Author: Cindy Stewart

Communication Students Adapt to COVID

During the past year, everyone in the Department of Communication was called upon to adapt to new circumstances and new ways of working, teaching, and learning. And since an important aspect of adaptability is strong communication, we were in a particularly good place to model and practice those skills. Three students share their experiences as members of the Department during the pandemic, what they missed, what they found instead, and the importance of community during what many deemed an isolated year.

photo of Sara Holland LevinSara Holland Levin, First year PhD student

“UConn - and particularly our department - has done a wonderful job of making our transition to graduate school as seamless as possible during the pandemic. There has been no lack of support; the faculty and grad students have been just as approachable as I would have expected during normal times, and the effort to maintain some sense of normalcy has been truly appreciated. Even still, the human interaction element is something that I think we’ve missed out on, and perhaps only a shift back to in person learning will help. All of the pieces are there: our class meetings, research opportunities, teacher training have been so excellent. But the part I think we’re missing is the ability to get to know one another. To talk about a hilarious assignment submission we graded. To complain about the traffic. Or, on a more serious note, to express concerns like imposter syndrome (Which - is very normal! Grad school is hard!!). In normal times, it's important to work through these things together. That was certainly the case for me during my Undergraduate and Master’s programs. That’s the major missing piece that I think we’re all feeling. There’s no substitute for a strong cohort, and my hope is that our first semester in person will help us feel more connected than ever with our community here.”

photo of Kelly GrantKelly Grant, First year MA student

“While the Department of Communication at UConn has been nothing but helpful, kind, and communal, this online year has been a lot of work with little play. I moved from Michigan to Connecticut while knowing nothing about UConn or the state in order to pursue my M.A degree. While I knew much of it would be online, the transition was challenging, as I wasn’t sure what challenges were due to my own inexperience or what were common, run-of-the-mill first year student related. Even throughout this year, however, both the faculty and my fellow students have been affirming, and have continuously extended a helping hand to this new student. While online schooling in an unfamiliar state hasn’t been easy, I have the wonderful people in the Department to thank in making this transition as positive as possible in this strange year.”

photo of Lauren LewisLauren Lewis, Senior undergraduate student

Being an undergraduate student amidst a global pandemic has been a challenge to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced University leaders to shift 100+ person lecture halls to a virtual setting and halt all in-person career panels, involvement fairs, and extracurricular activities. With this shift in learning and connectivity, even the simplest coursework, like creative group projects, has become an obstacle to overcome. Although this global health crisis has presented challenges to adapt to, I am fortunate enough to be a member of the Department of Communication, where the professors and advisors have made it their mission to provide help and assistance with the transition to a virtual course load. Whether it be a question I have about coursework or a deadline, or a request for an extension on a project due to having COVID or simply being overwhelmed by coursework, family issues and job interviews, I have always been met with kindness and leniency from the professors in the Department. The professors have been attentive to student needs oftentimes providing surveys for students to give their candid feedback, and changing parts of the course to align with student requests. In addition, my advisor, Joel Nebres, has been helpful during the transition to an online school year. He was always readily available for a meeting, whether it was for assistance on scholarship essays, or advice on prospective courses to take. He also implemented virtual panel series with experienced professionals within the Communication industry. As a second-semester senior, I was beyond appreciative of these engaging and informative sessions. Candidly, I can admit that this year was a struggle; all of my classes were entirely virtual making it hard to build connections with classmates and stay engaged and motivated to keep up on classwork. However, members of the Department were always there along the way, offering assistance or words of encouragement that gave me the strength and persistence to finish off the year strong!”

New Faculty Join Communication

The Department of Communication hired two new faculty for Fall 2020 and three more for Fall 2021. In Storrs, we welcome Drs. Jocelyn Steinke, Jiyoun Suk, and Elizabeth Hintz. Meanwhile, in Stamford, we are joined by Drs. Tyler Page and April Yue, as part of a new initiative to offer the major in its entirety on both the Storrs and Stamford campuses. Read on for more about our new colleagues.

Elizabeth Hintz, Ph.D.

photo of Elizabeth Hintz

Elizabeth Hintz (Ph.D., University of South Florida) will be joining the Department of Communication in August 2021 as an Assistant Professor of Health Communication. Elizabeth’s research examines how individuals managing complex, stigmatized, and poorly understood health conditions navigate challenging conversations with partners, family members, and medical providers. Her work can be found in journals such as Journal of Communication, Communication Monographs, Communication Methods and Measures, Health Communication, and Journal of Family Communication.

In her free time, she enjoys traveling (on hold for now), hiking, and spending time with her husband and two fluffy orange cats, Keaton and Lionel. She is looking forward most to leaving the Florida heat and joining her wonderful future colleagues in Connecticut in August.

Tyler Page, Ph.D.

photo of Tyler Page, Assistant Professor

Tyler G. Page (Ph.D. at University of Maryland, 2018) joined the Department of Communication in August 2020 from Mississippi State University. A converted academic, he has a background in public relations and marketing in the technology sector. Prior positions include his role as the first marketing/public relations person at survey-giant Qualtrics, and the Vice President of Marketing and Operations at Peer60, Inc (now Reaction Data). Tyler’s research examines public relations theory and the effects of crisis communication. He has won top paper awards at AEJMC and NCA.

Tyler has lived all over North America (7 States and 1 Province) and passionately follows sports. He used to moonlight as a blogger / podcaster covering Major League Soccer, but now he spends his evenings chasing around his 3-year-old son.

Jocelyn Steinke, Ph.D.

photo of Prof. Jocelyn SteinkeJocelyn Steinke joined the Department of Communication in August 2020 as an Associate Professor of Science Communication. Jocelyn’s research focuses on the influence of media portrayals of women scientists and engineers on adolescent girls’ identification with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and published in scholarly journals such as Science Communication, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, Frontiers, and others. Jocelyn serves on the editorial board of Science Communication and was named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellow, recognized for her contributions to the public understanding of science. Jocelyn earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, M.P.S.  from Cornell University, and B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.

Jocelyn enjoys baking, gardening (organic vegetables and flowers), swimming, kayaking, and hiking with her husband, daughter, and son. She is delighted to join her accomplished colleagues in the Department of Communication.

Jiyoun Suk, Ph.D.

photo of Prof. Jiyoun Suk

Jiyoun Suk will be joining the Department of Communication in August 2021. She studies the role of communication processes in shaping civic trust, activism, and social justice. She is particularly interested in how people understand different social groups, marginalized communities, and populations with less political power.

When she is not working, she loves indoor cycling and running, which helps her stay active and vibrant. Though largely disrupted by the pandemic, she also enjoys traveling, trying new foods and cultures, and learning from new experiences. Also, as a huge animal lover, she enjoys drawing cartoons of her dog Rocky, a 2 year old Bichon Frise.

Cen “April” Yue, Ph.D.

photo of Cen April Yue, assistant professor

Dr. Cen April Yue is an incoming assistant professor of Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations. April's research interests focus on internal public relations, leadership communication, organizational change management, and relationship management. She has published in scholarly journals such as Public Relations Review, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, International Journal of Communication, and International Journal of Business Communication, among others. Prior to graduate school, April worked as a reporter and public relations professional in China. April is also a Research Editor at the Institute for Public Relations’ Organizational Communication Research Center.

Outside of work, April is a movie buff and appreciates everything by David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, and Wong Kar-wai. She used to run a film club screening independent and international films open to local communities at Purdue. Music-wise, she loves works from Philip Glass, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Lorde, and recently, Joey Yung.

April received her Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization in public relations from the University of Florida in 2020. She also holds a masters' degree in communication from Purdue University.

Greetings from the Department Head

Greetings from the Department of Communication! Our Department continues to grow in popularity and visibility, and we will be welcoming five new faculty members when we return to campus in Fall 2021. In Storrs, we will welcome Drs. Jocelyn Steinke, Jiyoun Suk, and Elizabeth Hintz. Meanwhile, in Stamford, we will be joined by Drs. Tyler Page and April Yue, as part of a new initiative to offer the major in its entirety on both the Storrs and Stamford campuses. For more on our new colleagues, their research, and their teaching expertise, please see https://comm.uconn.edu/faculty.

Not only are our new hires working at the cutting edge of Communication research, but they will be providing critical training to our students in marketing and public relations, science and health communication, and social media analytics. Their expertise will help our grads remain at the forefront of the skills employers seek – as evidenced by our 90% placement rate one year after graduation.

We are very proud of all we do here in Communication, but we could use your help. Due to cuts in state funding, we were already looking at budget reductions in the coming year. With the added financial impact of the COVID pandemic, we are more reliant than ever on alumni contributions to continue providing the quality academic experience our students deserve. For example, the software that we use to teach big data analytics costs $250 per year, per lab desktop. Our production courses are reliant on aging equipment, while our students pay out of their own pockets to travel to conferences and network with employers.

Please consider donating at http://s.uconn.edu/commsupportfund. No amount is too large or too small, and your tax-deductible contribution will help ensure that we can continue to provide a great academic experience and a valuable degree to future Huskies.

Yours Sincerely,
Ken Lachlan
Professor and Department Head

Department Launches New Undergraduate Curriculum

Since the department’s establishment as a standalone unit in 2012, the undergraduate program in Communication has grown and adapted to reflect a rapidly-changing discipline. Communication is one of the largest majors in UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, enjoying steady growth during the 2010’s. The department places a focus on quality instruction, innovative pedagogy, and adaptive goals that reflect the needs of our students.

In 2019, the department conducted a rigorous self-study followed by an external program review. As part of this process, we identified areas where our undergraduate program needed to continue to grow, gaps that should be addressed, and opportunities to work more efficiently. Shortly after the conclusion of this process, we decided the timing was right to deconstruct the program we had created over the years and rebuild its components in a single, cohesive plan that could reflect our educational, organizational, and cultural goals.

Check out the many areas of our new curriculum below:

Process

Beginning in November of 2019, we envisioned an 18-month process for the revitalization of our undergraduate curriculum and program. Changes would be introduced in the Fall of 2021, after passing through rigorous faculty vetting and the appropriate university channels. Our goal was to work deliberately, considering each piece of our program as we made changes to ensure that every adjustment was delivered with purpose. In 2020, COVID-19 put an unexpected strain on this process as all participants worked to pivot courses to online instruction. Nevertheless, thanks to the persistence of our faculty and staff and the utility of online collaboration tools, we were able to meet our intended timeline.

Goals

Our curricular redesign was conducted with five primary goals in mind:

1. Ensure we’re meeting the learning objectives set forth by the National Communication Association.

A student of Communication should be able to:

    • Describe the communication discipline and its central questions.
    • Employ communication theories, perspectives, principles, and concepts.
    • Engage in communication inquiry.
    • Create messages appropriate to audience, purpose, and context.
    • Critically analyze messages
    • Demonstrate the ability to accomplish communicative goals.
    • Apply ethical communication principles and practices.
    • Utilize communication to embrace difference.
    • Influence public discourse

2. Rebalance the courseload across all four levels of study.

1000-level: Gateway courses to the Communication Major. Introductory courses that can serve outside departments as general education or foundational courses.
2000-level: Core courses in the Communication Discipline. Courses that provide baseline training and skill development in major domains of the field, preparing students for more advanced work.
3000-level: Specialty courses in the Communication Discipline. Courses that build upon knowledge developed at the 2000-level, including deeper dives into specific and nuanced areas of the field.
4000-level: Academic and Professional Student Development. Courses that prepare students for future work in academia or industry. Students will synthesize theory, research, and practice in the creation of high-caliber works. Products from these courses should directly translate to students’ academic and professional portfolios.

3. Ensure ‘Truth in Advertising’ in our Undergraduate Course Catalog.

We updated course names and descriptions to ensure they accurately reflect the modern course content, and eliminated courses that had not been offered recently. We also reworked our course numbering scheme to categorize our offerings into seven different course series, making it clear to students which courses cluster together in various areas of the discipline.

4. Encourage further experiential and application-based learning without losing our theoretical roots.

Modern communication graduates need to be able to reach complex audiences with effective messages, which places a premium on skills such as content development, data analysis, and professional communication. As a social science program, we looked for ways to develop these skills within a framework that values the role of communication theory and research. This approach ensures that our students receive a balanced education that prepares them for both professional careers and graduate-level academic studies.

5. Promote faculty experimentation within a modern curricular framework.

As society changes, so does the communication discipline. By introducing Variable Topics courses in each course series, and working to incentivize innovative course development, we want to empower faculty to regularly experiment with new ideas in the classroom.

Communication Courses

Beyond our required introductory and methodology classes, we restructured our courses into seven major series that reflect the range of the discipline. In virtually all cases, the 2000-level course offering in a series serves as the primary pre-requisite for all successive courses at the 3000 and 4000 levels to simplify enrollments. This structure also identifies five core courses that anchor their respective course series and serve as the foundation to our students’ education in the field. Finally, six advanced courses are identified as immersion courses, in which our students engage in practical work in the field prior to graduation.

Introductory Courses

1000: The Process of Communication
1100: Principles of Public Speaking

Methodology Courses

2000Q: Research Methods in Communication
2010Q: Applied Research Methods

100’s: Professional Communication

2100: Professional Communication (core)
2110: Presenting in the Digital Age
3110/w: Organizational Communication
3120/w: Small Group Communication
3130: Comm. in Conflict Management
3198: Variable Topics in Professional Comm.

 

 

200’s: Interpersonal Communication

2200: Interpersonal Communication (core)
3210: Gender in Communication
3220/w: Intercultural Communication
3222/w: People of Color and Interpersonal Comm.
3230: Marital and Family Communication
3240: Nonverbal Communication
3241: Motivation and Emotion
3298: Variable Topics in Interpersonal Comm
4200/w: Advanced Interpersonal Communication

300’s: Media Effects and Audiences

2300: Effects of Mass Media (core)
3310/w: Media Literacy and Criticism
3320: Media & Diverse Audiences
3321: Latinas and Media
3322: Soap Opera / Telenovela
3330/w: Children and Mass Media
3398: Variable Topics in Media Effects
4300/w: Advanced Media Effects

400’s: Communication in Context

3410/w: Political Communication
3415: Protest and Communication
3420/w: Health Communication
3430/w: Science Communication
3498: Variable Topics in Specialized Comm.
4411: International Communication and Conflict

 

500’s: Persuasion and Promotion

2500: Persuasion (core)
3510: Marketing Communication
3520: Communication Processes in Advertising
3530: Public Relations
3598: Variable Topics in Persuasion and Promotion
4501: Advanced Persuasion and Communication
4510: Comm. Campaigns and Applied Research
4530w: Public Relations Writing
4540: Crisis Communication

600’s: Communication Technology

2600: Media in the Information Age (core)
3600: New Communication Technologies
3605: Communication Technology & Social Change
3610/w: Computer-Mediated Communication
3698: Variable Topics in Communication Technology
4640/w: Social Media - Research and Practice
4650: Human-Computer Interaction

 

700’s: Multimedia Production

2700: Fundamentals of Digital Production
3700: Visual Communication
3798: Variable Topics in Multimedia Production
4710: Narrative Digital Video Production
4720: Nonfiction Digital Video Production
4799: Independent Study in Multimedia Prod.

Immersion Courses

4979: Digital Portfolio
4981: Internship in Communication
4982: Research Practicum
4996: Undergraduate Research
4997w: Senior Thesis
4999: Independent Study

Major and Minor

The new major raises the number of credits in communication, expands the number of core courses required, and adds an Immersion Courses requirement. Each of these changes will allow our graduates to create a clearer picture of their education upon completion of the degree. For the minor, requirements remain flexible to meet the diverse needs of interested students. Across both, students have the option to pursue depth (by working extensively in one or two course series) or breadth (by selecting courses across the curriculum.)

Communication Major

  • COMM 1000 and COMM 1100.
  • 30 credits in 2000-level or above COMM courses, as follows:
    • Methods: COMM 2000q or 2010q
    • 4 of 5 Core courses (COMM 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600)
    • 15 additional credits in COMM, including:
      • At least one COMM writing (W) course
      • At least three credits in Immersion courses
  • 12 outside related credits at 2000-level or above (CLAS requirement)

Communication Minor

  • COMM 1000 and COMM 1100
  • 15 credits in 2000-level or above COMM courses, as follows:
    • Methods: COMM 2000q or 2010q (or equivalent)
    • 2 of 5 Core courses (COMM 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600)
    • 6 additional credits in COMM

Core Courses

image listing COMM Core CoursesCore courses teach students about the breadth of the communication discipline while providing the foundation for deeper inquiry needed in our 3000- and 4000-level courses. For both the communication major and minor, core courses represent a substantial amount of required coursework in a student’s plan of study. While each core course is uniquely suited to its subject matter, they collectively aim to accomplish the following goals in support of the undergraduate program:

  1. Develop competencies in the National Communication Association’s key Learning Outcomes to ensure our graduates meet the education standards of the discipline.
  2. Frame the discipline of communication clearly, including the roles of theory and research in its development, to prepare students to engage with more nuanced topics and challenges.
  3. Empower students to think like a communication expert when engaging with social, professional, political, and technological issues.
  4. Establish the self-efficacy, professionalism, and problem-solving skills that students need to succeed in advanced courses, professional careers, and graduate-level work.

The Department offers five Core courses, which also serve as important prerequisites to advanced courses in the program. All communication majors must complete at least four of the five courses as part of their plan of study; communication minors must complete two of the five courses.

Immersion Courses

Understanding communication from a theoretical and methodological perspective is critical to the success of our students, but this knowledge is not sufficient without direct experience. Immersion courses serve as a supported environment where students are encouraged to apply and experience the concepts, theories, and ideas they have learned in the classroom.

Through immersion courses, students will:

  1. Devote considerable time and effort to work that develops practical skills in communication in preparation for future professional and academic work.
  2. Formulate meaningful working relationships with experts (faculty, alumni, corporate professionals, community leaders) over an extended period of time.
  3. Receive frequent constructive feedback about their performance to help better their work.
  4. Develop the experience, resourcefulness, and ethical grounding to act with confidence in academic and professional settings.

Given the diversity of our student body, we offer a variety of different immersion courses so students can choose the experience that best fits their interests, with the option to complete more than one as part of their plan of study. All communication majors must complete a minimum of three credits through one or more immersion courses:

Digital Portfolio (COMM 4979) allows students to continue to improve their digital production skills to assemble a collection of work that showcases their academic and creative talent.

Internship (COMM 4981) facilitates student entry into the business environment through supervised work in professional and community organizations.

Research Practicum (COMM 4982) connects students to ongoing research projects to contribute to the development, operation, or maintenance of the projects with careful supervision from faculty and graduate students.

Undergraduate Research (COMM 4996) provides students who are ready to lead their own research, the space and support to do so in partnership with at least one department faculty member.

Senior Honors Thesis (COMM 4997w) supports honors students in the research and writing of an undergraduate thesis with the support of a faculty advisor.

Independent Study (COMM 4999) enables students to pursue individualized, advanced projects under the guidance of a faculty member.

More to come…

While developing this new curriculum, our conversations shifted quickly from curricular requirements and structures to the type of culture we want to develop in our Undergraduate Program. To sustain a great program, we need to be clear on our vision, and incorporate our values into each learning experience. Keep an eye out for more on our vision, our values, and how we plan to incorporate those into our Undergraduate Program.

TL;DR

Just want the basics? For a summary of the new Communication curriculum, check out this video from Director of Undergraduate Studies Steve Stifano for students thinking about a major or minor in Communication.

Alumni Spotlight: Brianna Régine Walston

photo of Brianna Walston (CLAS '17)Communication is versatile, oftentimes embracing elements of strategy, creativity, and vision. Brianna Régine Walston, Class of 2017 and owner and founder of Brianna Régine Visionary Consulting, engages these principles to successfully run her own business post-graduation. Her firm is a strategic communications and marketing agency, whose main objective is to help business owners and creatives build brands of longevity. She provides creative strategy such as branding and public relations, as well as operations like aiding companies’ internal structures. By crafting stories for her clients, organizations can live and grow beyond their original founders and boundaries.

Walston has stayed connected with UConn since she graduated, serving as a guest speaker, coach, and mentor for many different organizations within UConn. She sees this involvement as part of her understanding of success, an understanding that was formed while she was a Communication major and has continued to evolve with the help of the Department and the University.

Just as UConn has helped Walston craft her definition of success, she hopes to give back to current students and recent graduates with both theoretical and practical advice. She stated that “Our perception of time is interesting. Do your best to find peace where you’re at, especially if you are ambitious. The sooner you learn to be patient with yourself, the more at peace you can be with the thought that you truly have done what you could do today.”

Not only that, but Walston encouraged recent graduates to “exercise the muscles that allow you to take initiative, have consistent work ethic, and ask questions.” She stated that in her line of work, she has found that many organizations look for problem solvers, so building those qualities within yourself can help you find success.

Walston is an alumna of the UConn Department of Communication who offers yet another successful resource to look to for guidance and inspiration. To learn more about Walston’s success, ideas, and organization, check out the Brianna Régine Visionary Consulting website.

Alumni Spotlight: Jake Rudolph

photo of Jake Rudolph, COMM alum

The UConn Department of Communication is always excited to hear about our alumni, so when we received a press release from Left of Center announcing Jake Rudolph's (CLAS '19) new role there, we had to share! Jake graduated cum laude in December 2019, having double-majored in Communication and Political Science. Her earned the Communication Researcher distinction in May 2019. Now he's taking on the role of Website Content Manager and Researcher at Left of Center, a woman-run, grassroots super PAC working to elect Democrats in strategic U.S. House races across the country.

From the press release:

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Rudolph is part of a team responsible for analyzing and collecting data to inform Left of Center’s organizing and communications work. Additionally, he will be curating and organizing website content.

"Jake Rudoph is an outstanding addition to our team," said Co-founder Deb Kozikowski. "His training in politics and communications, coupled with his digital and organizational know-how make him a perfect fit. He’s doing great work for Left of Center." Rudolph’s work will help Left of Center’s initiatives in swing-state races. “I’m excited to manage the website while also providing research to inform important decisions,” Rudolph said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Congratulations, Jake, and we look forward to following your career!

Letter from Ken Lachlan, Department Head

Kenneth LachlanWelcome to the Department of Communication! Despite the challenges presented by COVID, we have had another great year in the department. Our undergraduate program continues to grow in both popularity and visibility on campus, and we now serve over 900 majors. We continue to focus on both theory and applied coursework, and our internship program now enrolls over 100 students annually. This emphasis on merging theory and application is paying off for our graduates, as recent data from the Center for Career Development suggests that 90% of our alumni are appropriately employed within a year of graduation, and gravitate toward career tracks in marketing, media, operations, business development, sales, and human resources. Our talented graduate students continue to play a major role in the department and have recently secured tenure-track faculty positions at universities such as Louisville, Missouri, Cal Poly, West Chester, and UNLV, to name just a few. I am exceedingly proud of both our faculty and our students, who have weathered the uncertainty of migrating instruction to online with great resilience and an overwhelmingly positive attitude. It truly has been a team effort.

We are very proud of all we do here in Communication, but we could use your help. Due to cuts in state funding, we were already looking at budget reductions in 2021. Now with the added uncertainty of the COVID pandemic, we are more reliant than ever on alumni contributions to continue providing the quality academic experience our students deserve. For example, the software that we use to teach social media network analysis costs $250 per year, per lab desktop. Our production courses are reliant on aging cameras that will costs thousands to replace, while our Lambda Pi Eta members pay out of their own pockets to travel to conferences and network with employers.

Please consider donating. No amount is too large or too small, and your tax-deductible contribution will help ensure that we can continue to provide an intellectually fulfilling and professionally advantageous degree to generations of future Huskies.

Yours Sincerely,
Ken Lachlan
Professor and Department Head

Behind the Scenes: COMMotion Pictures Film Screening

The UConn Department of Communication’s annual student film screening has become one of the department’s most popular events. Hundreds of students, family members, friends and alumni gather together in the Hartford Spotlight Theatre and watch student films on the big screen. Students in multimedia production courses have the opportunity to produce, film and edit their own short films. At the end of the semester, some of the best films make their way to the big screen for everyone to view. Though the red carpet and the flashing lights of the cameras certainly show the glamorous side of film, the process of creating them takes dedication and a lot of hard work.  A film team from the 2019 film screening gave some behind the scenes insight into what it takes to create a screening-worthy film.

Lil Doc was created by James Brockett, Taijek Mikel, Aaron Lorenzo, Gilbert Owens and Michael Sampson, who were all students in the COMM Advanced Digital Production course. The group created a 10 minute documentary that featured Connecticut rappers and their music. Each member of the film crew expressed an interest in rap, and they knew they wanted to incorporate it into their project. They found the stories of local rappers to be compelling because they all had unique struggles to overcome. Between the creation of music, local rivalries and the battle to be accepted in society, the film team captured interesting and heartfelt stories from each of the rappers featured. 

The students connected with the rappers and traveled to meet with them. They took trips all over the state, lugging gear in the rain and hoping to get the shots they needed to tell the story that they were looking for. Though some shoots were more successful than others, they were able to edit together a film that portrayed the troubles, successes and the personalities of Connecticut rappers. 

After all of this hard work, the Lil Doc team submitted their film to be considered at the Department of Communication’s annual film screening. Not only was their film selected, but it won the audience choice award. Both the film crew and the rappers received the recognition that they worked so hard for. The group members expressed their gratitude towards the Department of Communication for giving them an opportunity to create such a meaningful project. 

The 2020 COMMotion Pictures screening was hosted over a live YouTube stream so the audience could experience the same excitement while social distancing. You can watch a recording of this year’s screening at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnmqhFNw6Xk&t=33s. Professors Sara and Steve Stifano hosted the screening and named Peaches as the 2020 first place student film. Peaches is a short narrative horror film that left the entire audience with nightmares. Congratulations to all 2020 COMMotion pictures filmmakers, and thank you for another entertaining film screening.

To view the Lil Doc film, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=ID57BT_2Xx8

Undergraduates in the Industry: Jeremy Karew

Every semester, students take their passion for communication to the industry by interning for various companies and organizations. Over the years, students in the Department of Communication have had the opportunity to be a part of prestigious intern programs throughout the country. Jeremy Karew, a 2020 graduate of the graduate of UConn and a Communication major held a particularly interesting internship that prepared him for life after college.

During his time as an undergraduate student, Jeremy worked for Bayer AG, U.S. Pharmaceutical as a Media Relations Intern. In this role he was responsible for creating pitches to media outlets about Bayer’s actions, which were sent to large publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. While creating these pitches, he also contributed to the creation of communications on behalf of executives, the production of an internal town hall, and stakeholder mapping. 

Jeremy stated that this hands on experience “helped me as a professional as this was my first full time position and I learned how to manage my time effectively by keeping up with deadlines and assignments. Also, it gave me the opportunity to present a stakeholder mapping project to the marketing team, which helped my presentation skills greatly.” Learning in this environment supplemented the skills that he was learning in class, such as internal and external public relations.

In the future, Jeremy hopes to join a law firm in Boston in a case assistant or junior paralegal role. This internship prepared him for what it’s like to work in a fast moving, competitive industry. It taught him how to manage deadlines, meet assignments, and to go above and beyond a tasks’ basic assignments. Like many of his classmates, he found that applying what he learned at UConn in the workplace can help build the skills necessary to succeed early in his career. 

To learn more about Jeremy’s experience, you can connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremy-k-66a370106/. To advertise your company’s internship opportunities to undergraduate students at UConn, reach out to undergraduate advisor Joel Nebres at jose.nebres@uconn.edu.

Alumni Spotlight: Alyssa Davanzo (CLAS ’15)

The Department of Communication prides itself in providing students with the skills they need to succeed in all of their career opportunities in the future. There are countless alumni pursuing innovative and meaningful careers, and some of those alumni stay closely connected with the department. Alyssa Davanzo, Class of 2015, pursued a career in corporate communications post-graduation, and she has since used her knowledge to work with current undergraduate students to prepare them for their future careers.

Alyssa is currently a Corporate Communications Specialist at the Henkel Corporation in Stamford, CT. After joining the team in 2017, she worked hard to transition into her current role. During her time working for Henkel she has contributed a wide variety of content such as articles, photography, videos and other communication assets to the organization. 

Before joining the Henkel team, Alyssa started her career in the television industry while working for NBC Universal. Within her time at NBC, she worked in production roles for The Maury Show, Crazy Talk and The Steve Wilkos Show. After working for the television industry for 2 years, she transitioned to the consumer packaged goods industry and has continued to excel and learn at Henkel.

After graduating from the UConn Department of Communication and building her career goals throughout all of the positions she’s held, she advised those who are early on in their careers to focus on themselves rather than comparing their journeys to other’s. “After graduation, your friends will be going in all different directions – Some will be going straight to grad school, others will jump into a full-time job, and a few might take some time to figure out their next steps.  There’s no ‘right’ way to start your career.  Do what makes the most sense for you,” advised Davanzo.

Alyssa has stayed connected with her UConn network throughout the years and pointed out the importance of maintaining UConn connections, “More often than not, there are at least a handful of UConn alumni working at every company. Use LinkedIn as a tool to connect with former UConn students – you already have something in common!”

Alyssa is one of the many alumni that makes the UConn Department of Communication proud by utilizing her communication skills to succeed in her career. To learn more about her journey with communication or connect with Alyssa, reach out via LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alyssadavanzo/