Texas Tech University

Converging News

February 2016

In this issue of Converging News:

Dean's Note

Dear CoMC Friends:

David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.
Dean David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.

Nowadays, one hears many people say that universities should be run more like businesses. They are partly right: Many of the functions and processes we undertake – from billing to risk management to payroll – must indeed be performed efficiently and accurately as much as for any private enterprise. On the other hand, we are not a business – we are a non-profit, a philanthropic organization dedicated to education, to helping our “customers,” sometimes against their will, develop the applied and cognitive skill sets to achieve productive careers and become knowledgeable citizens of the republic.

Nevertheless, like any institution and concern, we measure ourselves by metrics. I shared with you a few months ago how our “numbers” are significantly up this year. Analogous to sales, our enrollment and the number of credit hours students take with us rose sharply in fall 2015. Now we have some additional good news: The College of Media & Communication retention rate is 88 percent, a one-year rise of 4.7 percent. Our undergraduate graduation rate increased 12.8 percent this year from 63 percent to 72 percent.

As any salesperson knows, it is a sign that your product is of high quality when you retain your customers! These numbers confirm what I hear from students and new grads: At CoMC they feel cared about as individuals, as well as trained to be professionals.

Best wishes,

David D. Perlmutter

David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean

Laura Gonzalez changed universities, turned down her dream job and more to set a good example for her younger sisters


Laura Gonzalez
Laura Gonzalez

For Texas Tech University student Laura Gonzalez, the road to a degree has been filled with twists, turns and bumps. Throughout the journey, she's been guided by her dedication to her family.

For Hispanic Heritage Month, Gonzalez shared how her background has affected her educational and career choices and how she hopes her path will influence others.

“I come from a culture where you're kind of honed in on that pride element, where it's very hard to ask people for help, and that can be a bit conflicting in higher education, especially for a first-generation college student,” Gonzalez said. “You don't know the loops and the puzzle pieces to a lot of things other students already know. You fail that first test and it's a shock, whereas others have had parents go through that who can mentor and coach them and say, ‘it happens, you'll get over it.' I didn't have that support because my parents knew nothing about higher education.”

Her father first came to the United States in 1987 at age 19, and when he was found to be here illegally, he was deported. He came back legally in 1988.

“He had a total of 10 siblings and obviously my grandparents, and he was helping support them,” she said. “He traveled here to find a better job that would pay better, and the money he was making would go to Mexico to support his family. You can see why he knew he had to come back here.”

Gonzalez's mother came to the U.S. in the 1980s after her own father died.

“She was only 18 years old and she had to come with her mother and her siblings to find a better life because my grandpa was the sole provider of their family; they had a restaurant business,” Gonzalez said. “So when he passed away, everything kind of dissolved at that point.”

Gonzalez's father has worked in maintenance for Tyson Foods for 25 years and is the sole provider for his family after a series of nine back surgeries in the past three years rendered his wife disabled. Gonzalez also has five younger sisters, ranging in age from 9 to 22.

“There's a guilt factor” in attending college, she admitted. “Seeing my parents struggle and not have high-paying jobs, it was difficult for me to not just jump into the workforce and bring a bit of income to help out with the bills. Instead, I chose to do college, so that's weighed on me a lot. I feel the way I've been able to overcome that is seeing how my experiences are now influencing and inspiring my sisters to pursue that alternative rather than going into the workforce and seeing there's a brighter future in choosing option B.”

The senior public relations major from Amarillo was on a much different path just two years ago. She was a mechanical engineering major at the University of Texas, progressing more than 60 percent toward her degree plan, with only three semesters left until her anticipated graduation. But she was also unhappy.

“I decided engineering was not the path for me,” she said. “I wasn't passionate about it, I didn't feel like it was bringing out the best in me, and I could not thrive in it.”

She started looking into other programs at other universities. She found the Department of Public Relations at Texas Tech's College of Media & Communication different because chairman Trent Seltzer offered to speak to the prospective student by phone instead of just email. But even the hope that she'd found a better place didn't ease the choice of changing her current path.

“That was hard to walk away from, seeing how far I had come,” she said. “I mean, passing all those higher-level calculus courses and the science part was hard to walk away from because that in itself was full of all-nighters I was leaving behind me. But I'm glad I went through that experience because going through that built the work ethic I have today. And it also ties back into my Hispanic heritage. You're raised in a household where you're taught that you need to work hard, so it's really impacted my success today, knowing that I need to be a risk taker and trying to not be afraid to ask for help.”

Laura Gonzalez on staircase
Laura Gonzalez

After arriving at Texas Tech in Fall 2014, Gonzalez felt she had a lot to prove.

“A lot of people viewed my transition from mechanical engineering into public relations as a failure because they saw it from the perspective of, ‘oh, the going got tough and she didn't want to finish it out,'” she said. “Around November, I came across the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP) opportunity, the most promising intern program. Seeing the competitiveness in that application was a bit scary because more than 1,000 students apply from all over the country and only a small fraction are selected, 155 to be exact.

“Seeing that kind of fueled me, and I knew I had many to prove wrong after my transition from engineering into this field, so I knew this would be the eye-opener for many of my mentors and myself to say, ‘I made the right choice jumping into this field.' Even though I was competing against students who had two years of experience, I ignored that fact and really applied myself, devoting my heart into that application. From studying how to create a resume to how to create a LinkedIn profile, I really went that extra mile to make myself distinctive among the applicants. In February, I was named a MAIP fellow.”

The 22-week fellowship program started in the spring, so while taking classes at Tech, Gonzalez enrolled in digital webinars to learn skills from industry professionals that would prepare her for the next step. In early June, she flew to St. Louis for a media planning internship at marketing and advertising firm Osborn Barr.

“When starting at Osborn Barr, one of their media planners had just left their team, so I had the opportunity to do a lot of the duties typical media interns don't get to do,” Gonzalez said. “I was helping the media director draft a presentation for a client and I was drafting competitive analyses, things I didn't even know the terminology to before. If I didn't know the answer, you'd best believe Google was my best friend.”

As part of the internship, Gonzalez and her group developed a marketing plan for the company, competing against other intern groups in the St. Louis and Kansas City offices.

“Toward the end of the summer, we had the opportunity to present that plan to our client, which consisted of the CEO, the human resources director, the vice president and all the senior executive personnel. That in itself was a bit intimidating; you're presenting to the CEO, that's enough right there,” she laughed. “I think what really made our presentation distinctive was the passion that just bounced off from one to another in that group and toward the end of the day, our group was announced the winner. Even to this day, those recommendations we made for that campaign are being utilized by Osborn Barr.”

As part of the MAIP program, Gonzalez completed a separate project with other MAIP fellows across the country in teams of 12. Gonzalez, who volunteered as the group's leader, headed a point-of-view campaign for Nike, a project facilitated by Portland, Oregon-based advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy. It would lead to her dream job offer.

“At the end of my internship, a Wieden+Kennedy rep reached out to me through LinkedIn, asking if I was interested in an assistant media planner position in their Portland office,” she said. “Getting that kind of offer can be dazing. It's kind of the foundational truth: you come to college to get a better education to get a better life. I knew I would be skipping a step ahead if I took this opportunity, but it would invalidate all that sacrifice I know my family has gone through, not having that extra income from me just pursuing the workforce instead of going to college. Knowing that it would invalidate that and set the wrong example for my sisters, it was not worth taking the dream job.”

After she explained her reasons to the Wieden+Kennedy representative, she was told she'd be contacted again in a year to see if she was interested in another internship opportunity or perhaps another position, if one became available.

Back at Texas Tech, Gonzalez is now the president of Tech PR, the university's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), a role she uses to teach other students what she's learned along the way – in public relations and out.

“I've learned the best leader is compassionate to people's circumstances,” she said. “I've let that really influence how I lead others. I'm also very analytical, which comes from those engineering classes. I really analyze people's strengths and weaknesses and use those assessments to bring out the best in people.”

Gonzalez, who expects to graduate in May, said Texas Tech has given her chances she wouldn't have imagined two years ago.

“I think a lot of the opportunities I have today are because of the faculty here at Tech,” she said. “Just seeing that underlying support and passion that transmits in those individuals has pushed me to be a better person and a better student. Texas Tech is a magical place and I couldn't be more thrilled to be here. I hope my sisters will also follow my alma mater, but obviously that's up to them.

“Seeing that I do come from a low-income Hispanic background has really pushed me to take opportunities where I can because I know pursuing the workforce wouldn't have as large of an impact as higher education would for my family,” she added. “I will be the first in my family to get a college degree. I hope that sacrifice will bring more generations, with my sisters and their families. Seeing the long view picture of that is what pushes me to not be fearful of circumstances and making my own opportunities.”

Original story from Texas Tech Today

Kent Wilkinson receives Fulbright Scholar Grant to Teach Courses in Chile


Kent Wilkinson and Dean Perlmutter walking
Kent Wilkinson

Kent Wilkinson, Ph.D. and director of the Thomas Jay Harris Institute for Hispanic & International Communication in the College of Media & Communication, has received a Fulbright Scholar Grant to work at the University of the Andes in Santiago, Chile, in otono 2016.

The otono (Spanish for “fall”) semester in Chile ranges from March to July. While he has spent a short time teaching in Spain and France, five months in Peru, and two years teaching in Mexico in the past, Wilkinson said this is the first time he will be teaching in Chile.

“I'm interested to see how the classroom environment in Chile compares,” Wilkinson said. “I'll be teaching an intensive Ph.D. course and an upper division undergraduate course, which should provide some varied perspectives on Chilean higher education.”

Wilkinson said the graduate course will focus on popular culture and rock ‘n' roll, and will combine theories of popular culture with a more practical examination of what can be learned about identity, media markets, political communication and technology by studying a particular expressive form of music.

For the undergraduate course, Wilkinson will focus on Hispanic-oriented media in the U.S., looking at the development and current status of this growing media sector, with special emphasis on media management and entrepreneurship, which the University of the Andes stresses. 

While he has taught similar courses at CoMC, Wilkinson said this is the first time he will teach them in Spanish.

Kent Wilkinson
Kent Wilkinson

In addition to teaching, Wilkinson said he will continue research with Chilean colleagues on young adults' smartphone use, and he will research language translation in Chilean media.

He said that while he is already acquainted with several faculty members at the university, he looks forward to getting to know the faculty better and making new friends.

“We will be advancing a research project about how young adults use their smartphones that we initiated last year,” Wilkinson said. “I'll also be doing some of my own research on language translation in media. It's always interesting to learn from professionals who are immersed in the processes that we endeavor to understand as researchers.”

While results from preliminary survey and focus groups have suggested both similarities and differences in how young adults in Chile and Texas use and feel about their smartphones, Wilkinson said he looks forward to being able to speak directly with Chilean young adults on the subject.

“Much of my prior work on language difference in electronic media generally, and media translation in particular, has focused on the U.S., Mexico and Europe,” Wilkinson said. “I look forward to hearing how Chilean content producers and translators see the language difference and translation challenge, and where they see Chile fitting in the regional media trade.”

Wilkinson's blog on his experiences in Chile can be found at: http://www.ktwsite.wordpress.com

Journalism Student Transfers to Texas Tech after Record-Breaking Year at Amarillo College


Amanda Castro-Crist and friends looking at thier reflection
Amanda Castro-Crist

After breaking school records and receiving multiple individual awards as the editor-in-chief of Amarillo College's student newspaper, Amanda Castro-Crist transferred to Texas Tech in Fall 2015 to pursue a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Castro-Crist graduated from Caprock High School in 2000, but did not enroll in Amarillo College until 2012. She said that before returning to school, she worked as a public benefits advocate, a preschool teacher, and a manager at a grocery store.

“I was working as a public benefits advocate at one of the hospitals in Amarillo, and it was good work, but something just didn't quite fit,” Castro-Crist said. “I wanted to figure out what I really wanted to be doing, and I knew that I've always liked to write. When I went to my first advising appointment, my advisor suggested I try journalism.”

Castro-Crist said she was inspired to pursue higher education after she watched the struggles her mom, Delia, faced while raising three children as a single mother.

“She's the strongest person I know and one of the reasons I push myself to be the best I can be,” Castro-Crist said. “Though she only made it to sixth grade, she raised my brother Johnny, my sister Charlena, and me by herself and continues to work even now.”

During her time as a student at Amarillo College, Castro-Crist earned associate degrees in mass communication/journalism and speech communication and mass media certificates in social media and image and design.

Castro-Crist said she became involved with the college's newspaper, The Ranger, and she served as the online editor during her first year and as the editor-in-chief during her second and third years. She said she also gained experience working with the college's student radio station and a local daily newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News.

In addition to being the only student in the history of The Ranger to serve as the editor-in-chief for two consecutive years, Castro-Crist said she had the opportunity to lead the paper as it broke school records and won 28 awards from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association in Spring 2015.

“I set a record with nine individual awards,” Castro-Crist said. “We also won Journalist of the Year and Reporter of the Year and I was awarded Editor of the Year. We were later awarded Outstanding Student Organization of the Year at Amarillo College.”

Amanda Castro-Crist presenting at a conference
Amanda Castro-Crist

Castro-Crist said she credits her student media advisors Mike Haynes and Jill Gibson for helping her stay with journalism and for encouraging her to experiment with different media in the field. She said that Haynes, a Texas Tech alumnus, encouraged her to continue her education by transferring to the College of Media & Communication.

When she arrived at Texas Tech, Castro-Crist said she started working for Texas Tech's student newspaper, the Daily Toreador, and then decided to gain experience in radio by working with CoMC's student-run radio station, The Raider 88.1. During Fall 2015, Castro-Crist said she delivered news reports and co-hosted a 90s music show.

“I really like working in radio,” Castro-Crist said. “Writing has always been what I've come back to, but radio is a lot of fun. Whatever you're doing is right in the moment, and then when you're done, you move on to the next thing.”

Castro-Crist has also become involved with Mentor Tech, an organization that works with students from underrepresented groups to enhance their experience at the university. She said her mentor, Tia Atkinson, is a mass communications master's student and has been a great influence during her time at Texas Tech.

“Tia has been there for me when I've needed to ask questions, vent, or just break down a little,” Castro-Crist said. “She is amazing, and I don't think I would have made it through the first month of classes at Tech without her support.” 

Castro-Crist said in the future she hopes to pursue a master's degree in mass communications, and she is interested in teaching at the collegiate level. She said that although her story is different from that of the traditional college student, she has found that she has put more effort into her education since returning to school because she was somewhere she wanted to be.

Castro-Crist said her advice for other students is to pursue a path that makes them happy, even if it does not follow the traditional route.

“I feel like too many people say you have to go to high school, then college, and then go get a job,” Castro-Crist said. “I think you shouldn't be doing something that's making you miserable, whether it's going to school, working a certain job, or doing something that someone else thinks you should be doing.”

Department of Communication Studies Hosts SpeakUp! Contest



The Department of Communication Studies ended the Fall 2015 semester with its bi-annual SpeakUp! contest, where students were selected by their instructors to compete in a public speaking competition.

This latest edition of the competition began with 56 students, one chosen from each of the labs for Public Speaking, Business & Professional Communication, and Professional Communication classes. After one round of eliminations, the group was then broken down into the top eight, which competed in a final round.

Tyler Johnson, a junior biology major from Mesquite, Texas, was the champion, winning $500 for first place and $100 for earning the most text votes to win the people's choice award.

Johnson said he was honored to receive the grand prize and humbled by the reaction from the audience.

“The competition gave me new self worth,” Johnson said. “It showed me that people appreciate my talent and that speech is an art form that everyone can enjoy. It's amazing to have people recognize me from my speech and tell me they loved it.”

Taylor Townes, a sophomore geosciences major from Houston, won $400 for second place, and Cameron Condreay, a sophomore music education major from San Antonio, won $300 for third place.

Rounding out the top eight competitors were Danielle Roberts, a senior kinesiology major from Lovington, N.M.; Genesis Luna, a freshman chemistry major from El Paso, Texas; Sean Lewis, a freshman economics major from Virginia Beach, Va.; Jesse Chase, a freshman elementary education major from Frisco, Texas; and Shannon Northcut, a freshman from Midlothian, Texas.

Joy O'Steen, a communication studies professor and co-director of SpeakUp!, said the department began hosting the competition in Spring 2012, and that this is the first semester the contest has included labs from the Professional Communication course.

“I always tell my students that they should participate because if they make it, it's pretty impressive,” O'Steen said. “I think it gives them a chance to practice what they do in the classroom in another venue with a different audience, which gives them a chance to get more experience.”

O'Steen said students in Business & Professional Communication classes are required to create a marketing pitch, while students in public speaking classes create persuasive speeches.

“The speeches they use at the competition start with a speech they did as an assignment in class” O'Steen said. “We don't let them change their topic, but we do allow their lab instructor to coach them and to help refine their speeches.”

Leanne Lagasse, the director of public speaking and co-director of the event, said she believes the SpeakUp! contest gives students an opportunity to showcase their communication skills in a fun and competitive environment.

“We know that oral communication skills top the list of skills employers are searching for when they hire college graduates,” Lagasse said. “In our courses, students learn that exceptional public speaking requires a great deal of critical thinking, audience analysis, organization and structure, creativity and artistry, and rehearsal.”

Lagasse said she hopes the SpeakUp! contest gives students a deep appreciation for public speaking, and she loves the fact that putting the competition together has been a college-wide effort.

“We begin with around 1,600 potential contestants and eventually narrow it down to the top persuasive speaker,” Lagasse said. “This requires a tremendous amount of planning, and we are so fortunate to work with so many remarkable people who help us make this event a success every semester.”

Student signing inStudent presenting their speech to the groupStudent giving a speech at a podiumCrowd watching the SpeakUp! video on a big screenFinalist giving their speech on stage in front of 800 peopleAnother finalist speaking on stageDerrick Ginter announcing the winnersTyler Johson on stage smilingTop three finalist standing together smilingAll the SpeakUp! finalist standing on stage together

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