UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Appreciation for all things Communication at UND

UND’s Communication Appreciation Day is a celebration of Communication students, faculty and alumni

Group photo of the 2023 Communication Appreciation Day participants. Photo by Tieler Friedline, sophomore, Communication major

By Evan M. Whitford

On April 20, more than 100 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members attended the student and faculty-organized celebration, held at the Memorial Union and the Gorecki Alumni Center. The event also serves to demystify the communication degree itself.

This year’s Communication Appreciation Day included a Networking Social and a first-ever Alumni Luncheon, which served to provide an open dialogue between alumni and the department. Alumni said they are proud of the program and its tradition of excellence. They are committed to giving back to UND and helping to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities that they did.

Laura McCallum, Communication class of 1989 and the Politics and Government Editor at the Star Tribune, Minnesota’s largest newspaper, gave the keynote address at the celebratory event. She spoke of her long career in journalism, working at newspapers and TV stations across North Dakota and then a lengthy stint at Minnesota Public Radio, before joining the Star Tribune.

McCallum pointed out that not landing a sought-after summer fellowship program by the International Radio and Television Society didn’t get her down or dampen her hopes. She doubled down, got that fellowship the following year and spent the summer in New York City, which helped launch her career. And younger Communication students today, she said, have the needed digital skills to get well-paying jobs in her field.

She drew laughs when quoting one of her professors from her broadcast journalism studies:

“I don’t want to hear ‘git,’ ‘jist’ or ‘fer’,” she recalled the professor saying. “It’s ‘get,’ ‘just’ and ‘for’!”

Laura McCallum, class of ’89 and the Politics and Government Editor at the Star Tribune, gave the keynote address at the celebratory event. Photo by Adam Kurtz/UND Today

Preceding McCallum were Brad Rundquist, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Soojung Kim, chair of the Communication Department, who gave opening remarks.

“Communication Appreciation Day is a wonderful way for alumni to connect with students and faculty of the Department of Communication,” Rundquist said. “It’s a great opportunity for alumni looking to help make a difference in the education and success of UND students. One of the best things about Communication Appreciation Day is that it is student-run. I would like people to know the amount of time and energy students put into planning and hosting this excellent event. It is significant.”

Kim said she is always delighted to speak with Communication alumni, and said she is grateful they participate in a mentorship program with current students. As for those students, Kim said they gain important experience working with Communication faculty like Joonghwa Lee, in producing the event, as part of their education.

“Our faculty have just been super willing to help out and get them to have a meaningful experience while they’re putting on this event,” she said.

Brad Rundquist, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, speaks at the Communication Appreciation Day event. Photo by Adam Kurtz/UND Today

The event is spearheaded by Lee and his students. He said he is grateful to returning alumni for attending the event, and for sharing their experiences. Meeting those alumni, he said, shows the diverse career opportunities that exist for UND Communication students. Lee also said the day showcases the dedicated community the department creates, both on campus and off.

“I would like all attendees to learn that the UND Communication Department is a close-knit community consisting of supportive alumni, motivated students and their families, and passionate faculty,” he said.

UND Students and Communication program interns Charlotte Sonterre and Trandon Lehrer helped to plan, organize, and curate this year’s event. Lehrer said he was thankful for the chance to work with Lee in producing the event, and the experience it gave him.

“Dr. Lee is amazing,” Lehrer said. “I could not be more thankful for him. He’s so understanding, and it just gives you such a great experience and teaches you how it’s actually going to be out in the real world.”

UND Students and Communication program interns Charlotte Sonterre and Trandon Lehrer helped to plan, organize, and curate this year’s event. Photo by Adam Kurtz/UND Today

And then there are the scholarships.

When students achieve something, UND celebrates their success. Thirty-four students were awarded $42,830 in scholarships. Rachael Erickson attended the event to present about an internship she completed at the Northlands Rescue Mission. She said that events like these are great for networking, and presenting has given her an appreciation for taking pride in the work she has done.

A communication degree at UND is more than just learning how to write and speak well. It is also about learning how to think critically and solve problems. Students gain affinity in researching, analyzing information and presenting their ideas. Hailey Thorlakson, sitting on a student/alumni panel at the event, said that a common misconception regarding a communication degree is that it is only used to pursue careers in advertising or journalism. She noted that a degree in communication has equipped her with the skills to communicate effectively in both her personal and professional life.

Also participating in the panel was alumnus Matt Mamura, who said he wants people to know that this program is a good path toward a valuable universal degree. Mamura uses his studies in the UND communication program in his current position as an Aviation Market Manager in Airport Engineering and Planning Services. He said he enjoyed being a panelist this year, as it gave him the opportunity to inspire an audience of young people at his alma mater.

Communication Alumni Matt Mamura, aviation market manager in Airport Engineering and Planning Services, speaks with a student about a communication project. Photo by Adam Kurtz/UND Today

During the session, Matthew Hjelmstad told the audience that they can go into just about any field that they want with a communication degree. He highlighted the importance of communication certificates being accessible even for those who are not majoring in communication, and how the knowledge and skills gained in the courses that lead to the certificates are not only useful but look great on a resume.

Said Emily Buteau, an alumna and incoming teaching assistant professor in the Communication Department: “I think the public needs to know more about the communication field in general. When people ask me what my degree is in, I still have to explain what communication is most of the time. If we could encourage the public to attend this event, they could learn what communication is all about, and that would be great!”

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the Communication Department and a lot of planning is already in the works. In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of UND students and alumni, participants will be set to gain a deeper understanding of the communication degree, gain valuable insight from professionals, and build relationships with potential mentors. Kim said she encourages all Communication students, past, present and prospective, to plan on attending next year’s festivities.

Event keynote speaker Laura McCallum speaks with a communication student about a project. Photo by Adam Kurtz/UND Today
Evan Whitford

About the author:

 Evan M. Whitford is a UND senior and Communication major. He can be reached at evan.whitford@und.edu.