Letter from the director
Dr. Steve Smethers
As you receive this digital copy of Update magazine, I hope you are healthy and safe. The past few months have been exhausting for our students, as they have been forced to give up their on-campus learning and normal spring activities and, instead, spend the spring semester at home with their families or in their apartments in Manhattan, all in the name of social isolation and doing their part to contain COVID-19.
And the impact on our faculty has been immense, as they had to quickly convert face-to-face lectures into remotely-delivered online classes, forcing many to be thrown into styles of teaching they had not previously experienced or, at least, requiring a radical change in their initial lesson plans.
For us in Kedzie Hall, the pandemic hit close to home. As so many of you have likely seen, one of our professors Andrew Smith returned from a spring break study-abroad opportunity in the United Kingdom with severe flu-like symptoms, an ailment later diagnosed as COVID-19. Andrew was hospitalized, and his family was quarantined for several weeks. But in an act of real bravery, Andrew and his wife Jennifer went public on Facebook, through a story in the Collegian, and on social media in an effort to help Riley Countians understand that COVID-19 was not just a disease ravaging coastal cities and foreign countries. Through their story, all of us in the Manhattan area were able to put a face on the COVID-19 scare (Andrew was the first known case here), and people across the university community and the city of Manhattan began to take the disease seriously.
Seven students who accompanied Andrew and his family to London were placed under immediate quarantine, and one student, Miriam Chamberlain, a senior in journalism and mass communications, also came down with COVID-19. Miriam also selflessly went public with full disclosure of her illness and made herself available for media reports of her quarantine, all as a means of helping us understand that young people are not exempt from acquiring the virus.
I mention these heroic acts to illustrate an important point.
As the ever-changing story of the pandemic has unfolded, there has been one constant: media professionals have led – and continue to lead – society through this pandemic crisis. Professional communicators have been society’s lifeline, and just as the Smiths and Miriam have shown, we serve the public, often at great personal sacrifice. All of us who work in media-related professions were introduced to our public service role in the earliest days of our careers, and those values of communication leadership never leave us, a fact that is illustrated by our faculty, staff and students.
Kedzie Hall may have been closed since mid-March, but our mission to serve the people of Kansas through mediated storytelling and strategic communication has been more active than ever. Here are some examples:
• The realities related to COVID-19 made it impossible to print a hard-copy newspaper. So, for one of few times in the Collegian’s 125-year history, there is no printed edition. But the newspaper has provided some of its best-ever reporting, as Interim Director of the Collegian Media Group Linda Puntney and Editor-in-Chief Kaylie McLaughlin, aided by a skeleton staff, switched the newspaper’s reporting efforts to its online platform and provided almost 24/7 coverage of the unfolding COVID-19 story. They have also provided coverage thorough an email newsletter published three times a week (the service is free upon request by contacting the newspaper at http://kstatecollegian.com/newsletter).
• KSDB-FM “Wildcat 91.9” has broadcast continuous local COVID-19 coverage, in spite of the fact that our campus has been closed. When faculty adviser Ian Punnett told staffers that it was likely the station staffers would have to leave campus and let the station’s automation system take over, the students had other ideas, proclaiming “serving the public in times of crisis is what we do in radio.” So, the staff, schooled by Ian on the importance of disinfecting the studios and proper social distancing, flew into action, providing hourly local news updates to accompany national information from the NBC Radio Network. And Ian has even been part of the act, providing a daily report, “19@Noon,” featuring regular guests to provide information about the virus.
• Neither did campus closure stop our television news staff from producing their weekly program, “MHK All Day.” Unable to have regular access to our KKSU-TV studios in Dole Hall, Tom Hallaq, the faculty member who produces the award-winning program, instead found a way to distribute the program via Zoom video over software intended for Webinars. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHbt9iEztI8 Additionally, the program is distributed via the internet and various social media platforms.
• Students working in strategic communications positions — in the local school district, the Riley County Police Department and other organizations — also have been crucial in getting messages to their audiences during the pandemic. They have learned, first-hand, what crisis management is all about.
• When University administrators made the decision to close the campus, our faculty members had one week to transform their planned lectures into online delivery. The period promised to be fraught with confusion as students were forced to adjust to learning in a new way. But a faculty committee, led by instructor Jana Thomas, began a crisis communication initiative, using social media platforms to communicate with our students, an effort designed to help them make the adjustment to the new delivery format, provide important communication about advising, and to help them understand that our faculty and staff were still with them despite campus closure. Of course, the shutdown forced cancellation of such time-honored traditions as the annual scholarship banquet and commencement. But our faculty developed a special website and produced a virtual end-of-year experience, the “JMC Senior Sendoff,” a site honoring our graduating seniors, as well as scholarship recipients and award winners. Special video comments by President Richard Myers, Dean of Arts and Sciences Amit Chakrabarti, alumnae Linda Cook and greetings from our faculty and featured on the site, which is available from the A.Q. Miller School website.
• We also have continued our important service mission to the state’s media industry. A faculty committee, headed by Gloria Freeland, has been working to redefine the services provided by the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media. The center has been working with representatives of the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters and the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors to offer assistance to struggling small-market newspaper editors and broadcasters.
In short, COVID-19 has caused unthinkable health and economic destruction. And yet, the pandemic hasn’t kept us from fulfilling our obligations to our students and the people of Kansas and beyond.
The A.Q. Miller School is named for the famed small-town newspaper publisher who was a symbol of communication leadership in his beloved hometown of Belleville. Were he alive today, I’m sure Mr. Miller would be working around the clock to provide life-saving information about COVID-19 to the people of Republic County and north-central Kansas.
Every day, we work to live up to the Miller legacy, and I’m sure that if Alexander Quintella Miller could see our faculty, staff and students in action today, he would surely be pleased.
Class of 2012
What has pushed you on to your current career path?
When I was a soldier in Ramadi, Iraq in 2004 we had one journalist who was brave enough to come to our operating base. I thought it was a great service to be able to share what was going on to the public. I wanted to tell the stories I saw to make people understand, and give them a clearer view of what was going on in the world. When I had the opportunity to come to K-State, I knew I had to give it a shot! Since then I’ve been a reporter, anchor, and finally landed in public relations with the same military community I always wanted to serve. A true dream job!
Have your job duties shifted because of COVID-19?
Yes. I am now engaged in a dynamic effort to support the command team on Fort Riley in their efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on post. This means I'm conducting crisis communications in a time when information can save lives in our community. It is an honor to be serving once again.
Class of 2019
What was your experience graduating from the JMC program and going on to a job?
I had a very positive experience with the JMC program, and I feel that it prepared me to enter my professional field. Even though my career is centered around higher education and programming, I am still able to use the skills I developed through JMC on a daily basis. From communicating within groups, to helping students develop in their abilities, there are many transferable skills I’ve gained during my undergraduate experience in mass communications with an emphasis in advertising.
What advice would you give to seniors applying for jobs?
Things may not go as you have planned right away, and that is a-okay! We are living in an unprecedented time, where many organizations and businesses are in a hiring freeze. Stay persistent and resilient, as hard as that may be.
Class of 1992
What is your greatest journalistic accomplishment?
I've been fortunate to work on several projects where I could use my journalism skills. The project that I believe had the biggest impact is the development of a signature financial education program that received multiple awards from several groups including the Mutual Fund Education Alliance STAR Award and Excellence In Financial Literacy Education (“EIFLE”) Awards, “Education Program of the Year” and the for-profit “Organization of the Year” award.
What advice would you give students in this difficult time?
Stay focused on the long-term objective of your education, and don’t worry about the things you cannot control. Talk with your professors and counselors about things you can do to develop or improve your personal brand identity. By investing in yourself today, you will improve your value after graduation.
Class of 2019
What’s your favorite part of your career?
Right now, I get to cover education for the Manhattan Mercury. Education is a topic that touches everyone in some way, and my favorite part of the job has been the variety of people I've gotten to talk to and the places I've been able to go. I've covered "fun" stories like Kansas Day in the elementary schools while also doing harder-hitting pieces like enrollment analyses at the university.
How Has COVID-19 affected you?
Since I cover education, people have joked that I don't have anything left to cover, since everyone is at home. But I think that while I've had to become creative in the way I cover stories, the stories themselves have been some of the best I've had the privilege to cover. I've always believed that stories are rooted in some sort of conflict or tension, whether that be a conflict between people, ideas, or even expectations. Sure, it's harder to do my job, since I work from home now, but that hasn't kept me from being able to see and write the stories of how people have stepped up to this adverse situation.
Class of 2018
How has COVID-19 affected your job status?
I was one of the fortunate people to keep their current job during the stay-at-home order. Before the outbreak became more critical, I was looking for new job opportunities. I recently accepted a job offer from a digital marketing agency. Due to COVID-19, the hiring process was slower than the norm. It is an overwhelming time to take the next step in my career, but it is still a learning opportunity nonetheless.
What advice would you give to seniors applying for jobs with the unemployment rate so high?
Keep working hard and remain positive. Take this time to practice your talents and create a portfolio. Take advantage of free virtual workshops, webinars, and network opportunities (LinkedIn is a good place to look). Although finding a job is much tougher in this situation, it is not impossible. The industry of marketing and communications will never go away. People will always look to be informed, engaged, and entertained.
Dealing with the COVID-19 aftermath
Story by Bree Magee
Gabriella Doebele, a May 2019 graduate from K-State who had majored in Public Relations, had faced the layoff of her job due to COVID-19. Doebele had been working as an emailing marketing specialist at the Rally House headquarters, but is now looking for a job in her field while following the stay at home orders and practicing social distancing guidelines that had been put in place.
Despite the days at home, Doebele feels like she is living in a fever dream. Every morning and afternoon, she continues to look at job postings that have been scarce due to the pandemic.
“I’ve had a few phone interviews that have turned into upcoming zoom interviews and I am thankful, but I’m scared,” Doebele said.
Doebele wants to find the job that will be the right fit for her degree and skills. So far, the job search has had no luck for Doebele, but finding herself with a few phone and Zoom interviews. Most job openings have moved onto other candidates because of applying too late or the hiring process has been frozen. What Doebele fears most in the job search is the thought of starting work remotely and if she will be good enough if hired.
Doebele also passes her time on Hubspot, an inbound marketing and sales software, to help her hone her skills so she does not just sit idly.
“While there is not much I can do, learning will always be an option,” Doebele said.
Kaylie McLaughlin, junior in digital journalism and international studies, has been running the Collegian as editor-in-chief alongside her full workload of online classes. The transition was not difficult for McLaughlin to move the Collegian online only since it has a well set up website where many people visit to read upcoming news.
“I don’t love that we aren’t able to make a print paper right now and we are experimenting with digital-only pages,” McLaughlin said.
One of the bigger goals with the Collegian has been getting content on digital pages soon, and with hopes of having a print paper again come August.
At the beginning of the pandemic there was a “panic publish” or a rush to get information out as quickly as possible, but as time has passed, there is now more of a routine of getting articles out.
“We’re through the roof right now because we’re quick and we’re accurate and we’re doing a good job at telling the stories of the K-State community during this time and keeping students up to date with what is going on,” McLaughlin said.
The goal through the end of the semester for the Collegian is to sustain growth and the quality of storytelling along with the analytics that comes with it. In place of the print paper, the newsletter was being pushed to get information out three times a week to subscribers which had gained more subscribers in doing so.
The transition to online classes has been interesting for McLaughlin because some professors have given more work than before the transition went to online. McLaughlin has had to balance both jobs and it's work loads but has been able to figure her schedule out as she continues to follow the stay at home guidelines.
“I’d like to say that I’m better at taking breaks than planning stuff for myself like time off, but I’m not,” McLauglin said.
McLaughlin has had little time to take breaks to do things she enjoys like taking walks or to do yoga but she is used to the amount of pressure from being the editor-in-chief and a full time student.
Did you have any experience teaching online classes before the semester moved online? If so, how has that experience helped? If not, what has been the biggest learning curve?
When all professors were told to move their classes to teaching online, I had not done much with this method of teaching. I regularly post reading material and assignments on canvas for my classes, but to actually TEACH the material online -- this was a new experience. Honestly, it took me awhile to get lecture material set up. I wanted to make sure I was giving my students everything I would have told them in the classroom.
There is something about being in the classroom I really like. I love interacting with the students, and I can tell by the expressions on their faces if they are understanding what I am telling them. If not, I present the material in a different manner. I work to make sure the students have a grasp of the material and why it is important.
How have you had to get creative with the rest of the curriculum for the semester?
As someone who studies interactivity and innovation in digital media, I have been able to apply a lot of what I understand about how and why people use the internet to design my courses. Specifically, as the semester has moved along, I've tried to make the courses increasingly asynchronous and self-paced. When we use the internet, we enjoy the increased control that online interactivity gives us. I've tried to make my courses responsive to that impulse.
What roles are you juggling right now (professor, parent, other jobs, etc.)?
I teach three courses in strategic communications and I am the mother of three boys. Right now, I am home with my husband and two youngest children who are 11 and 9. My husband and I are both still working at home and we also oversee our boys' home learning since their elementary school closed in March. It's been a challenge to adjust and juggle our commitments but I'm thankful to have such a great partner in my husband and to have so many wonderful learning resources provided by the Manhattan school district and their teachers.
Advisors shift to online appointments
Story by Rachel Browne
Amid the COVID-19 chaos - society acclimating to the social distancing lifestyle - the JMC advisors have similarly adopted a new normal.
Meeting face-to-face with students in appointments is customary for Courtney Carlton and Carey Glenn, making the quarantine routine unorthodox.
“My daily routine has changed a lot in that I’m not meeting with any students face-to-face, and most of those correspondents are coming through multiple emails,” Carlton said. “We are meeting via Zoom for any advising appointments. I have about 10 advising appointments a day, so we are learning how to share screens and go through the DARS reports that way.”
Though the work-from-home lifestyle is atypical for most, Glenn has found the transition fairly smooth, having experience working remotely.
“Before I came to K-State I was at Wichita State and I worked at home for a year and a half,” Glenn said, “so I was already into the work at home routine. There is such an importance in getting into a routine of things because it’s easy to get into all-day work mode. For me, it has helped having very specific working hours and very specific at-home hours.”
In fact, establishing that routine is what Carlton has found the most challenging about the change.
“I have kind of turned my craft room into an office, so I’m trying to separate work and home life still,” Carlton said. “Usually I keep all my work stuff in this room and shut the door at 5:00, which has kind of helped me balance things, but I also find myself looking at my phone and reading emails, knowing my computer and everything that I need to do my job is right in the next room, so I sometimes go in there and work at night.”
Struggles aside, both Carlton and Glenn unearthed some positives in quarantine life. As an introvert, Glenn is coping well and enjoying quality time with her family.
“Quarantine is not as challenging for me as it is for my husband, who is very much an extrovert,” Glenn said. “I have an almost 2-year-old son, and it’s been fun having him home, which obviously has more challenges, but between my husband, son and our two large dogs, I feel like I’m around a lot of people.”
Moreover, Carlton thinks it’s good to slow down and stay grounded, despite being a people person. Nonetheless, she advises not to get too caught up in the social isolation aspect of this pandemic, emphasizing the importance of maintaining relationships with professors and peers remotely.
“Stay in communication with your professors and friends,” Carlton said. “Do Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, whatever you need to do to see people face-to-face. I think it’s really important to keep those relationships and to balance school life and home life. Know that you are still a student, and it’s still important for you to be in school and do your work because you came to K-State for a reason.”
Glenn stressed the gravity of prioritizing education and preserving the community aspect of the college experience as well.
“My biggest advice is to stay on top of your classes and be in constant communication with your professors because they’re still trying to navigate these waters too,” Glenn said. “Just being in touch with them gives you that community aspect the same way when you’re going to class and having a little chat with them after or before class. It also gives you a little more confidence when you do have questions about coursework when you have a relationship with them.”
In these uncertain times, nurturing relationships is essential, something both advisors are doing in the absence of the face-to-face interactions they crave.
“I definitely miss being on campus and seeing people,” Glenn said. “There is just nothing like a campus community.”
Internships are required for every student in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications and are vital to meet graduation requirements and starting a future career, but due to the outbreak of the COVID-19, some students have lost internships. This has made students anxious about getting the internship they need to graduate.
Angie Moss, a Public Relations major in the Miller School is one of the students that has had their internship plans affected by COVID-19.
“I was interning in the communications office of USD 383 at the time COVID-19 hit the community, which resulted in a lot of crisis communications and scrambling to figure out a way to get the curriculum to all of the k-12 students of the Manhattan community,” Moss said. “I assisted with building a website that held all of the lesson plans for the entire school district, which took a lot of time to ensure quality and consistency.”
Moss was also moving through the interview process for internships at a few travel and tourism public relations agencies in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina when the pandemic hit the United States.
“Once the rate of infection started to increase domestically, all of the agencies shut down their internship programs and their offices because travel was essentially shut down globally,” Moss said. “That left me without any internship for this summer, which was really unfortunate because I'm going into my senior year of college and I didn't gain an interest in travel promotion until this semester.”
Moss is a little on edge about getting a job in the travel and tourism promotion industry without experience in that field. However, Moss has combated this issue by deciding to transform her Instagram account into a ‘my travel’ account.
“I'm using it to promote my own travel throughout this summer and through the next academic year with hopes that that'll work in my favor when applying for jobs after graduating,” Moss said.
With that, Moss has found an alternative way to try to get the information she needs regarding the tourism industry.
Even though many internships have been canceled due to COVID-19, the Miller school is trying their best to try to give students help they need.
Jana Thomas and Gloria Freeland are both internship coordinators for the Miller school and have been trying their best to help students in these troubling times.
Freeland has four tips to encourage her students who are trying to find summer and fall internships: rise to meet the challenge, be resourceful, get creative, and become a resource.
“Life isn’t the same as it was, but we need to adapt in order to survive and thrive,” Freeland said. “Reach out to your local newspapers, broadcast stations, chambers of commerce, strategic communications organizations, non-profits, local businesses, departments on the K-State campus, and others to see if they need help creating or updating websites, crafting social media posts, writing news and feature stories, taking photographs and videos, doing podcasts, and helping with crisis management. Think in terms of your minor or outside concentration: graphic design, history, marketing, leadership studies, international relations. Are there opportunities related to that? Tell your potential supervisors/mentors what you can do for them. Organizations are struggling with having to lay off employees, trying to get small business loans, maintaining their own health and that of their families, and many other issues, so anything you can offer to do for them — potentially at no cost —will be met with gratitude.”
Jana Thomas also partnered with her husband Dusty Thomas, to host an online job ready webinar on May 5 called “How to find an Internship or Career in Challenging Times.”
Dusty is the director of business development for GDC Technology and is a dynamic speaker, trainer, salesman and professional networker. In his webinar Dusty shared his successful approach to career and internship exploration guided by constant and consistent communication, research and preparation.
The webinar was a way to give advice on how students can find the internships/jobs they need before and after graduation.
Dr. Steve Smethers and the Miller school identify with the setback and are working to help students.
“It is important for our students to understand that we are dedicated to helping them find internship opportunities, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. So it's important for them to work with their adviser and with our internship coordinator to find alternative ways to meet the objectives of the internship requirement”, Smethers said.
Smethers and a team in the Miller school have been actively working to find solutions for affected students.
“Our academic advisers and our internship coordinator have identified students nearing graduation and who are in the greatest need of assistance in meeting the requirement, and in those cases, we are working out individual options,” Smethers said. “No one will be delayed from graduation because they have not met the internship requirement. The resulting reality here is that students may not get internships they really wanted, and that, in my opinion, is the unfortunate byproduct of this situation.”
COVID-19 has made it hard for students who may have had their internships taken away, but Smethers as well as the rest of the Miller school’s staff has made it a priority to help students get the internships they need to graduate so they succeed despite troubling times.