Journalism Students on the Road Again

The journalism department is always looking for ways to support career networking for students, and this year dozens of them reaped the benefits of interacting with media professionals across the country.

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Networking offers so many rewards outside the classroom, like expanding students’ understanding of different career roles, raising their profile within professional circles, discussing common challenges, exploring new perspectives and ideas and stepping outside their comfort zones to build important social skills.

Students traveled to conferences in four states and the nation’s capital. For the first time, we sent two students to Nashville, TN, to attend the National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting (NICAR), the annual data journalism conference hosted by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). Elizabeth Wilson and Amelia Wu, both student reporters for Mustang Media Group’s data team, participated in sessions that strengthened their skills for telling stories with numbers.

Journalism students Lena Van Duzer and Raleigh Elbert discovered the value of networking by attending their first professional conference in April. The two traveled to Tuscon, AZ, to participate in the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Western District Conference, where, they said, their eyes were opened to new possibilities. Both received career advice and started building networks that can help them find an internship or even a job after graduation.

“I had never been to a conference before and didn’t know what to expect,” Van Duzer said. “I honestly didn’t think it would have as big of an impact as it did.”

The journalism department has consistently sent Mustang Media Group students to college media conferences, and this year was no exception. Six students attended the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) conference in New York in February, five went to the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) Fall Media Fest in Washington, D.C., last October, and 22 students and faculty attended the March conference hosted by ACP and College Media Business and Advertising Managers (CMBAM) in San Francisco.

Catherine Allen, 2022-23 editor-in-chief, who attended the ACP conferences, noted the benefits of learning new skills.

“Attending conferences inspires us to push the envelope, execute new innovative ideas and strengthen our teamwork and collaboration,” Allen said, “and that's why we look forward to them every year.”

Cal Poly’s desirable location on the Central Coast is an attraction for students, but because it is far from major cities, they do not have frequent opportunities to rub shoulders with a variety of professionals in a social setting. In addition to sending students away for conferences, the department also hosts campus programs that bring professionals to students.

Whenever the Journalism Advisory Board is in town for its semi-annual meeting, the department hosts a career-focused event where board members review resumes and offer career advice. This spring, the event was expanded to include local media organizations looking to recruit journalism students.

Occasionally, students who attend a conference will build a professional support network that develops into personal friendships and further collaborations. As a student, Leah Pezzetti attended her first National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) News Video workshop in 2016. She has continued to participate in the organization, and this year in Seattle, where she is a journalist and meteorologist for KING 5 TV, she co-chaired the NPPA Best of Photojournalism Video Workshop and Awards, an event that attracted 80+ photojournalists from across the country.

All of these student networking opportunities are made possible by the support of donors to the Journalism Endowment, a fund created by alumni to enhance learning in the journalism department. (See “The alumni gift that keeps on giving”)

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