And the Award Goes to…

Each year a selection committee comprised of faculty and students comb through applications for instructors at Texas State deserving of honorary mention. One of the most prestigious awards, presented by President Trauth, is fittingly coined the ‘Presidential Award’ and can be awarded for outstanding performance in teaching, scholarship, or service.

Two of the SJMC’s very own instructors have been awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching: Senior Lecturer, Dale Blasingame, and Assistant Professor, Ms. Jennifer L. Buschhorn. These awards are among the highest honors that an instructor can receive and are meant to encourage high standards among our faculty and staff across the entire Texas State campus. Both Blasingame and Buschhorn have demonstrated superior scholastic achievement in their fields and excellence in their teaching.

President Trauth will present both honorees with their awards at the University Convocation and Annual General Faculty meeting this August. Join us in congratulating our SJMC honorees!

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!

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.

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.

News Engagement Day success!

Despite the disheartening statistics behind Millennials and their involvement with current news, Dr. Kelly Kaufhold spent News Engagement Day (Tuesday, Oct. 4) proving otherwise. Once again, Kaufhold did an amazing job last week engaging students in the best way possible. A “Cash Cab” style questionnaire and fantastic incentives kept the students crossing the front of LBJ Student Center curious. Kaufhold was able to draw in many students enthusiastic to prove their knowledge on current events. Even though some of Kaufhold’s questions left participants scratching their heads, he accumulated large crowds with correct answers! A perfect mix of pop culture and politics revealed that these students are far from letting statistics determine their standards of news involvement.

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Join us for “Cash Cab” on News Engagement Day!

image2.PNGHelp SJMC’s Dr. Kelly Kaufhold celebrate News Engagement Day on Tuesday, Oct. 4 with a “Cash Cab” from 12-1 p.m. outside the LBJ Student Center. Students who answer his current events questions correctly can have a chance to win some fabulous prizes. This special day was created by the AEJMC to encourage students to “read, watch, like, tweet, post, text, email, listen to, or comment on news.”

Started out from a national academic conference AEJMC in 2014, News Engagement Day has become a global event. Every year, exactly one month before the election day, people in all 50 states and dozens of countries encourage young people to explore news and raise awareness about the importance of being informed citizens.

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In preparation for the big day, Dr. Kaufhold has been tweeting his heart out on Twitter at @kkaufhold with question hints for students. When the event is done, Dr. Kaufhold plans to measure this as a research project. Research has shown that the Millennial generation tends to ignore and get less involved in the news. However, through efforts like News Engagement Day, we hope to pique students’ curiosity about the news and get students involved. For more information, follow #newsengagementday or visit the official News Engagement Day website at newsengagement.org.

Gilbert Martinez reunited with Okinawa

SJMC Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director Gilbert Martinez is known by many students for his life-questioning lectures and incomparable humor. But few are aware of what Martinez has been missing for the past 21 years of his life, or to be more precise, whom.

Martinez spent his summer preparing to present research to scholars in Okinawa, Japan which happens to be the birthplace of his mother. Although traveling across the world for business, Martinez will soon find the lost puzzle piece to his ancestry.

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Martinez and wife with Okinawa family.

It started at the beginning May with an invitation to the Fifth Annual Symposium on International Business and Social Science. The conference has always been in Japan but what caught Martinez’s attention was the exact city it was taking place in, Okinawa. Martinez was thrilled to finally have a perfect opportunity to reunite with his family that he hasn’t seen in 21 years. His last trip to Okinawa was with his mother and siblings in 1995; unfortunately, six months after the trip Martinez’s mother passed away. After her death, Gilbert lost all contact with his Japanese roots. “When it comes down to it, half of my life was empty for 21 years because we really just lost touch,” said Martinez. Gilbert knew the search for his family wasn’t going to be easy but with hard work and good friends he knew it was possible.

Martinez’s first thought was to contact some friends who lived in Tokyo; one personal friend and a Texas State University alumni who is a Tokyo correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. After a few online searches in Japan there were still no major leads. Martinez then went through a box of old papers and found his mother’s old address book that contained the names of his cousins and uncle. Although it seemed like a major breakthrough, the information fell short since his uncle had passed and all of his cousins were married women with new last names. The biggest clue was found by Gilbert’s sister in-law who had his mother’s old wallet. In the wallet was a card to a flower shop that his family worked at in Okinawa and is still a thriving business today. Even though the staff of the flower shop had no knowledge of Martinez’s family, they were determined to help find them. He sent a picture of his trip from 1995 to the employees with hopes that they would recognize at least one of his family members. It just so happened that one of Gilbert’s cousin Kiyomi was featured in the local paper for becoming the first female fire captain for the Okinawa City Fire Department. The flower shop employee showed up to the fire station, asked if she was the girl in the picture and it was a match! Kiyomi even expressed she had been searching for Gilbert and his siblings as well.

After spending a few days at the symposium, Gilbert was finally reunited with his family. Martinez was overjoyed to see his aunt Yoko, who was his mother’s only surviving sibling living in her 70’s. Through mannerisms, gestures and movements he saw so much of his mother in Yoko and the rest of his family. Martinez said, “My biggest take a way (from the trip) is the importance of family. Even when you lose touch, even after 21 years have passed, family is family; there is nothing like it in the world.”  Over two decades of separation and searching from both ends, Gilbert and his Japanese origins were joined once again.

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SJMC students get #social

Photo from Twitter user @priscillam_28

Photo from Twitter user @priscillam_28

In mass communication, it has become increasingly important to see social media, such as Twitter, as a way to engage with communities outside people’s individual social spheres. And that’s exactly what students have done in Senior Lecturer Jon Zmikly’s Fundamentals of Digital and Online Media class. One of his assignments, the “Twitter Scavenger Hunt,” was inspired by CUNY Grad School of Journalism Social Journalism Director Carrie Brown-Smith‘s assignment of the same name.

Zmikly’s students found their unique voice among the social media noise and discovered new people to follow, promote their school, discover other people’s’ stories or see a new perspective on campus. This assignment helps students think like a storyteller, think like a persuasive communicator, and show the world what’s so great about Texas State University! Click here or view the Storify below to see some of students’ work.

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Helping TXST Athletics show off new football locker room in 360

lockersThe Texas State University Athletics Department is showing off its sparkling, brand-new football locker room – and asked for the help of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication to do so.

Athletics contacted the SJMC to assist with 360-degree photos and videos to highlight the new facility on social media.

“Creating interesting content is a great way for us to get that interaction with the Bobcat fan, and 360-degree photos and videos are some of the newest forms of media to utilize on Facebook and YouTube,” said John McElfresh, the assistant director of marketing, promotions and video for Athletics. “SJMC continues to operate on the edge of technology and prepares students by exposing them to real world experiences and equipment, so it was an easy decision to reach out and see if they could help and educate us in this venture.”

SJMC senior lecturer Jon Zmikly, who heads the 360-degree photo and video efforts for the School, visited the new locker room this past Sunday for a photo and video shoot.

“The process was impressively quick,” McElfresh said. “Jon shot the video and did his magic and had it to us within a few hours. The quality of the photo and videos was great.”

Changes in the football locker room include replacing 15-year-old lockers, which were funded with private donations. The new lockers include:

  • Keypad-locking mechanism
  • Electricity for phone chargers
  • A ventilated shoulder pad rack and compartment
  • Custom maroon, padded seating
  • Brushed steel branded hooks
  • An LED-lit Supercat
  • Custom name plates for each player

The 360-degree photo was posted to Facebook later that afternoon and has been a huge hit with Bobcat fans.

“The post reached nearly 40,000 Bobcat fans in less than 24 hours on Facebook,” McElfresh said. “That kind of exposure will open up more opportunities for interaction in future posts and help spread that Texas State pride.”

2016 SJMC Spring Awards Ceremony

Check out the gallery below to catch the highlights of Friday’s annual SJMC Spring Awards Ceremony! Thank you to all who attended and congratulations to all of our outstanding students!