This year’s annual Alumni Connection event took place last Friday, March 20th, in the Michigan League. Per usual, the event opened with remarks made by Professor and Chair of the Department, Susan J. Douglas, with panelist presentations following. Six Communication Studies alumni were featured on the panel this year. Graduating classes ranging from 2005-2013, and represented companies from Tumblr to Nielsen.
Liz is a 1989 alumnus in Communication Studies. Currently, she stands as the editor-in-chief and chief content officer of Reader’s Digest in New York, NY. Here, she is responsible for driving editorial direction and product strategy across the brand’s media platforms. They include: Reader’s Digest, the second largest paid subscription magazine in the United States with a readership of more than 26 million; ReadersDigest.com, with an audience of over 4 million unique monthly visitors; editions for the iPad, Nook and Amazon Kindle, on which Reader’s Digest is one of the best selling magazines; and books, of which 15.8 million are sold each year. READ MORE »
Victoria is a 2013 alumnus in Communication Studies and Statistics. Currently, she stands as an Emerging Leaders Associate at Nielsen in Chicago, IL. Prior to Nielsen, she interned at IBM and Mochi Magazine. As a part of Nielsen’s rotational leadership program, Victoria works on 6-month projects in the television and online measurement space, and most recently finished a client service rotation with Facebook. READ MORE »
Sherry is a 2010 alumna in Communication Studies and Political Science. Currently, she stands as a Human Resources and Recruiting Partner at Tumblr in New York, NY. After graduation, Sherry had a few entry level jobs, one of which included working for Google. During her tenure at Google, she made her desire to get into recruiting known, and through networking, landed a Recruiting Associate position at Tumblr. Two years later, still working for Tumblr, Sherry supports about 20 managers and 65 employees from an employee relations perspective and performs all the non-tech recruiting for the company. She also recently started a Master’s program at Columbia in Social Organization Psychology. READ MORE »
Jenn is a 2005 alumna in Communication Studies. Currently, she stands as an Account Director at Airfoil Group in Southfield, MI. She began her tenure at Airfoil directly out of college as an intern in the company’s research department. Now a nine-year Airfoil veteran, Jenn leads and executes communications and marketing initiatives across the company’s diverse client portfolio and supports the professional development of many of Airfoil’s staff. Her specialties include national media relationship building, messaging, executive coaching and crisis communications. A few examples of her current clients include tier one automotive supplier Faurecia, Altair Engineering, and Creditera.
Meaghan O’Connor is a 2013 alumna in Communication Studies. Currently, she stands as an Editorial Assistant at Food Network Magazine in New York, NY. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Meaghan landed her dream job as the Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief at Seventeen Magazine. After a year and a half, Meaghan moved to Food Network Magazine, and assumed her current role as an Editorial Assistant. When she is not at work, Meaghan volunteers with several local non-profits, such as She’s the First and Young Life, and is also an avid blogger, public speaker and half marathon runner.
Lucas Piken is a 2012 alumnus in Communication and International Studies. Currently, he stands as a Multicultural Communications Supervisor at Mediavest Worldwide in New York, NY. Working exclusively on the Walmart account, he specializes in multicultural US audience-marketing, and is responsible for creating and implementing strategic media partnerships with Facebook, YouTube, Univision and others.
What does it mean to live in a democracy and what is the role of media—ubiquitous, digital, easy-to-produce, easy-to-distribute, endlessly re-posted and recomposed media—in a democratic society? This was just one of the questions at the heart of COMM 405: Participatory & Public Culture in the Digital Era which would have been enough for us to tackle, but, as with every aspect of the class, there was more to it.
Each democracy, in practice, is different. The central rights a nation focuses on protecting and ensuring access to can differ, and in the United States, one of our founding values is the right to own property. As we began to consider examples of digital (activist blogs and tumblrs, hacktivism) and non-digital (zines, minority public access television) forms of participatory and public culture, we repeatedly ran into concerns about how alternative and self-produced media can be coopted by consumerist forces. If an inherent assumption of the course was that democracy, in its emphasis on everybody’s access and engagement in the realm of media and thereby the realm of public discourse, was good, what did it mean that democracy wasn’t what we assumed it was? This conundrum became steadily more vexing as week after week we read about subcultural media production in the United States, or delved into the politics of reality TV in China and Saudi Arabia, or considered fan mobilizations for film-stars-turned-politicians in South India. More than that, this nagging question became important because half of my intrepid students were not from the United States. They were from China, a non-democratic sovereign state with a population more than four times the size of the U.S. and a completely different business model for mass media.
As a PhD student in Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to plan and offer my own course, to take responsibility for and have control over its subject matter and its pedagogical practices. It allowed me to design a class that involved not only studying different types of media, but making them (e.g. zines, tumblrs)! I had often found myself—from primary school into my graduate studies—sitting in a classroom where the assumed topic and norm was the United States, or more generally the West. I was excited about my lessons, but hungry to think globally and comparatively; I could do that with Comm 405! And with the latitude possible as the head instructor, I could test out strategies for creating a classroom dynamic that supported deep student investment and involvement. When I did all this, just like with asking questions about the meaning of democracy, I always received more in return.
I found I too had new insights as I worked to produce our class zine. (Like a deeper respect for zine makers; it always take longer to lay out and produce than you think! And with that I gained an appreciation for zinester’s elaborate labor.) As we learned about reality television shows across the globe and the mobile technologies used to facilitate voting for, say, China’s next Mongolian Cow Yogurt Super Girl, I was reminded how much national communications infrastructures and uses vary. Finally, as my students became deeply invested in questions of participation—Was liking something on Facebook mere slacktivism or a form of civic engagement?—they asked wonderful, difficult questions of society, of themselves, and of me.
The best teachers I have had have been the most engaged learners. When they set up their classes, there is the serious risk that they are going to learn as much as their students. Designing and teaching Comm 405 was an amazing experience and while my students told me they learned a lot, I know, profoundly, that I did as well.
Written by: Lia Wolock
On the morning of November 14th, students gathered in the Rackham Amphitheatre for the Communication Studies department’s 9th Annual Entertainment Media Career Forum. Like years past, this event offered the unique opportunity for students to hear from alumni currently working in the industry, meet other students interested in similar career pathways, as well as network and engage with a diverse panel. READ MORE »
Dana Narens is a 2013 alumna in Communication Studies, now Executive Assistant to the Head of Management at Mosaic Media Group in Los Angeles, CA. Her company represents talent, literary and director clients for TV and film, but is especially prominent in the comedy arena. Prior to joining Mosaic, she worked as an Executive Assistant for TV Literary Agent at Paradigm Agency. Before landing a full-time job, Dana worked at the LA Film Festival as an Assistant to the Event Producers and as the Special Events Coordinator for the 4th No Budget Film Festival. Dana is also currently working part-time as the Special Events Director for the 5th No Budget Film Festival. READ MORE »