SJMC’s 2017 Awards Ceremony

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication honored its brightest and best students at the 2017 Awards Ceremony in Old Main on Tuesday. Proud parents, family members, faculty and staff joined in celebrating the scholars’ achievements. Check out the photo slideshow below for a visual recap of the event, and learn about our outstanding student honors!

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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.”

Texas State alum lands job at Edelman NYC

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Christopher Henry – Photo from LinkedIn

By: Jennifer Alvord

Texas State alumnus Christopher Henry has recently landed a job at Edelman, the largest public relations firm in the world, in New York City.

Henry is a part of the public affairs team and works with clients such as Microsoft, McGraw Hill Financial and the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development (MEDEI).

Henry is the former executive director of Bobcat Promotions, a student-run public relations firm on campus, and said that it taught him many valuable skills before graduating.

“Being able to walk into an interview saying, ‘I know how to write a press release’ or ‘I know how to pitch to a business’ was a vital thing for me and definitely helped me get to where I am now,” Henry said.

Before being recruited to Edelman, Henry interned for the U.S. Senator of New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, on her public affairs team and also interned for Brunswick Group, which is a financial crisis firm.

Henry couldn’t stress enough how critical internships are. “If you want to be successful in PR, you have to go above and beyond and get out of classroom experience.”

Henry also thinks that a major key to being a successful PR practitioner is to constantly be networking. “Network everywhere you go,” Henry said. “I still use many of the contacts that I’ve made throughout my career at my job at Edelman.”

BPR Professional Development Tour in NYC

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Bobcat Promotions visiting Edelman.

By Jennifer Alvord

NEW YORK — A trip to New York City means more than finding 99-cent pizza, $30 drinks, tickets to a Broadway show, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and tipping a Disney character in Times Square for a selfie.

Those were mere sideshows to the main event of the Second Annual Bobcat Promotions Professional Development trip to the Big Apple.

A dozen members of the student-run public relations firm visited top public relations firms, including Edelman, Fleishman-Hillard and Ogilvy PR, along with the United Nations and the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Tyler Mahan, a PR senior, said that it was “the best trip ever,” and he is now considering a move to New York City to pursue his career.

“I was inspired more than ever to join the public relations industry,” Mahan said. “Every agency was better than the last, in my opinion, and I’m now driven to gain more experience through internships and Bobcat Promotions than ever.”

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A breathtaking view from the top of the Rockefeller Center. Photo by: Jennifer Alvord

At Edelman, the BPR team met with Texas State alum Christopher Henry, a former executive director with the student firm. Henry works with the public affairs team and is working with client Microsoft. He was part of a panel of young Edelman staff members who work in different departments and discussed their career path to the world’s largest PR firm.

Henry also was part of a group of alumni who shared their personal experiences in seeking employment in New York and handling day-to-day living in the city. Among the alumni guests were sisters Kendall and Kelby Schmidt and Natalie Schorn.

The BPR team was joined during a visit to Fleishman-Hillard by graduate students from Syracuse University. The most impressive presentation involved the firm’s handling of content marketing through social media. A Fleishman digital team has a newsroom-like space called The Daily Planet and connect the relevance of news events to their clients, then write posts accordingly.

Ashley DeBolt, executive director of Bobcat Promotions, participated in her second professional development tour. She once again recognized the real value in working in the media capital of the world.

“If you get a job in the city, working one year is virtually like working 10 years anywhere else,” DeBolt said.

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The Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by: Jennifer Alvord

After meetings with firms, members of Bobcat Promotions also had many opportunities to explore the city.

The group visited various New York City landmarks, including Central Park, Times Square, The Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, The Brooklyn Bridge and The Statue of Liberty.

Members quickly learned that the subway waits for no one. While getting on (or trying to get on) the train, two people got left behind at the platform because the doors closed on them.

PR senior Larisa Gawlik said, “I just remember thinking, ‘This can’t be happening’ as I turned around and realized the doors shut on them.”

Gawlik said that everyone was so worried that they weren’t going to be able to find the rest of the group because cell phone service is unpredictable underground. “Once we got ahold of them and got them back to the same train platform it was hysterical,” Gawlik said.

Members also walked from Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn, which was an experience DeBolt said was her favorite.

While at the United Nations, members attended a fast-paced noon briefing directed by Stephane Dujarric, director of communications for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Dujarric visited with BPR as he had done during the inaugural trip. The group visited exhibit and rooms that have held Security Council meetings and General Assembly gatherings.

A trip highlight at the UN was visiting with actor Josh Lucas, who was filming for a new television show outside the UN. The actor who played Reese Witherspoon’s love interest in “Sweet Home Alabama” and also starred in “American Psycho” graciously posed for countless selfies.

“Meeting Josh Lucas was a great experience,” Mahan said. “He was really nice to us all and took so many pictures with us. I definitely recommend going to New York. It’s a great experience and there’s always something to do and somewhere to go.”

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Bobcat Promotions team back from New York

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MIDTOWN — Lighting up the town in midtown Manhattan. Photo by Paige Vaughn

by Chuck Kaufman:

Senior executives and staff members with Bobcat Promotions recently returned from the group’s first professional development tour to New York City. They returned to Texas enriched with industry knowledge from the world’s media capital and fun experiences that took advantage of both their senses and pocketbooks.

Most of the 14 participants called the five-day visit, Jan. 5-10, a “trip of a lifetime,” an experience that will have an impact on them forever in many ways.

“Maybe in a few years I’ll move to New York,” said Erika Hauer, who is looking to start her career.

Senior Emily Kellar, BPR’s financial manager, said, “Before this trip, I definitely had tunnel vision. I think that approach would have limited my opportunities if I didn’t learn from this trip to broaden my horizon.”

Dominique Mercado, another senior and BPR’s web director, said, “I’m already looking to apply for internships in New York after graduation.”

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Texas State logo lights up CitiField, home of the New York Mets. Photo by Morgan Moritz

Visiting Firms
The students and BPR adviser, Chuck Kaufman, met with a wide range of public relations organizations, from large firms Burson-Marsteller and OgilvyPR to niche firm Boneau Bryan-Brown, Inc., New York’s largest firm focused on theater productions. They also learned about sports public relations by visiting CitiField and New York Mets communications and marketing officials. The students gained insight into international media relations at the United Nations; and learned about issues facing a museum that attracts a world audience, the recently opened 9/11 Memorial Museum.

“We participated in history at the UN by attending the noon briefing on the day Islamic terrorists attacked and killed journalists at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris,” Kaufman said. “In fact, on a day filled with grim news, the conference began with Stephane Dujarric, director of communications for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, welcoming a group of public relations students from Texas State University. We led the news of the day. You can watch the press conference on the UN website.

“The students who entered CitiField through the Mets dugout witnessed not only a snow-covered field but the scoreboard lit up with a welcome message and the Texas State logo. Very cool – the weather and the scoreboard.”

Learning From the Best
The United Nations experience and major PR firms made the biggest impression on the students. Dujarric joined the students at the end of the noon briefing for a 30-minute discussion.

Kellar was impressed with the way Dujarric skillfully handled a wide range of questions and managed pressing follow-up questions. “I loved when Stephane was discussing how he handles questions that he might not have the right answer at that moment and that he would get back to the reporter with an answer. I think it is very important in public relations, especially as we go on to represent businesses, to remember that, as he said, ‘It’s better to look stupid than to say something stupid.’ I will remember that forever.”

Kellar also learned greatly from presentations from employees at Ogilvy, particularly as they discussed their job searches. “I think it’s the ‘Go-get-‘em’ attitude that will get me furthest in my career, rather than shooting for what I think may feel more safe and practical,” she said. “I also found it really interesting how Mr. Burson, even at 93, is still in the office every day, being part of what goes on. It’s comforting to know that regardless of his status and how big his name might be, that he’s still making sure his company is doing its job.”

The Power of Internships
The Burson-Marsteller presentation involved five new employees, all of whom joined the company after their internships. Mercado said that they were all recently students. “It was nice to hear advice from people who were recent graduates and had vivid memories of the emotions they felt immediately after graduating college and entering the real PR world. It was reassuring.”

These were graduates whose careers began as interns, not as full-time employees. “I always assumed that after college the most important thing was to find a full-time career,” Mercado said. “After hearing that most entry-level employees in New York have had a variety of internships after graduating, I understand that there is still time after college to find what I really enjoy most.”

Working Together
From the large PR firms, particularly Burson, senior Morgan Moritz appreciated how “they emphasized working together as a team and the importance of having fun on the job. Also, I was struck by the perspective that no two days at work are completely the same; that you always have to be at the top of your game, and you always have to be prepared for everything.”

Senior Babie Spain learned the importance of research as it affects the various teams involved in public relations work. “One thing I learned from visiting the different PR firms was the relationship between different teams working on a project, and just how many different teams are needed to successfully follow through with a PR plan,” she said.

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9/11 MEMORIAL — An iced over fountain enhances a chilling experience at Ground Zero outside the 911 Memorial Museum. Photo by Paige Vaughn

Crisis Management
The visit to the 9/11 Museum was emotionally challenging as the overwhelming exhibition with twisted steel pieces from the collapsed World Trade Center and artifacts from the nearly 3,000 innocent workers and first responders opened up feelings that were untouched since elementary school days.

Anthony Guido, director of communications at the museum, described how he works in collaboration with so many different local, federal and international requests and issues. He witnesses a collision of emotions whether it involves family members of victims, world leaders or journalists from every corner of the world.

Kellar said, “Even in a museum setting there are crises. I’ve learned that in communications there is always someone who will be offended or interpret messages in a wrong way. For that reason, there must always be a plan for when miscommunication occurs.”

From Guido, Mercado learned that “tough work comes easy if you love what you do.”

Meeting Alumni
During the first evening in New York, the students met with 15 SJMC alumni from all sequences who are working in New York. Among those attending were Monica Apodaca with Ogilvy & Mather; Natalie Schorn with Talent Management at 247 Seven Inc.; Christopher Henry with the Brunswick Group; Albany Leunsmann at Rpr Marketing Communications; Gabe Carrillo with Viacom; Maira Garcia and Jacqueline Baylon with The New York Times; Adrienne Enderle, a freelance production assistant; and, among others, Amanda Gordon, a digital marketing and social media strategy consultant.

Spain learned from the alumni gathering the importance of networking.

Mercado added that she found the alumni to be extremely positive and encouraging as spring graduation approaches. “They are really rooting for you to succeed,” she said. “If you have the drive to do something, there are people out there who will help you reach your goals.”

Kellar worked with BPR alum and former executive director Chris Henry for a couple of years. “Honestly, it’s been really cool watching Chris grow as a person,” she said. “He has taught me to aim high and not be afraid of absolute change.”

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Central Park. Photo by Paige Vaughn

Takeaways
Senior account executive Lemondia Hobbs said she is planning to move to New York after graduation. She found the alumni “super helpful and an important resource” for her. “I made a lot of great connections.”

Naturally, part of the education in New York involved soaking up the atmosphere, experiencing the vibe of the city.

The students shared a variety of highlights and anecdotes. Here they are . . . anonymously . . . only in New York:

  • “One crazy visual on the subway was watching a man who looked like Hagrid from Harry Potter walking through the cars singing for money.”
  • “After leaving Harlem late one night, I noticed a man waiting for the subway who was shuffling around talking to himself.”
  • “I’ll never forget looking up at John Lennon’s old apartment and thinking of all the lyrics he wrote that influenced my life.”
  • “While walking down the street, minding our own business, a man looked at us and said, ‘Use your powers for good, witches.’ He was totally serious and I was a little scared.”
  • “There was a guy carrying a guitar, a violin, a backpack and another bag. He was 50 years old and talking to himself under his breath. He sat down and pulled out a paperback book that was almost completely folded in half and torn to pieces, pages hanging out with part of the cover missing. I looked a little closer and as he pulled out his pencil to underline something, I noticed it was the Bible. Never have I seen a Bible in such terrible condition or someone more dedicated to scripture. I’m not religious but it was pretty inspiring.”
  • “I was looking from my hotel window at the fifth story of an office building across the street. I saw the figure of a man in his office. He was facing our hotel and, just for fun, I waved. To my surprise, he waved back. My travel companions proceeded to call him ‘my friend’ throughout the trip. A stranger I will always remember, HA.”