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- Student Interest: PR Showdown
- Intern Spotlight: Rachel Blevins
- Professor Spotlight: Autumn Shafer
- Get to Know Your Student Ambassador: Alex Stedman
Student Interest: PR Showdown
By Burklee Berry
Searching for a new way to engage current students and highlight what exactly public relations students do, the College of Media & Communication created the PR Showdown.
The PR Showdown was started this year as an opportunity for students to compete against one another and put their PR skills to the ultimate test.
The PR Showdown is open to any CoMC major and is a two-round competition testing PR skills. The first round is a week-long competition and each day has a different challenge associated with it. Every team is given twenty-four hours to complete the challenges and the top three teams advance to the second round of finals to determine the winners.
Trent Seltzer speaks during the PR Showdown competition
Christiani Saucedo, a senior PR major, was apart of the runner up team in the final competition. Saucedo mentioned that along with the prizes offered, being able to build a portfolio was what interested her in getting involved in the Showdown.
“There was one challenge my team was given for the final day where we had to work with a crisis situation and none of us had ever taken a crisis class or knew much about how to handle one at all. It took a lot of research and long hours to put a plan together, but we can now say we have dealt with one in the future if we're ever asked by an employer,” Saucedo said.
“At times it got stressful because we all had other things going on and sometimes we were asking ourselves why we were even doing the competition. To get to the very end of it and to be able to say we had accomplished all of these tasks with a portfolio to show from it, that was extremely rewarding,” Saucedo said.
Lauren West, a senior PR major, was one of three other members of the winning team. West admitted the competition was rigorous and quite intense, but well worth the time and effort.
“Looking back, it was a great experience and it was really cool because it actually validated a lot of the things we had learned from our time here in the College of Media and Communication. It felt good to be able to apply all the skills we had learned over the past four years and successfully complete the challenges thrown our way,” West said.
Trent Seltzer, Ph.D., chair of the PR department, was surprised by the number of students who signed up to participate.
“We were anticipating about 30 students but we ended up having around 29 teams with 130 students to begin with. By the end of the competition we had about 20 teams finish with all five challenges completed. Talking to the students afterwards, most of them said that one of the hardest parts of the whole event was just surviving the grind of the week and the pace at which it all had to happen,” Seltzer said.
Seltzer was the chair of the committee for the PR Showdown, along with Autumn Shafer, Ph.D. Seltzer described how the entire department came together to make the PR Showdown such a success its first year.
“Dr. Shafer and I helped arrange the competition and then individual faculty members arranged and ran the specific days according to different challenges. It was really everyone in the PR department working together, whether it was judging, mentoring students, promoting the event, or coming up with new scenarios. One of the things I loved most was having the whole department pitch in,” Seltzer said.
West and her team walked away from the competition with not only a larger portfolio, but also the grand prize.
“The grand prize for winning the whole thing was what is called a ‘PR saloon.' We get to fly to Dallas because of the great alumni we have with Southwest Airlines and get to stay in the Gaylord Texan hotel located in Grapevine. We're having dinner with Tim Loecker who works for Weber Shandwick in Dallas as a networking opportunity. On top of all of that, we all also each receive one round trip ticket from Southwest Airlines to travel anywhere in the United States, so we're all really excited about that,” West said.
Competing team posing with basketballs
Seltzer mentioned the number of important key skills he saw students learn and take away from the competition.
“From what I gathered, students have mastered skills in multiple areas such as: time management, adapting to the unexpected, teamwork, endurance and interpersonal communications. I'm very proud of the students who placed and won the individual challenges who stuck it out giving it the old college try. Some challenges were a little rough around the edges in terms of content produced, but they still did it and to me that goes a long way in describing our students,” Seltzer said.
Saucedo thought the experience of participating in the Showdown was an overall great experience and recommends the competition to current and incoming students.
“It's definitely worth doing, especially if you're a PR major or if you are looking to do PR in the future. If you find that the competition is a little too much for you, than PR might not be the exact thing for you because these challenges are exactly what you're going to be doing every day in the real world,” Saucedo said.
Seltzer said he imagines the PR Showdown continuing to grow and be a success throughout the years to come.
“I don't know if it will look exactly the same year in and year out, but the general idea of it being a highly competitive competition across the whole program is what I really like about it. This is the first year we did it, so the faculty and I who were involved in it kept notes off to the side on how we might structure it differently next year. We just want to try and make it bigger and better overall,” Seltzer said.
Intern Spotlight: Rachel Blevins
by Burklee Berry
Rachel Blevins, writing intern
Looking for potential internships as an undergraduate student can be quite intimidating. The unknown of the amount of work and skills required, along with classes and extra-curricular activities, can keep a student from stepping outside of her comfort zone and applying for an internship that may seem intense.
Rachel Blevins, sophomore journalism major and public relations minor, took a chance on her role as the writing intern in the marketing office of the College of Media & Communication.
“I was scrolling through Twitter one day and I saw that the college had posted a tweet announcing they were looking for a writing intern. I downloaded the application file from there and thought it would be a great opportunity for me to gain experience,” Blevins said.
Blevins admitted to being hesitant to apply for the position. She was uncertain and concerned that she would not be able to perform some of the specific tasks in the job description that she didn't have much prior experience in.
“I read through the internship's job description and there were a couple of things listed that I knew I wasn't great at and that I might not really know how to do at all. Since getting the internship, I've been able to learn quickly and gain those skills I was unsure of coming in. Don't just look at the qualifications and tell yourself that since you aren't an expert at everything it won't work out,” Blevins said.
Blevins currently writes for the Mass Communicator (MC), which is an annual college publication, and for the Converging Newsletter, which that is a monthly publication. Blevins also works on any press releases that the college needs done.
“On a usual day, I come in and make a list of what needs to go out first and then one of what I need to work on that week. I'm usually working on around three or four stories at one time, so it can get a little bit crazy,” Blevins said.
Blevins notes that internships are very important to have under one's belt in any kind of communications field and that she has learned quite a bit from her experience as a writing intern so far.
“I've learned a lot more about AP style, how to format press releases, and how to write stories and make them interesting. It takes the concept of learning by doing because it really throws you right into it,” she said.
“My first day on the job, I was asked to write a press release for the college and I had never written one before. I was a little bit intimidated and nervous, but slowly realized it wasn't hard to catch a feel for. You really just have to get your feet wet and get in there to gain experience,” Blevins said.
Blevins suggests students should find an internship that they are passionate about and apply for it even if they don't think they quite fit the qualifications. Letting fear stand in the way can be lead to missed amazing opportunities.
“Especially here in the college, the faculty who work with you are very easy going, positive people who really do want to see you succeed. They have helped me put my skills that I have struggled with in the past to the test and have pushed me to be the best I can be,” Blevins said.
Professor Spotlight: Autumn Shafer
By Burklee Berry
Autumn Shafer, Ph.D.
Originally deciding to take a science and math route to complete her undergraduate degree, Autumn Shafer, Ph.D., never thought her path would lead her not only into the communications field, but into the doors of the College of Media & Communication as well.
While studying chemistry at Washington State University, Shafer was required to take a communications course as a part of the university's core curriculum.
“I signed up for a public speaking course and realized I really liked it, so I began taking one course after the other. Pretty soon I wanted to take solely all communications courses and that's when I decided to switch my major to communications studies,” Shafer said.
Shafer's research interest is in health communications and health promotion. She has worked on campaigns involving cancer prevention, eating disorders, and obesity prevention.
“I always wanted to do something that would benefit society in some way. That's one reason why I went on to get my Ph.D. in health communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I wanted to actually work on real campaigns that worked with issues that mattered,” Shafer said.
Currently, Shafer is working on a campaign for Texas Tech University called Define Your Line. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage and help students start a campus-wide conversation about sexual consent and give them a space to talk about it anonymously.
“Students fill out cards and post to the website we have created. They are able to share their questions related to sexual consent to get answers back from other students, as well as experts,” Shafer said.
Shafer is one of two faculty advisors on the campaign along with Dr. Rebecca Ortiz. The campaign officially launched the week of March 18th, the week after Spring Break.
“Even though the campaign has only been out about four weeks now, we have almost 400 followers on our different social media platforms and the students are loving it,” Shafer said.
When she's not working on campaigns, Shafer also teaches several courses for the college. She often teaches Public Relations Strategies, Public Relations Campaigns, Political Public Relations, and sometimes Crisis Communications as well. Shafer said she enjoys teaching PR campaigns, which is the capstone course for all PR majors in the college.
“I love teaching that course because you really get to know the students. It's a small class and it feels more like being a coach and helping them apply all the things they've leaned throughout their time here. We always have a great non-profit client and this year it's Boys and Girls Club. It's fun to do a little bit of good for somebody and teach a class at the same time,” Shafer said.
Get to Know Your Student Ambassador: Alex Stedman
Alex Stedman, advertising major
Alex Stedman is an advertising major from Austin, Texas.
What do you love about the College of Media & Communication?
I love the tight-knit aspect of the college. Even though it may sound cliché, we really are a family. The more time that passes, the more I see that. I am able to take classes with the same professors and eventually I get to know them on a personal level, which is great! I feel comfortable asking almost all my professors for advice, recommendation letters, or just stopping in to talk from time to time. I also feel really comfortable speaking my mind in class and in The College of Media and Communication in general because of the ‘communication-based' environment fostered in the college. I really like my peers, and I think because we are all in a college of communication, it makes it very easy to talk to anyone about virtually anything without feeling held back or limited. People are so approachable here, and I love that! Almost all faculty and students, alike, are friendly, helpful, and willing to, if not almost always, wanting to talk to you.
What are you involved in within the college and around campus?
Currently, I am studying abroad in Seville, Spain, but normally I am a member of the Texas Tech Activities Board-Films Committee, Texas Tech Advertising Federation, Tech PR, Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies, and I am the director of Public Relations and Awareness for Golden Key Honor Society.
What are your hobbies?
I am a big TV junkie, but I feel that's somewhat justified because it is essentially just research. I am only keeping up with the latest advertisements and staying current with my major. I am addicted to a variety of shows, but I'm currently binge watching House of Cards. I also love being active-- volleyball, running, kayaking, football, beaching, exploring, hiking, etc. Additionally, I am a very theatrical person and am constantly singing, dancing, ‘acting things out' with my communicative gestures and mannerisms. So if you pass me in the halls with my headphones on, I am probably about to break out in song and dance. Oh! And coffee! I love coffee!
What have you enjoyed most about being an ambassador?
There's not one thing that I love most, but I can say I love talking, especially about things that I love. The College of Media and Communication has given me so much in just three years. I can't express how lucky and grateful I am to attend such an amazing college. I am a strong believer in the concept that you get out what you put in, and I really feel like being an ambassador is a great way to acknowledge and give back. This school has gone above and beyond for me, and I know the same is true for many other past and future students-to-be. I also like helping people in general, so talking and recruiting potential students excites me and allows me to get involved hands-on with and for the College of Media and Communication. I always joke being an ambassador is just a title for talking and meeting really great people. Of course it's more than that. But most of the time it just feels like talking with friends and family who aren't actually related to you! You have to work events, represent the college, and you have got to love your major and classes, because, at the end of the day, that's what you are advertising.
What is your advice to prospective students?
Do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Don't be afraid of rejection or judgement. The College of Media and Communication raises, nurtures, and supports an accepting and positive atmosphere; in fact, the college thrives on it. Ask questions, go to office hours, talk to unfamiliar faces, join organizations, and sit in a different seat just to meet new people every now and then. Speak your mind and try to stay open-minded. All of these things will only help you to become a more adaptable, personable individual. Expanding your horizons and pushing yourself is healthy and beneficial for you, especially in this college. Even if you don't think you will land that dream internship, apply for it and do something different to get your foot in the door. Speaking from personal experience, not doing something and regretting it because of fear is much worse than going for it and not reaching your goals due to initial fear. In the second scenario, at least you tried and can learn and grow from your mistakes to succeed in the future.
What is your favorite Texas Tech tradition?
During the fall semester, my favorite Texas Tech tradition is Red Raider football. During the winter, Carol of the Lights, and the entire winter season in general. I am obsessed with Christmas, and I love the snow, the lights, the food, and the gift-giving.
Fun fact about yourself?
I live my life like a musical, especially when I'm walking to class. Everyone I pass is in synchronized dance rhythm singing whatever playlist it is that I am listing to at the moment. I want to be “Louis” from “Bob's Burgers” when I grow up. I think babies and old people are the cutest! My obsessions include but are not limited to: Christmas, Lorde (the musician), Ansel Elgort, Vine, and meeting new people.
What are your future career goals?
I have always wanted to work in the film industry and I have in internship doing just that in California this summer. I will return in the fall, and after graduation, I am willing to go wherever an opportunity arises. I am open to almost all advertising and communication-related opportunities that may present themselves. When I first chose advertising as a major, I always imagined myself in a big creative ad firm in some amazing city… some sort of modern day “Mad Men” minus the alcoholism and cigarette-smoking. However, now that I have been able to explore other options through various internships, I have realized how much I love all parts of my major, so I am willing to go where the wind blows.
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