By Lindsay Blauvel, SOC Website Reporter
October, 2012--A panel of four School of Communication alumni returned to campus last week to talk to students about how their experience in Communication Studies lead to careers in advocacy and social justice issues.
Their presentations exemplified the goals of a track recently introduced to the in SOC focusing on Advocacy and Social Change.
Dr. Mark Pollock, an associate professor and the Communication Studies program director introduced the four panelists, saying their stories helped to inspire the new focus area.
The panelists included Alex Miller, development and communications coordinator for Free Spirit Media; Ellina Kushnir, program coordinator for Rotary International; Whitney Woodward, a policy associate for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and an adjunct professor at Loyola; and Alma Tello a U.S. Senate aide to Sen. Richard Durbin.
All four of the young professionals said that their education at Loyola gave them the tools they needed to convey and promote the social justice issues that they encounter everyday. Tello, a veteran of the United States Air Force, said she used her education in communication and advocacy issues to advance in her career.
“I can easily say that it was my experience at Loyola and it was my social justice track in Communication Studies that pulled it all together for me,” Tello said. “I learned how to focus issues and those things that interest me.”
She cited her class with Dr. Pollock as instrumental to her ability to navigate the tricky nuances of communication in the political arena.
“Rhetoric has a lot to do with what we do,” Tello said. “The message is very important and that’s the class that has made the difference for me in my career.”
Kushnir said that her experiences at Loyola and the knowledge she gained lead her to a career that she finds fulfilling. She said, “It’s just an incredible feeling to know that it’s what you’re passionate about, it’s what you enjoy doing and you’ve been equipped with the skills to promote what their needs are, the needs of the community and to sustainably and effectively meet those needs.”
She added that her training in communication helped her to identify issues in her community and gave her the tools to translate those issues into propositions for change.
I realized that I was living in my county but I wasn’t aware of the need and that’s where communication really started to play a big role in my professional development,” Kushnir said. “I realized that I can contribute to not only advocacy work but educating the public at large.”
Miller explained how she works with Free Spirit Media to educate high school kids how to use technology and communication to tell their stories and to promote positive messages and awareness.
“I’m empowering youth to tell their own stories. It’s an inspiring way to see the perspective of youth through media,” Miller said. “I’ve taken the skills I’ve learned at Loyola and invested them back into the communities that invested in me.”
Woodward said that she would encourage School of Communication students to think outside of the box when envisioning their future careers.
“I’d encourage people to look at non-traditional homes,” Woodward said.
“Just because you’re journalism major or a broadcast major, you don’t have to end up at a newspaper. You shouldn’t feel boxed in, there are opportunities out there that are open to using that medium to advocate for something.”
Dr. Pollock said the panel discussion provided a shining example of what Communication Studies students can hope to achieve in combining Loyola’s commitment to the community with the skills in the program.
“These are people that have already done that,” Pollock said. “Students can see what opportunities are there for them if they want to work for social change.”