said Rios.

Some of the students’ content will be published on the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment’s website at meadowscenter.txstate.edu.

Last weekend’s out-of-the-classroom experience was led by senior lecturer Dale Blasingame, with help from Kym Fox and Jon Zmikly. After spending five weeks learning how to turn stories solely using their phones, students were responsible for creating social content that chronicle the rebirth of Bastrop State Park, which suffered a devastating wildfire in 2011 and a flood last year. Signs of life are emerging at the park – including flowers and new trees, nearly 2,000,000 of which have been planted in the past five years.

Students and faculty at Bastrop State Park

“Weekends like this mean so much to me. Hearing the students talk about experiencing a park, some for the very first time, never gets old. I’m beyond excited to see the work they come up with,” said Blasingame.

The group used everything from Go Pros to smartphones to get footage and create social media-specific posts on topics from “10 Things to Do at Bastrop State Park” to “Signs of Life”. They even partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife and “took over” the organization’s Snapchat account. During the final night of the weekend, Texas Parks and Wildlife captured a Facebook Live of the campfire and has now garnered over 23,000 views (and counting)!

 

“Obviously we’re always busy on social media, but we never actually focus on the storytelling part of it,” said student Marco Martinez.

Both of these courses are digital electives for students throughout the SJMC program, and Blasingame and Zmikly said they are proud to be bringing an out-of-doors angle to the Digital Media Innovation major, of which they are faculty.

“Dale and Jon have been particularly creative in developing these experiences for students,” said Dr. Cindy Royal, director of the school’s Media Innovation Lab. “Their work has been instrumental to the direction of our Digital Media program in encouraging students to get outside and engage people with digital tools, as opposed to using technology to avoid doing that. I appreciate the time and effort they have taken to learn new skills, develop curriculum, manage the logistics and build relationships associated with these successful experience projects.”

Blasingame’s three-credit Mobile Storytelling class began as a one-credit “Digital Dash” hybrid, and Zmikly said he hopes his 360 class can make the same evolution.

“I’m very excited students can gain hands-on experience on new tools for storytelling. It will serve them well wherever they go in the future,” said Zmikly.