She worked at the school newspaper as assistant editor and learned the ins and outs of the program from adviser Patsy Lewis.
Although she worked hard to produce her stories and design pages, she realized she had a knack for the field and she enjoyed it.
She became editor of the school newspaper, interned at IN Magazine, where she now works as a contributing writer, and enrolled as a mass communication major at The University of Texas at Tyler.
Now a UT Tyler sophomore, the Chandler native said her dream job would be working for a Christian company as a public relations consultant or starting her own Christian news magazine.
“I want to be the one to tell people's stories,” she said.
And that is exactly what UT Tyler is working to help her do.
This fall, UT Tyler's Department of Communication launched a revised program in mass communication.
With new curriculum, new technology and some new faculty, the college aims to better prepare students for careers in journalism and other communication fields.
“What maybe is not seen, but what undergirds the whole program is the attention to the story,” Dr. Dennis D. Cali, professor and chairman of the Department of Communication, said. “I want all of our graduates to be able to (not only) be master storytellers themselves, but also … (to recognize) the story in other people.”
Changing The Program
That process, which involved the department faculty and multiple stages of approval, culminated in the changes officially implemented this semester.
The mass communication major replaced the journalism major and is divided into two tracks: multimedia journalism and integrated marketing and public relations.
In revising the curriculum, Cali and the journalism faculty said they used the expertise already out there.
They considered standards set by three different groups — two professional organizations and one professional conference.
“We took those lists of competencies and synthesized them, distilled them down to workable categories and then organized our curriculum around those,” Cali said.
Both tracks — multimedia journalism and public relations — have six areas in which students must take courses. This is to ensure they gain competency in these areas before graduation.
Although credit hour requirements differ depending on the chosen track, the categories are the same.
They are: analysis and systematic inquiry, writing/storytelling, mediated presentation, argument, diversity/human relations, and complex organization.
All mass communication majors must take 15 hours worth of core courses regardless of the track they choose.
Cali said under the previous program, students had to take certain courses depending upon their track, but there was no particular coherence.
“(The courses) were all relevant, pertinent, useful, but they didn't assure that certain competencies — especially with the proliferation of media and types of media — they didn't give students particular exposure in certain types of media and they didn't have the focus … on storytelling.”
In a room and three offices that once housed the student newspaper, the Patriot Talon, the communication department created a multimedia lab.
Although somewhat small in space, it is large in purpose. Three six-station pods house 18 Mac computers loaded with video and audio editing software.
A small television set, green screen and cameras provide for television work.
And in two back rooms, an audio lab and control room offer soundproof environments and equipment for the radio and television work.
Next door, a graphics lab houses Mac computers featuring design software for graphics, publications and the Web, Cali said.
“What the technology allows us to do is for the students to actually experience and create things for different media,” adjunct instructor Derik Gray said, adding that this experience is imperative to helping students secure jobs after college.
As a complement to the new program vision and technology, the department started several new courses including introduction to multimedia production, Web design, digital photography and mass communication theory.
Students have several outlets in which to practice their skills including a YouTube channel, on-campus radio station, and UStream TV in addition to the Patriot Talon and an online magazine called The Pine Curtain.
“I feel like our department, at the end, you're going to be ready to walk into the journalism field and get your first good job and be versatile,” Miss Jones said.
Irving Marmolejo, 23, is a mass communication major with a multimedia journalism emphasis.
Originally from Mexico, he aspires to be a Spanish language journalist working in radio, television or print news in the United States.
He said the undergraduate program is building his skills in these areas.
“They are really training us to be prepared for the real life, for the real world,” he said. “We're going to use those tools … in order to tell the stories.”
Dr. Marsha Matthews, associate professor of mass communication and coordinator of the undergraduate journalism program, said whether a person is in journalism, public relations or advertising, they are in the business of telling stories.
Every story has different aspects to it, different strengths and students must learn how to best portray those pieces.
“The phrase that I keep using is it's multimedia storytelling over different platforms,” she said.
The media could be audio, video, photos or print and the platforms could be the Internet, television, radio, newspaper and more.
Matthews said she is confident that the changes being made by UT Tyler reflect those being made across the nation.
She said schools are redesigning journalism and public relations programs to reflect media convergence and the increased emphasis on the web.
“We want our students to be able to walk in the door and have those skills (sets) and ... a portfolio when they go look for work,” she said.