Texas Tech University

Converging News

March 2015

In this issue of Converging News:

Dean's Note

Dear Friends of and Colleagues in the College of Media & Communication:

David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.

Dean David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.

Over the last two weeks, we celebrated the life and professional contributions of a giant of our college, Robert Wernsman, who passed away on March 15. In a public service held in Lubbock, and then another ceremony at Texas Tech, hundreds of family, friends, community members, faculty, staff and students came together to remember a friend and colleague.

We heard stories about a thoughtful, dedicated man who possessed many professional achievements but who was proudest of his day-to-day teaching. He wanted CoMC students to be the most precise and clear writers and the most rational and insightful thinkers – two foundational skill sets. For my part, there are three impressions of Robert I will keep with me all the rest of my days:

First and foremost, when I would walk by his office and hear and see him, chair pulled alongside that of a student, reviewing a paper. He was funny, caring, firm, guiding, probing, encouraging…he tried to help all students achieve their highest potential in expression through the written word.

Next, that many younger alumni mention that Professor Wernsman's class was one of the toughest they ever took. Then they will note how grateful they are for his passion and purpose. Ever afterward, they have visualized “RW” looking over their shoulders, urging them to write well and correctly. They credit him with a portion of their career success. These testimonials come from all sorts of majors, including Public Relations and Advertising.

Finally, for myself, I am an administrator. And as a species, we are notorious for being rushed in our reading and writing. As an example, I have sent more than 22,000 emails in my fewer than two years at Texas Tech. But I always try to slow down and imagine Robert Wernsman reading my correspondence – and I try harder to get it right. (And allow myself one exclamation point per message!)

So we all thank Robert. He has passed from our realm but will live forever in our thoughts and practice.

You can see the obituary

You can see the retirement tribute video by CoMC

You can see the campus celebration ceremony slideshow

Best Wishes,

David D. Perlmutter

David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean
College of Media & Communication
Texas Tech University
3003 15th Street, Box 43082
Lubbock, TX 79409

806-834-8179 Office
806-742-1085 Fax


Robert Wernsman: He will be there forever
By Dasha Ivanova

"He affected everyone who knew him," David Perlmutter, Ph.D. and dean of the Texas Tech University College of Media & Communication, said of Robert Wernsman, an award-winning instructor, friend and colleague, who died on Sunday, March 15, in Lubbock after a long battle with cancer.

Wernsman had been teaching in CoMC for nearly 20 years. He spent most of his time teaching one of the college's most recognized courses, News Writing.

"He will be there forever for all people that he taught,” Perlmutter said.

Bill Dean

Bill Dean shares memories of Robert Wernsman

A celebration of the life and contributions of Wernsman took place March 26. Students, faculty and staff gathered in the big lecture hall inside CoMC and shared their memories about Wernsman's life in the college.

During the service, many speakers mentioned that Wernsman lived and taught with integrity, and that there were thousands papers that Wernsman corrected throughout his long contribution to CoMC and its students.

“He lived as he taught, with integrity, passion, authenticity and expectations of the same from others,“ Bill Dean, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Electronic Media, read on behalf of Robert Peaslee, an associate professor and department chair, who could not attend the memorial.

"There were thousands and thousands papers that he had graded," Pete Brewton, a visiting assistant professor. "He gave his full measure of devotion to each one of them. He was a genius in grading."

Perlmutter said, "His conversations with each student were so thoughtful. He was not just correcting people's grammar; he was getting them to think about expressing their thoughts as clearly as possible."

“Plus, he was a wonderful guy, a great friend, a wonderful teacher, " Perlmutter added.

Jordan Fowler, a senior pre-law public relations student, said, “Professor Wernsman was the most influential professor I ever had. He inspired me to work hard everyday and encouraged me to pursue my career goals. He is revered by the entire college, and I am honored to have had the privilege of being his student.”

Mary Ann Edwards, an adjunct instructor in the college and owner of Word Publications in Lubbock, said that each one of Wernsman's lectures was a performance, because he was obviously a very good performer.

Cam Stone

Cam Stone remembers Robert Wernsman

Edwards had taught News Writing with Wernsman for the last 10 years. She said students described Wernsman as passionate, influential, scary, memorable, sarcastic, serious, humorous and amusing.

Colleagues and friends shared many stories about Wernsman. Many of them said that there was always something to talk about with Wernsman, and there was never enough time to cover everything.

“Robert could engage with everybody in an interesting and informed conversation,” Kent Wilkinson, the Thomas Jay Harris Regents Professor in Hispanic and International Communication, said.

Wernsman is survived by his wife, Marijane Wernsman, an assistant dean for student affairs in CoMC, three children, two stepchildren and 12 grandchildren. Some members of the Wernsman family were present at the memorial.

“He was a very good journalist and newspaperman who turned into the great instructor. But you guys should all know that he was a fantastic dad,” Wernsman's son, Aaron, said. “He really was.”

Todd Chambers, an associate dean for Undergraduate Affairs in CoMC, said “We are very thankful that Robert blessed us here for 20 years in the College of Media & Communication.”

Perlmutter said, “God rest his soul and let his soul live a perpetual life.”


An Appathon: Fun, Tiring and Memorable
By Dasha Ivanova

Team Heights & Lights

Adam Henderson, Raphael Akinsipe, and Paul Doran of team Heights & Lights work away at their app, among a sea of screens

“What is…?” was the theme for the third annual Texas Tech University Appathon that took place on March 6. All participants who registered this year were encouraged to finish the theme question, and were reminded that this was a Tech-centered competition.

The idea to organize Appathon at Texas Tech belongs to Randy Reddick, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Journalism and Electronic Media in the Texas Tech University College of Media & Communication.

Reddick said that he learned about this programming competition in England, and he thought that Texas Tech students might be interested in something like it.

This year's competition drew not only a huge interest from students, but also from various programming companies, as well. “The response we got this year was gratifying, and it was beyond what it was in prior years,” Reddick said.

This year, Appathon included five teams that were competing against one another. They were provided with electricity, Wi-Fi and some food. Participants were competing for many prizes including GoPro cameras, iPad Minis, and Texas Tech parking passes.

“The competition was very tight,” Reddick said.

Carlos Alban, a senior computer engineering major in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said, “The number of competitors has been increasing every year, making it much more competitive. The talent has also been increasing as well as the difficulty in impressing the judges.”

Alban has been participating in Appathon since it launched in 2013, and was on the winning team all three years. He was convinced by a friend to sign up for the first time and he was surprised when he learned what he could accomplish in 24 hours.

He also mentioned that each year the competition has its own challenges.

“One of the bigger challenges, even before the competition starts, is getting a solid group together. It is important to have a solid group to split the work,” Alban said.

Appathon Judges

Appathon judges and participants watching an app being presented by one of the teams

Another finalist and second year participant was Paul Doran, a senior electronic media major in CoMC. Both years, Doran and his team received second place. Doran mentioned that the most exciting part of the competition was the process of coming up with new and creative ideas.

During the competitions, students were able to learn more about programming and receive valuable feedback from the judges.

“Hands-on experience in creating an application is invaluable,” Alban said. “What you gain during the competition cannot be obtained from a classroom, YouTube or a textbook.”

The participants were challenged by not only creating a functional application, they also had to make it visually appealing. “I learned more about app design. I was able to learn how to make an app look nice,” Doran said.

“Appathon is fun, tiring and memorable,” he added.

Reddick said that through this competition students get a real life experience, build strong resumes and attract potential employers. “The competition was judged by professors, professionals and students with business and programming experience.” Reddick said.

Alban said, “The Appathon has given me an advantage over many other job applicants when applying for jobs. Currently, I am interviewing at top tech companies.”

Appathon is open to all majors and the only requirement is that people need to demonstrate that they are students.

“Participants in this year's competition included students from business, architecture, electronic media, engineering and fine arts,” Reddick said. “It will grow in the future,” said Reddick. “I have no doubt about it.”

This event is hosted by CoMC and the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering and has a number of sponsors.

To learn more about Texas Tech University Appathon visit www.ttuappathon.com


Texas Tech hosts first PR Showdown
By Rachel Blevins

This semester, the College of Media & Communication kicked off its first Public Relations Showdown. This team-based competition challenged students to excel in the areas of PR strategies, writing, pitching, creativity and social media.

1st Place Team

First place team competing in the final challenge of the PR Showdown

Trent Seltzer, Ph.D., an associate professor and the chairperson of the Department of Public Relations, said that the idea for the showdown came from a group of faculty members who wanted to find a competitive outlet for students looking to sharpen their skills.

“We had a lot more participation than we thought we would,” Seltzer said. “We thought it would be great if we got 10 teams, and then we ended up with 29! We've been making notes as we go along of things we'd like to tweak and change, whether it's a specific challenge, or the structure of the whole thing.”

The PR Showdown was split up into two rounds. The first round ran over a five-day period where teams were given a new challenge each day and 24 hours to complete it. The teams were awarded a certain number of points based on their performance in each individual challenge.

The second round was made up of the three teams who earned the most points in round one. These teams were presented with a hypothetical crisis, and had to present their solution to the public.

In addition to winning various prizes for the challenges in round one, such as tickets to the Alamo Drafthouse, autographed footballs from Head Football Coach Kliff Kingsbury, and autographed basketballs from Head Basketball Coach Tubby Smith, the members of the winning team from round two received tickets to Dallas from Southwest Airlines and accommodations from the Gaylord Texan hotel for a “PR Salon” with prominent CoMC alumni working in strategic communication. They also received a second ticket from Southwest to fly anywhere in the U.S.

2nd Place Team

Second place team during the final crisis situation challenge

At the end of both rounds, Team 6, Under PRessure, earned the most points, and was awarded the grand prize. The team was made up of four senior public relations majors: McKenzie Hopson, Lauren West, Emily Jarrell and Chandler Moore.

The members of the winning teams agreed that although competing in the showdown required a lot of effort, it was worth it in the end.

“Winning the PR Showdown to us means that the 70-plus hours we spent together over the course of showdown week and this week was absolutely worth it,” Hopson said. “We are so excited and we worked so hard.”

Under PRessure found that they had some adversity to overcome throughout the course of the competition, because Moore is a member of the Texas Tech softball team, and there were times when she was out of town. The team said they used outlets such as Google Docs and text messaging, and they found a way to work together through long-distance communication.

“Most of our stories, truth be told, ended with ‘It's 11:56 p.m. and our file won't save correctly, and we're near tears trying to get it submitted,' ” Hopson said. “Yet somehow, we pulled it off every day.”

Seltzer said that he is happy with the success of the PR Showdown, and he hopes to make it an annual tradition.

“Long term, I'd love it if we could open the showdown to other programs in the region, and invite them in to compete against our students,” Seltzer said. “I've gotten good initial feedback from students who have competed in it, saying that it was fun or challenging, not just for the specific challenges, but also for the grind of having to do it every day.”


Inspiring Agencies Tour
By Dasha Ivanova

The College of Media & Communication has multiple student organizations that attempt to meet the interests of every student. Some of these organizations, such as Tech Advertising Federation and Tech PR, take their members on annual agency tours that take the students' experiences to another level.

TAF sponsors two trips during the academic year. The fall agency tour includes Lubbock advertising agencies. During the spring semester, TAF usually visits Dallas agencies. However, this year, members decided to change their usual destination and visit agencies in Austin, Texas.

The trip took place in late February and lasted for two days. TAF members had a chance to visit four advertising agencies and one public relations agency, including Tocquigny, Razorfish, GSD&M, T3 and FleishmanHillard.

“Students learned how to present themselves to professionals,” Samantha Serocki, a senior advertising major in CoMC and TAF event coordinator, said. “They learned what is expected of them at graduation.”

Serocki mentioned that today agencies are looking for people who are "ready to go," so they do not need to waste resources to teach anyone how to do his or her job. “It was eye-opening to the people,” Serocki said.

Serocki explained that in classes students have a lot of confidence in their work, but agency visits help one to see where the bar is really set. “It gives you a great chance to see the culture of the agency,” Serocki concludes.

Public Relations students

Public Relations students visiting an agency

Melanie Sarge, an assistant professor of advertising, said, “TAF agency tours give students a feel of how an agency works and also an opportunity to network.”

Sarge mentioned that TAF agency tours help students to build relationships with influential individuals, and that those relationships might be beneficial in the future.

“Students have an unique opportunity to see how a larger agency works in comparison with those that students visit during fall semester in Lubbock,” Sarge said.

According to Serocki, next year TAF will visit Dallas for its spring agency tour. “That way people will have a nice mix of agencies in different cities,” she said.

he week after TAF came back from Austin, Tech PR completed its annual agency tour to Dallas.

Tech PR members had a chance to visit the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium and Southwest Airlines. At Southwest Airlines, members had a chance to hear from Texas Tech alumna Linda Rutherford, Southwest vice president of communication & outreach, to learn more about internship opportunities with the company and to visit Southwest's command media monitoring center.

“The command center was my favorite place,” Christiani Saucedo a senior public relations major, said. “Southwest takes their customer service really seriously, and it was interesting to see behind the scenes.”

At the same time in Fort Worth, the other half of Tech PR members explored the opportunities involved in sports public relations with help from the Dallas Cowboys' media relations coordinator, Joe Trahan. Students had a chance to visit conference rooms, media rooms, press boxes, and learned what occurs in each location.

“This awesome opportunity provided members with fundamental information to seek more opportunities within sports public relations,” Noelle Vela, a senior public relations major and vice president of Tech PR, said.

Vela mentioned that members also had a chance to meet USA Gymnastics public relations coordinator, Leslie King. “She spoke about the importance of having impeccable writing skills as a public relations professional and spoke about potential internships,” Vela said.

In the afternoon, the Tech PR members split into three groups and visited two agencies each. The agencies included: M/C/C, Southwest Medical Center, Golin, Pierpont Communications, Edelmen and American Red Cross.

The students learned more about each firm's business practices and had the chance to network with public relations professionals. Additionally, they asked questions about the industry and what a regular workday at the agency looks like. The students also received valuable advice about how to achieve goals and what skill set one needs in order to work in a public relations agency.

“I want to work in Dallas for Golin. Their culture was awesome and they have really big clients. Seems like a good place to work,” Ezra Chairez, a freshman public relations major, said.

Chairez said it is important for public relations students to attend this trip because it is crucial to get a grasp of what public relations actually is. “If you talk about engineers or doctors, for example, you know exactly what they do,” Chairez said. “But public relations include such a wide range of what one can do, so it is important to learn about the industry early on.”

All CoMC majors are welcomed to join either or both organizations.

Student organizations encourage students to get involved with their major early in their academic career because it gives them a chance to meet new people and to get to know many people, including professors, alumni and media professionals.

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