New SJMC Speaker Series brings in top names in entrepreneurship

by Becky Larson:


Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith

If you’ve been checking in with this blog or if you follow the department, or any of its faculty, on social media – chances are you have heard about the prestigious lineup of speakers visiting Texas State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The third voice, following Bob Metcalfe and Rodney Gibbs, to join the heavy-hitting series is The Texas Tribune‘s co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief, Evan Smith. Smith helped launch the Tribune in 2009 and has been a key part of its rousing success ever since. Prior to the Tribune’s creation he worked at the helm of Texas Monthly, which twice won the National Magazine Award for general excellence during his tenure.

New Lessons

Each event was brought to Texas State as a part of the Digital Media Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, a new class whose goal is to introduce Texas State students to successful and innovative digital entrepreneurs.


Rodney Gibbs and Jacie Yang

The lecture and speaker series hybrid meets every other week to cover readings and assignments. On alternate weeks, the real drama takes place.  Students and faculty, both involved with the class and interested outsiders, pour into Old Main 320 for the chance to hear and question some of the industry’s leaders.

Dale Blasingame, who leads the undergraduate section of the stacked class, says he’s been impressed by the response and by how many of the students can speak to personal experience with digital entrepreneurship.

Jacie Yang, who assisted with the planning process for the class and leads the graduate section says, of building a new curriculum, “you have to have an idea.  You have to know what you want for the class and what you want your students to get out of it.”

One thing the graduate students will get out of the new series is their own business proposal.  Yang’s final project requires all students to submit their ideas and a formal proposal for a personal business.


Bob Metcalfe

“I want them to have their entrepreneurial thinking built up by the end of the semester.  [I want them to think] this is what we’re going to create, this is what we’re going to carry on at semester’s end.”

In their pursuit of speakers, Yang said she hoped to find people who could inspire her students with this creative process.

“I was looking at people who have really created something and have been successful with that creation.”

Blasingame added that while they “were looking for anyone and everyone who has used technology to build a company,” there was also a pronounced cognizance and desire to find diverse voices, from a range of backgrounds and fields.

The Takeaway

In terms of what she hopes her students get from the series, and as some advice for their own business proposals, Yang believes that a few key aspects of entrepreneurship are problem solving and tenacity.

“A lot of times when you have a good idea it comes from everyday life, from the problems people have or even from the complaints that you hear from your friends. When there’s a complaint it means there’s something that needs to be fixed. So I really hope our students can find a good idea, stick to it, and get it done right.”

For Blasingame and his undergraduates, it’s all about possibilities.

“I want them to have their eyes opened to this – that they could be their own boss, they could go out on their own.  They don’t have to rely on anyone else for their dream. I think many of them already know that but it’s important to bring in these people who have done it and have been really successful to provide inspiration; to show them that it’s not just possible, it’s getting easier and easier every day.”


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