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UTPA communication showcase offers a look into 21st century mass communication
By Office of University Relations
(956) 665-2741
Posted: 05/05/2011
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Communication students from The University of Texas-Pan American heard first-hand from media professionals in public relations, advertising and health communication fields at the second annual Communication Showcase hosted by the Department of Communication April 28-29 at the Communication Radio and TV Studios' Media Theater.


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Media professionals came to The University of Texas-Pan American April 28-29 to talk with students about their experiences in the communications industry and offer advice to students. Pictured from left to right are:Dr. Aje-ori Agbese, UTPA assistant professor of communication; Liana Cisneros, director of community relations and group sales manager for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers; Tricia Barrera, public relations coordinator for the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance; Cynthia Puryear, senior strategist of corporate communications for Mitchell Communications Group; Dr. Timothy Mottet, chair of the UTPA Department of Communication and Henry W. and Margaret Hauser Endowed Chair in Communication; Helen Escobar, public relations coordinator for South Texas College; and Shannon Ponce, director of community outreach for Palm Valley Animal Center.

The showcase kicked off April 28 with an emphasis on health communication, which is one of the fastest growing academic fields of study within communications, Dr. Timothy Mottet, professor and Henry W. and Margaret Hauser Endowed Chair in Communication, said.

Researchers Dr. Karla Lawson and Dr. Sarah Duzinski, from Dell's Children's Hospital in Austin, visited with students and answered questions regarding a future in the niche field of health communications. All visits were integrated into UTPA health and instructional communication classes.

"We're seeing the growth of health communications across the United States and a lot of departments of communication are now building health communication programs," said Mottet. "There are several faculty members within our department who play a role in the area of health communications."

The showcase continued April 29, with a panel of media professionals in public relations and advertising who were invited by Mottet to exemplify the other side of mass communication careers beyond print and broadcast journalism, which was the focus of last year's showcase. Mottet said the purpose of the shift was to garner awareness of the 21st century mass communication curriculum and the convergence of media.

"I want students to have an accurate understanding of where the industry is today and how to survive in an economy that is not robust," said Mottet. "I also want students to leave and think about how they can add value to a company. Without a doubt our students have value and our students need to learn how to sell their skills."

Panelists Tricia Barrera, public relations coordinator for the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance; Helen Escobar, public relations coordinator for South Texas College; Shannon Ponce, director of community outreach for Palm Valley Animal Center; Cynthia Puryear, senior strategist of corporate communications for Mitchell Communications Group; and Liana Cisneros, director of community relations and group sales manager for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, discussed the state of the industry and their personal experiences. They also gave advice on the type of skills employers are seeking and provided feedback on student projects that were submitted for critique.

"The Hispanic market is one of the biggest ones that we've been missing in the past years," Barrera told students during the state of the industry address . "In the Valley I see a lot of potential as far as the growth and economics. Marketing is going to boom in our region and we need to stay in the Valley and embrace where we live…we're a growing outlet."

Puryear's employer, Mitchell Communications Group, recently selected two students from UTPA - junior Lilli Lopez and senior Amanda Perez - to participate in the agency's "Big Break" internship program March 14-19. A video highlighting Lopez's and Perez's experience was presented at the showcase.

She told students that the industry is hard and competitive at times, but for anyone who is focused, there is an opportunity locally, regionally and nationally because there is a need for media professionals.

"Everybody has a story that needs to be told," Puryear said. "Don't be afraid, go out there and dive in. You're in demand, just being graced with Amanda and Lilli for one week at our agency, I am amazed at what UTPA can offer."

At the end of the two days, Mottet said he was happy graduating seniors who are working toward becoming media professionals attended the showcase. He called this audience a critical group of students to reach.

"Students from UTPA bring with them not only an education, but a set of cultural competencies that other people value," Mottet said. "When these cultural competencies, our students can help agencies and firms develop campaigns for Latino and other diverse markets…this added value is something that can't be taken away from you."

For more information on the Department of Communication visit the department's website.