Posts in category Alumni and Friends

Alumni Connection Panelist: Lucas Piken


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.


The Graduate Student Experience: Teaching as Engaged Learning with Lia Wolock


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 

2014 Entertainment Media Career Forum Wrap-Up

Pachella with presentationOn 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 »

Entertainment Media Career Forum Panelist: Dana Narens

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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 »

Entertainment Media Career Forum Panelist: Erwin Burns

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Erwin Burns is a 2007 alumnus in Communication Studies, now Associate Producer at Harpo Studios in Chicago, IL. Over the last seven years he has produced several reality, documentary, and sports programs for numerous networks. Some of them include the History Channel, CNBC, Big Ten Network, Oprah Winfrey Network, ESPN, CBS, and ABC. Erwin got the chance to expand into film earlier this year, being the production coordinator for an independent movie called Dead Draw. READ MORE »

Entertainment Media Career Forum Panelist: Jacquelyn Ryan


Jacquelyn Ryan is a 2008 alumna in Communication Studies and Screen Arts and Cultures, now Production Coordinator/Assistant to Co-Executive Producer for the television show, Pretty Little Liars in Burbank, CA. After working on various productions in Michigan, Jacquelyn met a production coordinator that asked her to fly to California after working with him.  She’s been working on various television and film productions in California for six years. Now, at Horizon Scripted Television, she is the union production coordinator, similar to the kind of work that Liz Lemon does on 30 Rock – everything. READ MORE »

Entertainment Media Career Forum Panelist: Rachel Sparr

unnamedRachel Sparr is a 2009 alumna in Communication Studies and Screen Arts and Cultures, now executive assistant to the SVP of Comedy Development at ABC Studios in Burbank, CA. ABC Studios works on shows such as Manhattan Love Story and the upcoming musical comedy Galavant, where Rachel’s department oversees the development and production for new pilots across all the broadcast networks. Her first job out of college was a production assistant at Warner Brothers TV, where she assisted several production executives in day-to-day operations for a number of different series such as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries. Presently at ABC Studios, Rachel preforms administrative duties and also reads and provides script coverage for her boss and the larger department.  READ MORE »

First Annual Communication Studies Fall Convocation 2014

At the first annual 2014 Fall Convocation, declared Communication Studies students were presented with the opportunity to “say hello” ahead of the inevitable “goodbye” that comes around at the end-of-year graduation ceremony.

Department Chair Susan Douglas said the event was the brainchild of Professor Amanda Lotz, with the goal of providing concentrators the opportunity to network, socialize, and introduce themselves to one another.



Goodbye WPLG Local 10, Hello Ann Arbor: Sarah Reflects on Internship Do’s & Don’ts

10418147_10152253500647535_4973986070409039344_n (1)As I sit restlessly on this plane to Detroit, I cannot help but feel excitement surge through my body in anticipation of returning to the magical place we call Ann Arbor. As students at the University of Michigan, we dream about the start of football season, and spending our Saturdays in the Big House amongst 115,000 of our closest friends. We no longer count down the days until school ends, but rather count down the days of summer until school begins. We yearn to walk through the Diag as the leaves glow red, and those massive squirrels get uncomfortably close. READ MORE »

Alissa’s Post-Internship Advice & Appreciation of her Comm Studies Major

Alissa Ranger_DominosIt wasn’t until after my internship this past summer at Domino’s Pizza that I really learned to appreciate being a Communication Studies major.  You sit in hours and hours worth of lectures and cross your fingers hoping that all of this time, money, and hard work will pay off in the real world.  Well, breathe a sigh of relief my fellow Communications concentrators because I am confident now that a Communication Studies degree will help set you up for success in the workplace.  READ MORE »