Like the media environment its graduates are immersed in, the journalism department at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is always evolving.
Each of those three subjects—advertising, multimedia journalism and public relations—is its own major, offering students three different paths to a degree within the modern multi-faceted media department. Each also is offered as a minor or certificate. Media studies is a fourth minor and social media is a fourth certificate.
Whichever path a student chooses, they’ll learn the foundational skills that then will lead them to a variety of career options in creative fields. Because despite the always-changing nature of the media environment, the ability to grab the attention of an audience and tell a compelling story never goes out of style.
“AMP is a new department name that represents our three college-to-career majors,” said Timothy Gleason, AMP department chair and professor, “and it represents the sound of success our alumni achieve in their professions.”
Perhaps the most accomplished graduate of the journalism program, which spans more than 50 years at the UWO, is 1995 graduate Jim VandeHei. While he was educated in an era focused on traditional newspaper reporting, his career has been one of reinvention again and again. Since starting in Oshkosh, he climbed from smaller Washington D.C. outlets to covering congress for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. He then co-founded Politico and later Axios, two media organizations built around new ideas and fresh ways of presenting news and analysis.
Earlier this year, VandeHei returned to his alma mater as a guest speaker. Fittingly, part of his message was how change is one of the few constants in life. That’s a bedrock principle when working in and with the media—that’s why transferable skills are key to the AMP department’s approach.
“It’s all tools in the toolbox, so students are able to adjust wherever they go,” Gleason said.
The department prides itself in its graduates being immediately hirable.
UW Oshkosh is home to one of just two media programs in the state to have earned accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. UWO also is the only school in the UW System to offer advertising or public relations majors.
“We try to make sure we’re always paying attention to the industry and we’re adjusting to prepare students for what’s next,” said Kristine Nicolini, associate professor. “It’s an exciting time to be in our space.”
Brody Karmenzind, a 2014 graduate who majored in journalism with an advertising emphasis, now works in Chicago as a client partner at Meta (formerly known as Facebook), leading a team that manages a $100 million-plus book of business for the company’s highest priority advertisers.
Now with about a decade into his career, he’s seen his share of changes—all while climbing from his first job out of college with Pandora to now having the most prestigious enterprise sales position at Meta. But the practical skills, like communication in a variety of mediums, working in teams and creating advertising campaigns, have always been the foundation.
“There’s no more important skill than being able to convey information in a helpful, concise and effective way,” he said. “This has been something I’ve been able to use daily since I left the program and has helped me tremendously with the jobs I have had since graduation.”
Anna Murphy-Pociask graduated in May with a public relations degree and social media certificate. While in school, she served as president of UWO’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter and interned with the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau. She credits her outside-the-classroom activities with helping her land her first job after graduation: touring the country for a year as a Hotdogger in the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.
“I felt that the department has an outstanding team of professors and advisers,” she said. “I felt fully supported in classes and clubs I was a part of. It is very helpful that the classes had real-life and hands-on experiences so I could be prepared for my role post-graduation.”
PRSSA is one of many student organizations, clubs or other groups that can give AMP students experience. The Advance-Titan is the student-run campus newspaper that publishes weekly during the fall and spring semester. Ad Club is an option for students with an interest in advertising and is open to all majors. Northeastern Wisconsin Scholastic Press Association (NEWSPA) is another long-running learning and networking opportunity for AMP students.
“Every student has applied experience, whether that’s with an internship, working with client projects or they’re involved with a student club that’s doing a campaign,” Nicolini said. “We tell them you need two or three of those, that one is not enough. You might not figure out your passion by doing just one.”
Gleason spent years as a photojournalist before turning to academia. Nicolini worked more than a decade in strategic marketing, communications and public relations in corporate, nonprofit and agency environments. A strong suit of the department, Nicolini said, is its educators all have experience in the industry.
And the faculty are far from the only experienced professionals making an impact on students—another priority for the department is keeping a network of alumni and others working in and with the media involved.
Gleason said the AMP department has an advisory board, including some UWO graduates, who meet every semester with the faculty to talk about changes in the industry and how to best set students up for success. The department also constantly is in contact with other alumni for the same purpose.
Karmenzind is a perfect example of how these connections can go a long way. Through his involvement in NEWSPA, he met 2008 graduate Kirsten Strom, who minored in journalism at UWO and had recently started a job at Pandora. That helped him secure an internship, which then led to his first job after college. He called it the “biggest career-altering opportunity” he’s had.
“At the end of the day, companies are just groups of people working towards specific goals and having personal connections to these groups of people is the most important way to get a student’s foot in the door for opportunities,” Karmenzind said. “However, once your foot is in the door, you have to show up strong!”
Showing up strong is something UWO advertising, multimedia journalism and public relations graduates are prepared to do. It was true under the former name and same goes for the rebranded AMP department.
“When people come through the department they feel like they’re part of a community and we’re here to help them,” Nicolini said. “We’re not going to give up on them and we’re going to give them the tools they need.”