SJMC Students and Faculty Represent Texas State University SPJ Chapter at Excellence in Journalism 2017


Triston Giesie (left) and Jakob Rodriguez (right) with Senior White House Correspondent for CNN Jim Acosta at EIJ 2017

Professor Kym Fox and two SJMC students attended Excellence in Journalism 2017, the national conference of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), in Anaheim, California this month.

“Students get the chance to meet with not only other university students but also professionals who have more than 20 years of work experience,” said Fox. “Getting exposed to high profile journalists help students learn from the pros and shape their career.”

This year, SJMC students Triston Giesie and Jakob Rodriguez attended a session called “Work in Progress: Pressing the President” with Jim Acosta, CNN; Christina Bellantoni, Los Angeles Times; Adrian Carrasquillo, Buzzfeed news; Jeff Pegues, CBS News; Margaret Talev, Bloomberg; and Kyle Pope, Columbia Journalism Review.

Triston Giesie

Currently a junior in public relations, Triston Giesie thinks that from meeting media icons to his current peers and future coworkers at EIJ 2017 helped him set future.

“The conference, to me, seemed to open my eyes and connect me to the mainstream journalism network,” said Giesie. “Now that I have attended it, I feel exponentially more confident in my ability to gain a job after graduation—or even an internship before that.”

Jakob Rodriguez

Jakob Rodriguez said he had a great time taking school trips and representing the university.

I loved being able to represent Texas State at the National SPJ conference,” said Rodriguez. “A Personal highlight is stepping up and speaking on the floor in favor of a proposed bylaw change.” 


Society of Professional Journalists to honor University Star staff

University Star Logo

Photo Credit:

The Society of Professional Journalists will recognize five student-journalists from the University Star at the historic Hilton Hotel in Fort Worth on March 18 and 19 for its Region 8 Mark of Excellence convention.

Region 8 is Texas and Oklahoma. If any students take first place, they automatically move on to the national competition, where they are judged against all the regions. Students receiving awards are Quixem Ramirez, Madison Teague, Brandon Sams, Monique Guerrero and Jon Wilcox.

“If you would see the way these students work, it’s just amazing to me the bond that’s here,” said Bob Bajackson, SJMC Senior Lecturer and Director of Student Publications. “I think the awards that they are able to accomplish, it’s just incredible.”

The SPJ committee will also recognize the University Star for its student-redesigned website.

“The website content has just exploded,” said Bajackson. “Last month we had over 30,000 page views.”

The University Star was formed in 1911 and is the oldest publication on campus.

Becky Larson | photo credit:

Becky Larson | photo credit:

The SPJ will also honor graduate student Becky Larson, who has a project as a finalist. Larson’s project tells the important story of the clash of Austin gentrification and the live music scene through loud music noise complaints.

“She did a fantastic job assimilating a range of new skills, identifying a data set and creating interactive elements that were relevant to our theme of telling stories about music with data,” said Dr. Cindy Royal, SJMC Associate Professor and Digital Media Sequence Coordinator.

Larson’s project was supported by a grant from the Knight Foundation and Online News Association.

“I am so pleased that the SPJ judges recognized this type of storytelling,” said Dr. Royal.

A Tragedy in West, TX Affects a Texas State Student

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Kayla Urbanovsky in front of Old Main

By: Olivia Garcia — Kayla Urbanovsky scrolled through her Facebook feed on Feb. 17, 2013 and that evening, she noticed many statuses about a disturbance in her hometown of West, TX. A fertilizer plant had exploded, claiming 15 lives and damaging over 300 homes. Urbanovsky’s elementary and high school were destroyed, and luckily, her family and home were safe from the explosion. On the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, she remembers how her hometown’s resilience changed her life.

“West is now known as the small town in Texas that exploded,” Urbanovsky said. “But I know it as my family of 2,800 people and the resilience of West, Texas and its people actually made me a better college student.”


Kayla Urbanovsky at her internship

While attending Texas State University, Urbanovsky landed an internship at ChannelAustin where she puts her knowledge of electronic media to the test. She ran the teleprompter, setted up cameras and was the technical director of the control room. She was one of the top interns at ChannelAustin and felt more prepared for life after college.

Urbanovsky thanked her professors from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication for the support the Texas State University community gave her and West, TX during this tragedy.

“This turned my world upside down but was a blessing in disguise for myself and for the people of West,” says Urbanovsky. “I was inspired to be the best person I could be and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication helped me thrive to be that person.”

Urbanovsky graduated May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication – Electronic Media. Urbanovsky hopes to work on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and to continue to help rebuild her hometown and promises to keep her resilient attitude throughout her career.

Student Organization of the Month: SPJ

The Society of Professional Journalists have been hard at work this semester as they’ve toured university and professional newsrooms, attended conferences and networked with professionals. Find out what they’ve been up to, and how you can be a part of the fun!

VP Katee Boyd accepting the Region 8 Chapter of the Year Award at the National Covention in Anaheim!

VP Katee Boyd accepting the Region 8 Chapter of the Year Award at the National Convention in Anaheim!

Organization Name: Texas State Society of Professional Journalists

Recent events:

  • Excellence in Journalism Convention in Anaheim, California: Our President, Jordan Gass-Poore’ and VP Katee Boyd, attended the Excellence in Journalism National SPJ Conference in Anaheim, Calif. last month, where they met professionals from all over the country and mingled with celebrities, such as Eva Longoria and Benjamin Bratt. Not to mention, a free trip to Disneyland! We are excited to announce that Texas State won Region 8 Student Chapter of the Year for 2012-2013, over all other schools in Texas and Oklahoma. Our goal this year is to not only take home that title again, but to win the National Student Chapter of the year. We hope to accept this award in Nashville, Tenn. where next year’s conference will be held.
  • September meeting: For our first event of the semester, we toured the offices of The University Star and KTSW.

Meeting times/location:
We are trying to keep our meetings fresh and flexible to our members, so we’re trying something new this year. We are planning to steer clear of the typical once-a-month meeting and instead gear them toward events and gatherings that promote networking and interaction amongst members and professionals. Because of this, we do not have a set time and location each month that we meet. If prospective members are interested in knowing more about our events, they can follow us on twitter @txstspj or “like” us on Facebook at Texas State Society of Professional Journalists. They can also send us an email at, and we will add them to our mailing list. They should also be able to spot our flyers around campus.

Plans for the future:
In October, we will be attending an event at Trinity University in San Antonio. In observance of the 40th anniversary of Watergate, journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the scandal, will discuss, “Inside the White House: From Nixon to Obama” at Trinity’s 2013 Distinguished Lecture Series. The event will be on Tuesday, Oct. 29, in Laurie Auditorium, at 7:30 p.m.

This semester, we will be touring the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung’s offices and printing press. We will also be setting up networking opportunities with professionals in our members fields of interest, so they can mingle and engage with them in a comfortable, non-intimidating environment. We plan on asking a professional to have a resume critique session, so that members can bring in their resume and get advice.

We will also sign up for Bobcat Build in the spring semester in order to give back to the community as an organization.

President: Jordan Gass-Poore’
Vice President: Katee Boyd
Secretary/Treasurer: Catherine O’hara
Membership/Recruitment: Haley House
Social Media: Erin Cantu
Photographer: Kim Sabatino
Fundraising Chair: Rachel Miller
Fundraising Committee: Virginia Alves and Nicole Barrios

Web Resources:
Facebook: Texas State Society of Professional Journalists
Twitter: @txstspj
Instagram: @txst_spj


Upcoming Speaker: Neice Bell

neice bellThe last SPJ meeting of the semester will feature the publisher of the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, Neice Bell. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with local professionals!

Tuesday, April 2
6:30 p.m. in OM320
(meeting starts at 6 p.m./ speaker at 6:30 p.m.)

Bell will discuss how community newspapers are still the most important news source in the U.S. and why that’s the case. She will also talk about some of her experiences and what she looks for when she hires someone. We look forward to seeing you there!