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Ways to Build Experience for Communication and Journalism Majors

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Students working on laptops in a modern classroom in the Integrated Learning Center, University of Massachusetts Amherst

For communication and journalism majors, experience in the field isn’t limited to conventional internships and research positions. Along with your resume, it can be equally as important to develop your own body of work. Professional portfolios allow you to share your voice beyond a job title. That’s what I’m aiming to do with my position as an Undergraduate Admissions blogger for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Many of the opportunities I’ll delve into are provided by UMass Amherst and can be completed remotely during the age of COVID-19.

Undergraduate Journals 

Last spring, I joined the editorial board for mOthertongue—the multilingual, undergraduate journal for the comparative literature department. It was such a special experience to be the youngest person on a team with older students who came from all different backgrounds. Some had followed the traditional path to being comp lit majors and were graduating seniors at the time, while others had taken gap years and worked before coming to UMass. I loved being able to have a say on which art and writing submissions got to make it into the journal, but I learned the most from opening my mind to other perspectives. For instance, since I had contacted most of the artists, I felt a certain pressure to include a lot of the submissions. The other editors reminded me that every decision we made had to make the most sense for the journal. 

The English Department also has a journal called Jabberwocky, which publishes fiction and nonfiction, pieces of criticism, poetry, and other media like sculpture, paintings, and other visual work. They publish a new edition each spring, and submissions are open to all majors.  

UMass Student Publications

Getting involved with student publications is a popular way for communication and journalism majors to gain experience. Here are a few for you to check out: 

  • The Massachusetts Daily Collegian has been a leading news source in the Amherst area since its founding in 1890. It strives to be a responsible deliverer of truths and information to the community. Staff positions comprise of writers, translation workers, and various editorial roles including arts and photography editors.

  • Amherst Wire is a more contemporary, digital-first magazine run by students in the UMass Journalism Department. According to their mission statement, staff members focus on “good storytelling, colorful multimedia, interactivity, and fostering community dialogue.” 

  • The Rebirth Project amplifies the voices of students of color. The original aim in 2016 was to be a safe space for Black students to express themselves at a predominantly white institution like UMass Amherst. They’ve since expanded to content creation with the conviction that their stories need to be heard. 

  • Her Campus is an online magazine written for and by college women, and they have a chapter at UMass! 

Connecting with Alumni 

In January, I spent a day with WBUR’s immigration reporter Shannon Dooling, who graduated from UMass in 2003. That day in particular was a big deadline day for her as she had to finish an article about Boston's Haitian-American community before the 10-year anniversary of the magnitude 7 earthquake that hit Haiti. We took a walk to the nearest Chipotle for lunch, where she told me about her love for learning; Shannon believes that journalism is a worthy profession because it enables her to keep learning and sharing her research with others—something that I definitely kept in mind when I added journalism as my secondary major.

I got this opportunity through the SBS Shadows program, a job shadowing experience provided by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS). While the same experience may not be as accessible due to the pandemic, SBS has in the past hosted a virtual alumni panel with comm and journalism alums, so I’d definitely advise you to be on the lookout for similar virtual opportunities. 

Taking Initiative with RSO’s

Every registered student organization at UMass Amherst will include an executive leadership board. Aspiring public relations professionals may want to apply for publicist, social media manager, or event coordinator roles. It’s also worth noting that there is a new PR Club emerging. Their past events include Hubspot content marketing certifications and Q&A sessions with guest speakers, which is a great opportunity for networking. 

Newsletters

Lastly, I would encourage everyone to read through the department newsletters that get sent out on a weekly basis. They include job, internship, and scholarship opportunities. 

Whatever your interest as a communication or journalism student, there are chances to explore them at UMass Amherst. Not only that, but professional development is a key part of learning across the university, available through Career Services offices in each academic unit. 

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