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Department of Journalism & Mass Communication

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The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at SDSU has the right mix of faculty, philosophy and technology to prepare you for a career in media and related fields. Experiential learning projects focus on solving real-world challenges within the classroom.

Departmental News

New position open at The Collegian

By Palak Barmaiya


If you love meeting new people and networking and have the desire to succeed, The Collegian has a position to offer.

The newspaper is looking for an ideal candidate to fill the position of advertising manager.

“The advertising manager oversees all of our ad sales for The Collegian and for the KSDJ radio station,” said Susan Smith, media adviser. “It would be good if the person applying had some experience in sales, because this is a lot of sales and customer relations.”

Smith also noted, “If we don’t have revenues, we don’t have The Collegian.”

The advertising manager mostly works with Brookings businesses. The selected candidate would be trained by mentor Deborah Leuning, financial program assistant for The Collegian.

Leuning said students who “are motivated to get out there, build relationships with people and aren't afraid of following up” should consider the opportunity.

“We definitely need somebody who is very comfortable talking with other people outside of, you know, who they know.”

The advertising manager receives a monthly commission, experience in advertising and the opportunity to work for The Collegian and KSDJ.

“This gives people a really good foundation for an advertising career,” Smith said.

She added that involving sponsored content and using social media for advertising would provide more relevant experience to a student who might one day work for an agency.

The selected candidate will start training in the first week of January. The position can be continued for more than one semester, but that is not required. Time commitment varies from 10 to 12 hours per week.

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.



Freshman spotlight:

“I am a third-generation Jackrabbit and I am proud of it”

By Jennie Hegge

Tessa Sleep

Tessa Sleep is a first-year student double majoring in public relations and mathematics. She came to SDSU with 28 credits from dual courses completed in high school through Black Hills State University.

Sleep’s interest in mass communications transpired her senior year, but didn’t come from any courses she was taking at the time because there weren’t any offered. “We didn’t even have a paper,” she said.

Her mother, an SDSU alumna with a journalism degree who runs her own public relations, marketing and design company out of their home, had a big influence on not only her initial interest in PR, but also the idea to go one step further and double major.

“My mom has told me that behind public relations there is a lot of data analysis, and my sister has told me that being a math major is very rewarding and what you can do with is it endless. So, I decided a combination of both would be something I would really enjoy.”

Sleep has set a goal to graduate in three years, shooting for May 2020. She then plans to move away, and on, to bigger and better things.

“I hope to move to a big city and work at a PR firm or some large company to do data analysis in public opinion / relations or something else along those lines,” she said. “I want to intertwine my two majors and find something that includes both the data science and public relations aspects.”


Heather Covrig joins PRSSA for ProVember

By Alexis Alexander


Heather Covrig, client relations director at Epicosity, will speak in honor of PRSSA’s ProVember at 6 p.m. Nov. 6 in Yeager 229. There is no entrance fee and everyone is welcome to attend.

Covrig will provide professional insight on working for a marketing and advertising agency and will discuss what a normal day in the field looks like. Following the presentation, Covirg will also stick around to answer any follow-up questions.

“We chose Epicosity because they’ll offer a professional perspective,” said Andrew Larson, PRSSA member. “We think students will appreciate listening to someone who’s currently in the industry.”

Epicosity is a marketing and advertising agency located in Sioux Falls. The agency provides a wide variety of services, from strategy and creative to public relations, video, web development and more.

“The information that Covrig will be covering is tailored towards public relations, advertising and journalism majors,” said Jordan Otta, PRSSA president. “However, I think any student on campus would benefit from these opportunities that we will be providing for ProVember.”

Professionals' November, or PRSSA ProVember, is focused on providing insight and knowledge for students in preparation for the business world.

“During ProVember, we have scheduled seminars for students to gain additional knowledge in strengthening their recruitment tools such as LinkedIn, resumes, cover letters and portfolios,” said Larson.

For the month of November, PRSSA will host a number of professionals in an effort to provide tips, advice and background information on the field.

“Events such as these can provide so much opportunity and gained knowledge that you just can’t receive in the classroom,” said Charlie Schuknecht, PRSSA treasurer.


Dr. Jessica Freeman is doing big things

By Megan Teppo


Dr. Jessica Freeman is a relatively new face to South Dakota State University, but has already created a name for herself in the Journalism and Mass Communication Department.

After earning her Ph.D. from the Missouri School of Journalism, Freeman moved to Brookings as an assistant professor to help SDSU’s new public relations major grow.

Freeman is now the public relations adviser, PRSSA adviser and chair of the student advisory committee. She teaches PR, advertising and research classes. Freeman said she loves the Journalism and Mass Communication Department because it is student-centered, as shown with its open-door policy.

Besides advising and teaching students, Freeman is working on a couple of different research projects.

“My goal is to always keep growing and producing good work,” said Freeman.

One project she is working on is research looking at online social support. She and Dr. Rebecca Britt are studying a Facebook group to see how online support can help individuals. Freeman said she and Britt are working hard on the project and are excited to show their research findings when finished.

As for Freeman’s future plans at SDSU, she just wants to keep helping the department improve.

“I want to help the PR major grow and flourish and meet the industry's changing needs.”


Yeager Trick-or-Treat

By Alexis Alexander


The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication will celebrate Halloween with trick-or-treating from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 31 in Yeager Hall. Students are invited to go office-to-office to receive candy treats.

This will be the department’s third year of hosting trick-or-treating. Members of the faculty really get into the spirit of by dressing up in costumes.

“It’s really fun to see the faculty in a more relaxed and playful setting,” said Chynna Stevens, senior journalism major.

Dr. Teri Finneman, assistant professor, was instrumental in implementing trick-or-treating in the department.

“I’m always looking for new ideas on how the faculty can better engage with students and make the department more enjoyable for them,” she said.

The faculty continues to try and implement ways to get students more involved. The Rabbit Den is another example of how the faculty has attempted to provide a more engaging setting for students.

“I think it’s an indication to the students, I hope, that we’re glad they’re here,” said instructor Jim Helland. “It’s just a small little thing that we can do that is really easy and is an indication of, ‘Hey, thanks for being here.’”

Trick-or-treating was primarily advertised to students in the department. However, all are welcome. The department has an open-door policy for trick-or-treating.

Faculty members in the department have expressed enthusiasm toward the Halloween festivities and indicate that this tradition is one that will most likely stick around for many years to come.


PRSSA Launches

By Anya Mattison

A new pre-professional organization is gaining momentum on campus and creating interest with students in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication. Public Relations Student Society of America is open to all students and is a great way to get involved and gain professional experience.


Chapter President Jordan Otta was a major component in developing PRSSA. “I wanted to be president so that I could really mold PRSSA into an amazing organization,” said Otta. One of the main goals of PRSSA is to give students experience and leadership opportunities, and these are the very things that drew Otta in.

An upcoming event for PRSSA is ProVember, or Professional’s November. Events will be held all throughout November and will help students grow professionally. Otta said a couple of things the organization has planned include a guest speaker and a headshots studio that will be available to all students.

PRSSA recently had a member drive that caught the attention of many students. It got word of the organization out to the public and 20 people were added to the mailing list.

Members are required to pay an annual fee of $55, but it is completely free to stop in and see what the organization is all about.

“We do not want dues to discourage anyone from joining,” adviser Dr. Jessica Freeman said.

Both Freeman and Otta encourage students to check out a meeting or two and see if PRSSA is right for them. PRSSA meets every other Monday at 5 p.m. in Yeager Hall.


Hobo Day Luncheon

By Kaylie Cavanaugh

Over the Hobo Day weekend, the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication held a luncheon for faculty and alumni on Oct.14. Attendees sat with each other to discuss what is happening in the department and how they incorporated their studies into their careers.


Pamela Kreber, who used to be a journalism/advertising major at South Dakota State University, is still a big advocate for SDSU as she now has a daughter who is a current nursing student.

Toby Uecker graduated from SDSU in 2004 and is currently a university employee. Uecker is the associate director for the living, learning and outreach program in Residential Life.

According to Uecker, being an alumnus means being able to have a connection with the students and maintaining a connection with the Jackrabbit community. He also makes sure this luncheon is a part of his Hobo Day tradition every year because “it’s a great opportunity to reconnect with the faculty and staff from when I was a student here.”

Department luncheons create a sense of community within a group of people who share common goals and similarities. It’s always interesting to see how journalism and mass communication play a part in people’s lives after they graduate.

Dr. Lyle Olson, head of the department, said he had a new role this year during the luncheon. Instead of simply attending the event, he got to stay and mingle with the alumni more than he has in the past.

“People like to connect and visit with faculty and friends they went to school with,” Olson said. “I don't think a lot of departments do it. This has been going for about 30 years now.”

There is a hope that the luncheon continues to be a tradition for the department for many Hobo Days to come.


Student Spotlights

By Anya Mattison and Kaylie Cavanaugh

The Senior Spotlight is meant to highlight students who have dedicated their time to improving the department throughout their time at SDSU. Each week, two students will be selected to introduce themselves and share their accomplishments.

Natalee Graesser


What is your major?

Speech communication major with minors in health communication and legal studies.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school to obtain my master’s in communication studies. Though I'll be applying to multiple schools, SDSU is one of my top choices.

What advice do you have for future students?

My advice for upcoming students is to get as far outside of your comfort zone as you can. Try new things. Make new friends. Join a club that interests you. Take the fun class that seems intriguing but is outside of your major. College is a time for learning, but it's also a time for self-discovery.

What is your favorite memory from college?

I think my all-time best memory was attending my first collegiate speech tournament. I've been a member of the Jackrabbit Forensics team since my sophomore year, and the team has given me some of the best friends I could ever hope to find. My first tournament was where I not only made lifelong friends, but where I fell in love with speech.

Ramsey Christopherson


What is your major?

I am a mass communication/broadcast journalism major.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After I graduate from SDSU, I hope to relocate to Omaha, Nebraska, or Minnesota to begin a career in journalism, or as a social media representative for a sports team.

What advice do you have for future students?

Get involved. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and enjoy the time you have here. It goes by way too fast.

What is your favorite memory from college?

My favorite memory was doing the Facebook Live videos and acting as a student anchor for class. It helped me become more comfortable with myself and it was a lot of fun.

The Den


­By Chandler Holland

Have you noticed something different within Yeager Hall?

The Den is a new spot for students to hang out, meet and study. It contains two computers, a TV, tables and chairs along with coffee and popcorn machines. The interim head of the department, Lyle Olson, and other staff members came together to make some changes over the summer. Two professors had a lot to do with the revamped area.

“I used to go in there and some of the books in there were from about 30 years ago,” said Jim Helland.

The area was originally just a library with older books from the department, but didn’t see the same effect it does now on students. Dr. Teri Finneman was the catalyst for the idea, both Helland and Olson said.

“At my previous university, we had a number of spaces within the department that students would gather and work together,” said Finneman. “I went to the faculty and said we have the potential space in the former library – we never see anybody reading those books in that space.”

After a couple of months of discussion, they all agreed to transform the old library into what is now The Den. The effects can already be seen with students daily.

“I like that it is an area that you can sit down and study at,” said student Hailey Kline. “It’s a nice alternative to going to the library.”

Finneman said she really hopes students use the new space to spend more time in the department collaborating with each other and improve the field as a whole. The Den can be found up the stairs in Yeager Hall and is right outside the department office.

Coding class for non-majors

Image of Binary Code

By Palak Barmaiya

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has a new class for those who want to learn coding but come from a non-computer science major.

“The basic idea is to teach them the very basics of writing a computer program, and in other words, how to solve problems,” said George Hamer, assistant department head and associate professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Hamer has helped design the syllabus for the course. He is still working on the structure of the class with Jerry Cooley, who will be teaching the course, and other departments in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Students who are interested in learning about coding without worrying about grades can also take the class by opting for either an audit or a satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U).

Jim Helland, instructor in the Journalism and Mass Communication Department, said this class is a great opportunity for the students.

“The trend is how well-rounded you are, the more things you know how to do, the better off you are going to be, the more employable you are going to be,” said Helland. “It’s (coding) just another weapon in your arsenal to make you more employable.”

The class will help the students in the department learn the fundamentals of coding, website creation and some components of database management.

Ian Lack, junior in journalism, said the class will help him “learn about data creation and share that information with the public.”

The syllabus for the class is being designed to fit the needs of the students in the School of Design.

Titled as “CS 292,” the class is all set to be offered in the coming spring semester at 10 to 10:50 a.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Room 112 in Daktronics Engineering Hall.

Professionals and pinwheels

Professional Panel

By Palak Barmaiya

The SDSU Advertising Club hosted “Pickled to Panel” Sept. 25 and invited a panel of local business professionals who talked about advertising, small business startup and community branding.

The panel included Kristina Lankow, sales and marketing manager of Swiftel Center; Emily Braun, marketing and communications coordinator of the Brookings Convention & Visitors Bureau; and Renee Halgerson, co-founder of the Hitch Studio. The three professionals shared their experience with small businesses, marketing and promotion.

Students joined the conversion and asked the professionals for their advice on various issues.

Halgerson said she loves when interns have an “I can do it attitude.” She encouraged students to be curious and ask their employers to teach them about the various opportunities in a job. While Braun said it is very important for the intern to “get along” with the staff, Lankow appreciates creativity in an intern.

After the introduction, the panel navigated the students through their everyday responsibilities and challenges. The professionals also shed some light on the do’s and don’ts of their industry.

“I learned the difference between advertising for small companies like Hitch, and how that differentiates from advertising for, like the Swiftel (Center) or the city of Brookings itself,” said Charles Schuknecht, senior in advertising, who attended the panel.

Paige Leafstedt, senior in advertising and club president, said the panel acted as a networking platform for the students and the professionals. “We wanted them (students) to connect with the local professionals, which may lead to potential jobs or opportunities.”

Professionals also shared their experiences on having to work together and depend on each other to grow. Roxanne Lucchesi, adviser of the Advertising Club, said it was intriguing for the students to learn how small business can collaborate.

“They(professionals) all work for different companies, they have different goals, but they also found that they have similar goals and if they help each other in a small market, then everyone grows and everyone benefits,” said Lucchesi.

Dr. Lyle Olson fills the role of interim department head

By Chandler Holland

Yeager Media Hall at South Dakota State University has seen some changes.

Dr. Lyle Olson was previously the assistant department head and the graduate program coordinator, but stepped into the role of interim department head. The new position has been a challenge for Olson due to the extended duties.

“I approve payroll, leave, sick leave, and I have to give internship grades along with approving grades,” he said. “There is just all kinds of stuff that comes through this office and has to be approved before it can become official.”

Olson and his staff have made some new improvements, including The Den for students. The Den includes a popcorn machine, coffee machine and TV. It also has more seating for students to study or have meetings. Changes were put in place in order to make it a more student-friendly environment.

“I’m thinking that the original discussion came from a Journalism Club meeting where Teri Finneman and Jim Helland talked to students about various things in the department,” said Olson.Olson said the search for a new department head has begun, and he is not expected to take this position full time. As for the building, there will be a few tweaks made, but no massive changes during 2017-2018.