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Communicating the value of communication

Communication majors gain skills that can open media, advertising and other doors, Communication Appreciation Day shows

Panel discussions were among the highlights of the 2022 Communication Appreciation Day at UND. Photo by Claire Weltz/UND Today.

By Claire Weltz

Once upon a time, Communication majors at UND “communicated” the same way students did in every other major: through term papers for their professor, plus written answers on exams.

That was then. This is now:

Communication majors at UND produce videos, plan and market events, design advertising campaigns and intern at TV stations, among countless other real-world pursuits. And for evidence, look no further than Communication Appreciation Day, the April 22 event on campus that not only showcased students and graduates’ success stories, but also was entirely planned, produced, marketed and carried out by Communication students and faculty.

Communicating this reality – that Communication students graduate with not only knowledge, but also skills – is exactly the point of Communication Appreciation Day, said the event’s faculty supervisor, Associate Professor Joonghwa Lee.

“Communication is an application area,” Lee said. “That’s why all the faculty members try to bring to their classes some real-world components or hands-on experience with a client. We also want to make students feel confident about their decision to major or minor in Communication.”

Organizers of UND’s 2022 Communication Appreciation Day stand beneath a PowerPoint slide in the ballroom of the Memorial Union, where the event took place. Photo by Claire Weltz/UND Today.

Showcasing alumni, student achievements

Communication Appreciation Day, hosted by the UND Communication Department, took place in the UND Memorial Union Ballroom. About 130 people attended, and 28 alumni were present to talk with students during the Communication Professional Session.

Designed to give current and prospective students a better understanding of the Communication major, the event featured panel discussions, student-project showcases and other demonstrations of the value of a UND Communication degree.

During his keynote speech, Peter Bottini, ’15, social media marketing manager for the National Hockey League, made that point by describing his journey to his current position and how UND played a major role. “I was never a top-tier student, but I kept going and kept my head above water at least,” he said.

“But I also surrounded myself with internship opportunities, which kept me meeting the right people. And I took chances.”

Bottini’s most influential experience occurred while working as the digital media intern within UND Athletics. He and a fellow intern brought up the idea of a behind-the-scenes, all-access show for the hockey team. The show? “Through These Doors.”

“For the past 11 seasons, UND hockey fans have been treated to unmatched access to the best college hockey program in the country,” said Bottini. “Eleven seasons is insane to me. I worked on four, which means that for seven more years, interns, students and staff picked up the reins of that show and kept it going to inspire hockey fans all around the country and North America.”

The 2022 Communication Appreciation Day event at UND was designed to give current and prospective students a better understanding of the Communication major. Photo by Claire Weltz/UND Today.

Preparing for the professional world

A student Q&A panel comprised of senior Dryden Dragrich, junior Myra Henderson, senior Alex Knapp and junior Baylee Lewis followed Bottini’s keynote speech. The students started off by introducing themselves and outlining their experiences as Communication students at UND.

Unbeknownst to Bottini, one of those students also considered “Through These Doors” to be an unmatched opportunity. “Midco picked up ‘Through These Doors’ this year, so I got to go over and work with them every week and see how they go about making a show, which was really cool,” Dragrich said of his internship with UND Insider.

“Another opportunity I had with this internship is working for CBS Sports when they came to town for UND hockey. I made around 25 videos this semester for different UND sports pages. … It’s helped me find my passion.”

Another who appreciates UND Communication’s approach is J.J. Safranski, growth and development director at Northwestern Mutual, the event’s sponsor. “In today’s world, the value and importance of what everybody here is teaching and all of the internships that your students have access to can’t be understated,” he said.

“We’re excited to partner with UND and be one of those opportunities for your students.”

Event Planning 101

The Communication Appreciation Day itself was overflowing with practical opportunities for students. Lee supervised junior Jayda Boyd, junior Leah Breuer and senior Sarah Haust, Communication majors all, as campaign coordinators.

“They contacted different media, high schools and alumni. It’s all related to advertising, public relations, marketing, event planning, alumni relations and other types of communication,” Lee said. “They should feel proud for not only making this event possible, but also contributing to the Communication Department.”

The student coordinators oversaw everything from social media promotion to designing table tents and nametags. “I really liked being able to reach out to all the alumni and be their contact person,” said Leah Breuer. “I think it gave me a lot more skill sets than I would have had before.”

One alum whom the coordinators contacted was Jessica Sobolik, executive director at the Unity Medical Center Foundation in Grafton, N.D. Sobolik received her undergraduate degree in 2002 and returned to UND to earn her master’s in 2017. She spoke highly of her experiences at UND, particularly of the time she was recruited to work at the Dakota Student — the University’s student-run newspaper — while playing volleyball outside Squires Hall.

From that chance moment, a career was born, she said. “I learned the writing; I learned the interviewing. Later, I learned page layout and design. Those are all things that I learned at UND that have gone with me wherever I go.”

Joonghwa Lee, associate professor of communication at UND, greets participants at the 2022 Communication Appreciation Day at UND. Photo by Claire Weltz/UND Today.

Communicating thanks

Communication Appreciation Day wouldn’t be possible without the support of UND, the Communication Department and the College of Arts & Sciences, Lee said. He expressed his gratitude, saying, “I really appreciate the department’s support and the college’s support. A lot of departments at UND helped us to organize this event. I contacted a lot of different places, and whenever I asked, they were always willing to help. I’m not the only one to organize this event, so all of the UND communities helped organize this.”

Meanwhile, Brad Rundquist, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, expressed his gratitude for Lee’s leadership and work. “Dr. Lee’s efforts were central to the success of the event,” Rundquist said.

“I especially appreciate the way that he involves his students in planning and running events, as those types of experiences are important to the future successes of our students.”

As part of Communication Appreciation Day, the Communication Department had an inaugural alumni social event on April 21 at Speedway 805 Grill & Bar. Rundquist, Department Chair Jeffrey Weatherly, Mitch Wigness and Laine Lyons from UND Alumni Association & Foundation welcomed alumni at the event.

Lee has high hopes that Communication Appreciation Day’s success can be an example for other departments and is looking forward to next year’s event.

Claire Weltz

About the author: Claire Weltz, a UND senior and Communication major, is the Arts/Community and Sports Editor at the Dakota Student. She can be reached at claire.weltz@und.edu.