A degree from Northern Kentucky University is impactful – just ask Sierra Newton. Since the Journalism and Electronic Media and Broadcasting major graduated, she’s landed a role as a Digital Content Producer for WLEX-TV in Lexington, Kentucky.
“My day-to-day includes finding and writing stories to put on the station website, typing up reporter web stories, posting stories to social media, live streaming events through our LEX 18 app, and cutting clips from the broadcast to put online and on apps like Roku TV,” she says.
Newton is just one of the many successful graduates to come out of the Department of Communication, which is part of the College of Informatics. Her success is a testament to how an NKU degree empowers the future of its students by arming them with a 21st century perspective on the disciplines that have information at their core.
NKU is located just seven miles from downtown Cincinnati, known for its charming arts, culture, historical museums, zoos, botanical gardens, sports teams and chili. The entrepreneurial state university has a student body of 16,000, served by more than 2,000 faculty members.
NKU is committed to polishing bright and talented minds to realise their utmost potential so they may become gamechangers and thought leaders upon graduation. Enriching courses by the Department of Communication, that focus on student-led projects and experiential learning, make this possible.
The College of Informatics at NKU shapes their students to take on diverse roles within interesting projects, and this particularly rings true when you enrol in their journalism programme. Here, students learn in small classes, receive personalised instruction and thrive in a close-knit community.
Recently, the Department of Communication introduced a new class on information framing, otherwise known as media framing. “Media framing is a media studies theory that basically says that the way we tell stories matters … the way stories are told impacts audiences,” says Stacie Jankowski, who created and teaches the class. In one class, students dissected the flurry of media coverage surrounding the Gabby Petito disappearance and how it drowned other stories that mattered just as much, if not more.
Elijah Walker, who enrolled in the information framing class last year, is enjoying these discussions. He has picked up valuable information – even those typically reserved for postgraduate studies – from the class that will be vital in pursuing his journalism career.
“We’re talking about one research article … then we’re all having a big open discussion about that, where it falls in with specifically what we’re talking about and also how it intersects in other aspects of journalism or research in general,” says Walker. Besides examining the theoretical aspects of information framing, students are given the opportunity to lead and present research projects too.
The public relations programme is just as experiential. Recently, the programme’s curriculum was revamped to add more opportunities that allow students to plan, implement and evaluate relationship-focused communication strategies for all kinds of organisations and communities.
“The goal is to provide students with the skills and knowledge to be outstanding strategic planners who can guide organisations in effectively and ethically communicating with all stakeholders through all cutting-edge and traditional channels from social media to in-person conversations,” says Dr. Zach Hart, Programme Director of Public Relations.
The public relations programme at NKU helped graduate Adam Ashley kickstart his career. His fondest memory of NKU was being selected to represent Northern Kentucky as a delegate for Public Relations Society America’s National Conference in Seattle and National Assembly in Orlando. “This experience encouraged me to return home to create NKU’s first student-led Public Relations firm,” he says. “The firm secured clients across the region and offered discounted PR services to some of the Greater Cincinnati top brands.”
It’s been a fulfilling and rewarding journey since. Ashley’s CV includes collaboration with Universal Studios, Fox Entertainment, and Lionsgate; award campaigns for some of television’s most popular primetime and daytime programmes; and work with clients featured in film festivals across the globe.
That’s not all. He is a team member at Universal Music Group as well, where he has helped build the brands of some of the most successful artists on the planet today. His philanthropic work can be seen in fundraising events for United Cerebral Palsy, The Recording Academy, and Love is Louder.
Ashley believes that his courage and dreams were two important factors that drove his determination to build an impressive career in the entertainment industry. “Follow your dreams in the words of the legendary Dolly Parton who said ‘Dreams are of no value, if they’re not equipped with wings.’ Let NKU and its faculty provide you with the tools to grow your wings so you can fly successfully in the world.”
Such prolific careers are typical of NKU Communication graduates – many of which start before they’ve even left campus.
Through travel opportunities, this year’s cohort gets to expand their horizons to the Netherlands. The Office of Education Abroad organises these study while travelling programmes, which exposes them to different cultural contexts and perspectives. With their assistance, Brook Clifford, then a journalism major at NKU, got to embark on a life-changing 12 day trip in Italy to study English literature.
“I learned things about myself I never would have if I hadn’t made the leap out of a classroom desk onto the crowded streets of Florence,” she says.
On top of travel opportunities, many clubs and activities are available for students to join, which provides an avenue for students to make an impact on campus and on their community. One of them is The Northerner, an independent student-run media outlet that combines innovative and credible digital content that is constantly evolving while maintaining the ethical standards of traditional journalism.
Another organisation is the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). Here, students with a passion for journalism get to collaborate and work alongside industry professionals – winning awards along the way. The student chapter won Campus Programme of the Year, beating participating universities in three states – Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky – for their outstanding programme in information literacy.
NKU has an upcoming event called MashComm 36, where student teams will work with non-profit and small business clients to create solutions for real-world business communication challenges within the span of 36 hours. A series of consultations alongside the client’s representatives provide ample opportunity for students to implement applicable solutions by the end of the weekend.