COMWeek provided practical learning opportunities

COMWeek is one of the communication department’s signature events: a week-long immersion in some of the biggest topics in the field. It also includes plenty of opportunities to network and socialize with communication scholars, professionals and students.

Each year, visiting scholars present their research, and the week concludes with an alumni panel so that current communication students can learn from the professional perspectives of recent graduates.

Dr. Shawn Wahl, communication department head

Real-world experience

This year, COMWeek also provided professional training opportunities for four students, who served as the PR intern team. They gained practical experience with many of the most sought-after skills in public relations, such as event planning, promotion and coordination.

The student team consisted of Jacob Burke, Megan Hayes, Bryar Keyes and Tina Pham, who first began working on the plan as part of a class project.

According to Dr. Shawn Wahl, communication department head, “The students proposed a public relations and marketing plan in COM 379: Writing for Public Relations. Several of them wanted to gain more experience by actually executing the public relations and marketing plan they worked on during the Fall 2016 semester.”

After considering the students’ proposal, Wahl agreed to give them a huge stake in one of the department’s most important events.

“We were biting at the opportunity to get more responsibility,” team member Bryar said.

Learning to work within a brand

Just as communication professionals must learn to work within specific branding guidelines or creative directives, the COMWeek team was tasked with building a PR plan around Missouri State’s brand.

“Working with the brand was a big thing,” Bryar said. “It was a lot of fun because it gave us so much to go with. But we had to incorporate it and follow all the rules and guidelines in a specific way.”

Uniting the promotional materials around a consistent theme wasn’t always easy. During many months of planning, the students had to challenge themselves and stretch their skills into new areas of design, writing and organization.

When asked how they pushed through moments of doubt and exhaustion, team member Tina said they’d remind each other, “this is a big thing for our department, one that we love, so we’re going to get back into it. And we’d just take off again. That was the only way to do it.”

Mentorship and support

While COMWeek offered the student team the chance to exercise their professional skills, they got to do so within a supportive environment, where they were surrounded by expert mentorship.

In addition to Wahl’s guidance, the team also relied on instructor Didem Koroglu, who first proposed they create the PR plan in COM 379, and they shared that all communication faculty provided support, as did administrative assistant Suzanne Moskalski and Dr. Gloria Galanes, dean of the College of Arts and Letters.

“I think that’s what really helped us get through COMWeek,” Tina said.

Naturally, they experienced pre-event jitters. Team member Megan said, “The first day it started getting down to time, and we were like, ‘Guys, is anyone going to come?'”

“You know those butterflies,” Tina agreed.

But the team had nothing to worry about. Not only did people come, but according to Wahl, “Communication Week 2017: Make Your Missouri Statement was the most successful event in department history. I am so proud of the work of the public relations students. Overall, they did a wonderful job executing the public relations plan.”

And Wahl’s instinct that the students were ready for this challenge paid off. “I have confidence,” he said, “that this applied experience in public relations, marketing and event planning will help them as they compete for the best jobs across industries.”

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