Journalism Students Relaunch ‘Alumni Spotlights’ as Part of Public Relations Course

Photo of students enrolled in the fall 2018 Writing for Public Relations course. (Photo Credit: Brian McDermott)

Experiential-Learning Class Connects Students with Alumni

AMHERST, Mass. (JAN. 14, 2018)– This fall, the University of Massachusetts Journalism Department partnered with Senior Lecturer Jennie Donohue and students in the Writing for Public Relations course to launch a student-produced ‘Alumni Spotlight’ series. The series profiles 16 former journalism students and will be released weekly starting the week of Jan. 14, 2019.

Throughout the Spring 2019 semester, audiences will learn more about the career paths of UMass journalism alumni, what they did at UMass and where they are now. Although alumni profiles have been done in the past, this is the first time they were created by students as a part of their coursework. 

Donohue’s students pioneered the department’s redesigned Journalism 392P “Writing for Public Relations” course, an early sample of the forthcoming public relations concentration the journalism department plans to offer. In addition to the alumni feature stories, the class also created earned and shared media content, including visuals, to promote the department and its student-focused curriculum.  

“I feel really grateful that we have a department with great faculty and great students who are able to have valuable experiences when they’re here,” Department Chair Brian McDermott said.  “Our alums get out into the real world and succeed, and I’m glad we’re showing that.”

Since 2014, the department has expanded to include a sports journalism concentration and houses a professional television broadcast studio in the Integrative Learning Center. In fall 2018, the department responded to increased interest in public relations from students by hiring Donohue as a senior lecturer and the director of the public relations curriculum. 

Donohue, who has more than 20 years of professional experience and more than a decade of teaching experience, revamped the course to help students learn about the public relations industry while developing their content creation skills. The goal was to have an immersive class that exposes students to the actual decisions many organizations face when it comes to communicating with their target audiences and keeping them engaged.

“The students have the opportunity to enhance their research, writing and strategic thinking abilities while gaining hands-on experience working with a real client,” Donohue said. “That’s priceless. It gives them insight into the industry, as well as helps them build their portfolios of writing samples to show potential employers.”

The result of the students’ efforts has been rewarded with their ‘Alumni Spotlights’ set to debut the upcoming Spring 2019 semester. For some students, taking the course alone was reward enough.

“This class has been an incredible experience,” Hayley Solomon, a junior journalism and communications double major, said. “I knew before I took this class that I was interested in maybe exploring a career in public relations. Now I’m sure it’s what I want to do and that I’m ready for it.”

The alumni profiles will be added weekly throughout the Spring 2019 semester and are available to be viewed here.

The University of Massachusetts Journalism Department is part of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. With an award-winning faculty and student-centered courses, students are equipped with skills in research, writing, reporting and much more. Founded on the principle that well-informed journalists help drive a democratic society, the department also offers courses in history, law, ethics, philosophy, media criticism, and multimedia journalism. For more information visit the department website and follow it on Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram.

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