Here you can find our previous Student Spotlights! We wanted to recognize Communication students who work hard to go above and beyond coming to class and truly make a difference in the department, student media organization(s), and/or the community. As a parallel to our Alum Spotlight, our Student Showcase offers students an opportunity to lift up those who truly stand out, allows others an opportunity to conceptualize their academic path, and evoke inspiration through various careers that stem from a degree in Communication. Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to submit a nomination for any student currently attending Valpo. Please email us with any questions or to nominate a student who stands out!

 

Student Spotlight: Lauren Wilson

 

Q) What brought you to Valpo?

A) On my first visit, I had a tour guide that said hello and knew everyone walking past. Small class sizes, great professors. Smaller classes, students are so nice. See 15 people just on my walk to class. You always meet new people but see a lot of the same people and grow relationships as well.

Q) What is your dream job?

A) A team reporter in the NBA or NFL, preferably NBA. If I could work for the Spurs. The head coach is a female and is really interested in bringing females into the sports industry.

Q) What Media Organizations are you involved in? 

A) VUTV– Sports Director I started in August. Ron Blatz got me started after working a camera with ESPN and Ron told me about the position. I wish I would’ve started my freshman year.

Q) What is your favorite COMM class that you have taken so far?

A) My favorite Communication class would be COMM-100 with Paul Oren. It was rough having to be in class at 8:00 AM, but he made it worth it. He has become almost like a mentor. My favorite class so far would be Econ by Sarah Gunnerson. She is so knowledgeable about Econ. She made it so understandable and enjoyable.

Q) What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at Valpo?

A) Work whatever job you have like you’re the best at it– whether it is sweeping the floor or getting someone coffee… even if you don’t feel like it is the best job, doing your best shows your dedication and you will find yourself in the position you want to be in through putting in that hard work. Choose your hard– ex. it’s hard to study for 6 hours and it’s hard to fail a class. Choose which hard you want to do.

Q) What internships have you had?

A) I’m going to have NBA with the Indiana Pacers– social media director for all of their summer camps. Went to NFL combine– sat in on a panel. 20 NFL analyst coaches, reporters, scouts. Pinpointed how to get into the sports industry. Two days– the first day sat in on the panel. 8hrs long, resume advice, interview, internship, 2nd day was on the field at the combine.

Q) Is there anything else that you would like to add?

A) Do whatever you can, meet whoever you can, network, and get involved. Something my mom always told the crap jobs to save your life. When you work the little jobs, it makes you work that much harder and appreciate.

 

 

 

 

 

Student Spotlight: Chris Rekitzke

 

 

Q) What brought you to Valpo?

A)It has a lot to do with what I do now- the admissions office. They were hands-on and hospitable from the moment I walked in. It felt like an experience as opposed to something I was just doing. It was the whole package.

Q) What is your dream job?

A) I don’t know if I have a dream job– but more of a dream workplace. I want to be able to work with people and for them to be a priority, not goal or numbers driven and potentially supervising.

Q) What is a favorite memory you have from being in Valpo?

A) I think that for me personally, participating in my first Dance Marathon. Being on my feet for 12 hours straight, then with the big reveal just collapsing into my best friends arms. All I could think about was all of the hard work that was put in to, not only that day but the weeks and events leading up to it- knowing that we did something that was truly worthwhile.

Q) What has been your favorite COMM class so far? 

A) Gender race and class in media with Dr. Bell. She’s lively and engaging with the material and the students. She genuinely challenges students. She teaches you about how to synthesize when writing a paper, earning your terms, and being able to support what you are writing.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given while at Valpo?

A) I’ve been given a lot of advice while here at Valpo. A piece that I was given that I now give is, ‘When is just as important as how you lose’. You may not have been picked for this position, you may have lost a game, etc. If you lose an election, you stand up and shake the man’s hand and ask how you can help. It has been a piece of advice that I personally live by now.

 

 

 

 

 

Student Spotlight: Monicah Njoki Wainaina 

This month’s Student Spotlight is Monicah Njoki Wainaina. Monicah is a graduate student majoring in Digital Media and is from Nairobi, Kenya. Her incredible work ethic, dedication, and passion to succeed are why we chose her for our spotlight! 

 

Q) What brought you to Valpo?

A) I found Valpo randomly through a Google search. I was looking at schools in England and Australia, but once Valpo popped up, I knew that this is where I wanted to go. I was intrigued by the social media platforms, hands-on learning, etc. 

Q) What is your dream job?

A)  My dream job is to own my own Digital Media/PR company in the United States. I want to be able to continue creating work and network as much as possible.  

Q) What Media Organizations are you involved in?

A) I am involved in the African Student Association, MLK Day Committee, and have been on the LIghter’s sorting Committee. I have also been involved in ILS and am a Graduate Student Ambassador. 

Q) What is your favorite Comm class that you have taken so far?

A) My favorite COMM class has been COMM-597-EV Audio Production with Professor Karl Berner and Graduate Digital Media with COMM-

Professor Phillip Powell. 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Spotlight: Katherine (Katie) Nickolaou

 

If you have been to Schnabel Hall, you are sure to have run into Katherine (Katie) Nickolaou. Katie always has a smile on her face and it is apparent from the first time you interact with her, what she is passionate about. Her incredible work ethic, dedication, and passion are why we chose her for our Student Spotlight!

 

Q) What brought you to Valpo?

A) The Meteorology and Communication Departments are what brought me to Valpo. When looking at schools Ball State, Central Michigan, and Valpo was at the top of my radar. The biggest draw to Valpo was that they offered a close relationship between the Meteorology and Comm. departments (their buildings literally connect) and the chance to get hands-on experience right away. I had the opportunity to meet some professors and student media organization leaders while I was visiting- they were genuinely interested in me and my interests. They weren’t just looking for a warm body to fill a seat. That really spoke to me. 

Q) What is your dream job?

A)  My dream job would be a mix- well, let me put it this way. I would love to be the next Jim Cantore. He is able to be in the studio but also chases storms. In the field, It is my dream to be demonstrative while also being in the field. I knew from the time that I was four years old that I wanted to get involved with the weather. My family parked under an underpass during a terrible storm. I was completely captivated. We later found out that a tornado passed right by where we were at. I always say that storm chasers have the switch that tells people to run away from danger turned off because we are the ones who run toward dangerous weather.

Q) What Media Organizations are you involved in?

A) I am involved in VUTV– the first time I went into VUTV was my first day on campus. I wanted to find the TV  station because I knew I wanted to become the Weather Director one day. That is when I met Amy and Brendan. They emailed me and I went to the first meeting. I was the youngest person to start at VUTV. Within two weeks of being on campus, I was on the air. I started in Sports, sophomore year I was the Assistant News Director and going into my Junior year, Brendan suggested that I apply for General Manager. I got it and am so happy that I did. This is now my second year and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I was always known as having been the youngest joining member of VUTV until this year when Blake Harms joined.

Q) What is your favorite Comm class that you have taken so far?

A) My favorite COMM class so far has been Weather and Storytelling with Ellen Bacca. I learned so much that I never would have known– for example, all of the little nuances that come with being on air, impact, what to do when everything is happening, etc. Sometimes you may not realize or learn those things until you are on the job. She helped us to prepare and push ourselves, which is why I believe that we’ve had a 100% job placement over the past 5 years for VUTV.

Q) Is there anything else that you would like to add?

A) Don’t let others and what you do change who you are. The past year has brought many struggles and stress. I could have let that jade me, but I didn’t. Everything goes on– you can’t let it get to you. Ten years ago, I was anxious, hated being looked at, and was bullied (on which I called them out for it). In about 7th grade, I found Star Trek. It taught me that you make your situations and the world better if you want it to be. It’s about how much YOU put into it. Now, I love being the goofy one in the room that helps make everyone else feel comfortable. 

 

VU Awards Banquet

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Student Spotlight: Michaela Doyle 

You can find Michaela’s smiling face all around Schnabel, but typically she can be found in WVUR, where she is the General Manager and has been involved for nearly four years. Michaela’s infectious personality makes you feel instantly uplifted as she explains her passion for the people and relationships that have evolved from her time here in the Department of Communication.

 

Q) What brought you to Valpo?

A)I transferred to Valpo my sophomore year from Eastern Illinois University where I studied in Speech Pathology. I knew that I enjoyed being around people and started looking into Communication. It was so difficult to find out any information or get involved at EIU, so I started looking at other places. When I visited Valpo, I met Paul Oren, he knew exactly what courses I needed to take, what I would do to get involved in the program, and was able to tell me everything I needed to know about the media organizations. It was just a completely different environment.

Q) What is your dream job?

A)  My dream job is to be a General Manager of a radio station outside of college. I understand that you have to work your way up though. To work at a station on the East or West coast, learning everything/what everyone does and eventually becoming a GM would be my dream. I love helping to create and foster a team environment– it is such a great setting to be in.

Q) What Media Organizations are you involved in?

A) WVUR– I was the News Director for 2 years and then General Manager for 2 years. I also wrote a couple of articles and helped with the circulation of the Torch last year. My primary involvement is with WVUR

Q) What is your favorite Comm class that you have taken so far?

A) That is hard because there are two– Leadership Communication with Lanie Steinwart. I liked how it was run, we covered different leadership styles, how to grow as a leader and various leaders throughout history and their styles. It really helped me grow, see what kind of leader I was, and what style I had. Media in Politics with Paul Oren was also amazing and unique, because of the election and how we were able to cover it and discuss topics as they unfolded.

Q) What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at Valpo?

A)The best piece of advice I was given was from my old faculty advisor for WVUR, Andrew Stem. I had just been elected the GM for WVUR and came to him worried about how I would do. He told me to just relax– that it will be a process, to be patient, learn/absorb as much as I can and eventually it will all fall together. His advice helped me to become the leader I am because I was able to focus and slow down enough to realize that it takes time to learn everything.

Q) What is a favorite memory you have from being in Valpo?

A) The night of the election was like nothing else I’ve experienced or seen. The Torch, WVUR, and VUTV were all live at once in Schnabel. There was convergence with the Torch looking up stats and tweeting out updates, VUTV was live, and we were airing with WVUR. We were all running back and forth to make sure that no one was covering the exact same thing. It was a night I will never forget. We worked together, helped one another out, and the energy was just amazing.

Q) What internships have you had?

A)  I had an internship with Adam’s Radio Group that was from last summer through December 2017. I learned how to track my voice, plan events, promotions, board ops, and more. WVUR is kind of in a little bubble in college radio, so it makes us wonder if it is like that in the real world. I was proud of how similar we were in many aspects but also was able to learn so much about what is different.

Q) Is there anything else that you would like to add?

A) Don’t let fear get in the way of doing something new. I had never done anything like what they do at WVUR before I started (ex. controlling my voice, etc.) but if I had let fear get in the way, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

 

 

 

 

 

Student Spotlight: Esmeralda (Emmy) De La Luz

 

Q) What brought you to Valpo?

A) The summer before my senior year I started with a program that took students to different colleges and we visited Valpo. It was the very first school that I applied to and they were the last to respond. Initially, I was denied, but I don’t take no for an answer so I appealed the decision, submitted with updated test scores, references, etc. and was accepted. When I attended Admittance Day went with sister, Professor Lutze was our guide. We visited The Torch office and I told my sister that I would work there one day. My freshman year, I was in COMM-100 with Andrew Stem and he had paired us into groups. The logo we were given was too small, so I completely recreated it and made it look better. One of my group members happened to be The Torch’s Editor in Chief and encouraged me to apply for the graphic design position since the current graphic designer was graduating. I said yes and have been involved with the Torch ever since. After attending the tour, I knew that Schnabel was where I was meant to be because it just gave me a sense of feeling at home. Not everywhere on campus projects that same feeling

Q) What is your dream job?

A) My dream job would be working for an entertainment magazine. I would love the opportunity to give back to the community, especially helping first-generation college students. I am interested in working with designs but will more than likely work for a non-profit after college to start out.

Q) What Media Organizations are you involved in?

A) The Torch. Although the Torch takes up a lot of my time outside of classes, I’ve learned to love it. I’ve learned how to spend more than 24 hours on a story, starting Torch night at 7:00 P.M. and not leaving the office until 7:00 A.M. with an 8:00 A.M. class to go to. The Torch has shaped so much of my college career and I am so grateful for that.

Q) What is your favorite Comm class that you have taken so far?

A) My favorite class was probably with Lanie Steinwart- it was a Public Relations where we really learned how to work together and know your audience. The class was made up of 18 students and we had a large group assignment that covered crisis management. It was a great experience. I also loved sport reporting with Paul, because I had to opportunity to be a see what it was like being a Sports Beat reporter and interviewing players from my favorite soccer team. It is hard to decide because every year I have a class that I really like.

Q) What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at Valpo?

A) Paul recently said in Capstone class- you only have so many days left of college. Go to your last seminars, basketball games, take as many pictures as you can, because it will be over soon and those are the moments that you will remember the most.

Q) Is there anything else that you would like to add?

A) It’s ok to ask for help. It is ok to be overwhelmed. Write down what you want to do and make sure you do it. It doesn’t’ matter how you get to your goal as long as you get to it. I didn’t really learn that until this year. Even if there are things going on at home, school is your job at the end of the day and it needs to be a priority.

 

 

 

 

 

Student Spotlight: Alex Bartelt

 

Q) What brought you to Valpo?

A) My older brother was attending Valpo, and since I knew that they had a lot to offer through their Astronomy program, it felt like a great match. I quickly realized that studying Astronomy required much more Physics that I had anticipated, but through working with VUTV, I had begun realizing my interest in Communication. After talking to Professor Lutze, I knew that I wanted to officially change my major sophomore year.  

Q) What is your dream job?

A) To start off, I would like to find a TV station to work for (preferably closer to home). I would also like to experiment with film making. Honestly, I just want to be filming and editing things, because it is what I am passionate about. 

Q) What did you want to be when you were 10?

A) I probably wanted to be a police officer. I was always a rule follower, always wanted to do the right thing, and knew that there were people who broke the rules. 

Q) What Media Organizations are you involved in?

A) I have been involved in the Karate Club since my freshman year and my interest in that is what led me to get involved with VUTV. 

Q) What is your favorite Comm class that you have taken so far?

A)My favorite COMM class so far has been Studio Production with Dr. Powell. Although I was part of VUTV and knew how to use quite a bit of the equipment, it was such a great experience to be able to learn even more and help other students in the class who weren’t as familiar with it. I was also able to learn a lot from Dr. Powell. 

Q) What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at Valpo?

A) You have to take responsibility for yourself- to seek help and ask questions. You can’t just expect it to come to you on its own. In this field, there is always something that you can learn, so being willing and open to adapting makes a big difference and can make you stand out. 

Q) What is a favorite memory you have from being in Valpo?

A) My favorite memory would have to be in Advanced Cinema Production when we finished the Ghost movie. After the final scene, everyone cheered and we took a group picture. Those kinds of accomplishments make you proud because you are seeing all of the time and hard work that came to fruition. 

Q) Describe the feelings you had the first time you attended a VUTV gathering. 

A) The first time I learned about VUTV was my freshman year at the Activities Fair on Orientation Day. I went to see my friends who were there to represent the Karate club and ended up stopping by the VUTV booth. The members who were at the booth were very welcoming, eager to answer any questions that I had and even took the time to show me how the camera and some other equipment worked. After that, I was excited to start getting involved with VUTV. 

Q) What internships have you had?

A) The internship that I am currently involved in is with Housing Opportunities. I am working with them to create informational videos. I have already interviewed clients, faculty, and gathered footage of essential housing projects, and their food pantry. It is different than making a new package because it requires a different tone. Since the goal is to encourage the community to make donations to the organization, I am creating titles and choosing the music to reflect the tone of the message that will help them achieve their goal.   

Q) Is there anything else that you would like to add?

A) To make videos look good, the magic happens in the editing. There will rarely be a situation where you will have smooth sailing from start to finish. It is truly a rewarding feeling to have the skills and ability to take something that a client/someone may think is unusable and turn it into something that wow’s them. Taking the ‘B Role’ in this field is actually great because you’re not tied down to one particular thing. You can work with TV, movies, create trailers, and music videos (which I do), etc. As a freelancer, you get the opportunity to work with different clients, environments, and work towards achieving different goals. 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Spotlight: Brandi Casada

 

Q) What brought you to Valpo?

A) I spent two years at a junior college before transferring to Valpo. I knew that I wanted to major in Media Broadcasting but initially thought that I would go to Ball State. After receiving an email from Valpo about a transfer scholarship, I decided to check it out (even though I had never heard of Valparaiso before). My mom and I visited the campus and met with Professor Paul Oren for a tour. He was great; down to earth, knowledgeable, and had an approachable personality. By the time we got in the car, my mom already knew that I would end up choosing Valpo because it just felt right.

Q) What is your dream job?

A) My dream job is to produce and direct films. I really want to be in the movie industry. I have always loved movies and even when I was younger I wanted to watch the behind the scenes features on any movie I would watch. I just enjoyed learning how it would take an entire team of people and everything that went into making an hour long movie.

Q) What did you want to be when you were 10?

A) Growing up, I always baked with my grandmother. Cooking/baking was/is a major part of my family. With such a rich family history in baking, I wanted to go to culinary school to become a pastry chef. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I realized my true calling was movies.

Q) What Media Organizations are you involved in?

A) I am primarily involved in VUTV. When I initially transferred, I also worked a little with WVUR but decided that focusing my efforts on what I loved was the best thing to do. It really felt like I belonged. Part of that may have been due to the fact that I came in with a purpose- I knew that as a transfer student, I wanted to get in as much as possible.

Q) What is your favorite Comm class that you have taken so far? That is hard because I love all of Charlie Anderson’s classes. He is so knowledgeable and always puts so much into the class. I enjoy learning all of the information and details about my degree field and how everything works. With that said, Dr. Phillip Powell’s Producing and Directing course has been my favorite. The small class size and amount of experience gained from creating a show from the ground up were unparalleled. We were able to turn the script and characters into exactly what we wanted. Add that to the fact that I was able to work with some of my best friends- I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Q) What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at Valpo?

A) The best piece of advice that I have received since being here at Valpo was in Professor Charlie Anderson’s class. He said, ” Embrace K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart) with everything. I realized that was great advice not only in this industry but with life in general. I completely embraced it with everything, because it can be easy to overcomplicate things. If you can do basic well, there’s no need for all of the fluff. 

Q) What is a favorite memory you have from being in Valpo?

A) There are so many great memories, it is hard to decide on just one. So many of them involve Katie Nickolaou. I could tell you many stories, but one of my favorites is when we did a story with the animal shelter. It was the same day as the Spring concert and the last day of filming the Shield. Lakeshore Paws was going to bring in dogs and Katie had asked if I could help. Of course, I said yes- I would be doing what I love while being able to play with puppies- how much better could it get?! Before Lakeshore Paws brought the dogs to the Shield, we had to go to the shelter to get some footage. Everything went well, we had a great time, and the staff was amazing. When Katie and I went to leave, I realized that I needed to get an establishment shot. Katie went to take everything to the car so that we could head over to the Spring Concert as soon as I finished up. After getting all of the footage I needed, we realized that Katie had accidentally locked her keys in the trunk with the rest of our things. We ended up calling a locksmith, then her parents (who told her that they had roadside assistance who could help her for free), so we then called the locksmith back to cancel. We thought to ourselves how funny it would have been if the same locksmith came to unlock the car that we had just called to cancel. Luckily, it wasn’t, but the locksmith even had a difficult time unlocking the car. Finally, we were able to retrieve the keys and make it back right in time for the Spring Concert. We wrapped up the day with the dogs from Lakeshore Paws visiting the Shield. They had a great time as did everyone who was there and the package turned out great. For such a crazy day, it was memorable and involved a lot of laughter.  

Q) Describe the feelings you had the first time you attended a VUTV gathering. 

A)  Usually each semester there is a meet the media night. It allows everyone to meet different student media organizations and get to know more about them. I was invited to attend by someone in one of my classes and was my first time meeting everyone at VUTV. I was just sitting there since I didn’t really know anyone and someone (Alex Bartelt) asked me what my interests were. That immediately started a conversation. It was fun to watch everyone laughing, joking, and having a good time. It was such a welcoming atmosphere. I knew I was somewhere that I belonged because I am usually the first one to show up to something and the first one to leave. That night, I just didn’t want to leave. I remember just feeling so at home and having a sense of belonging there. 

Q) What internships have you had?

A) I am currently interning with the Welcome Project with Professor Liz Weurffel. I am working on video editing- there is so much video that has been compiled over time that I am going through and organizing, but it is going really well and I enjoy working with them.

If I can give a word of advice regarding internships, it would be this: Don’t be afraid to get creative. Finding an internship around here can be hard since it is not a larger city. It is important to think outside the box and doesn’t give up looking for opportunities. That is exactly how I learned about the internship with the Welcome Project. Be bold, trust in yourself and your skills/knowledge enough to ask and just put yourself out there.  

Q) Is there anything else that you would like to add?

A) Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. I was homeschooled, shy, and hated being the center of attention, but that has changed since I came to Valpo. It has changed my life. You have to be bold, proud, and confident in yourself and who you are. As I am getting ready to graduate, with a tear in my eye, I can say that I have found my boldness and I have Valpo to thank for that. I want to thank the department and all of its faculty for making the atmosphere of the Communication Department such a warm and inviting place to learn and grow. They are what has driven and inspired me to be the best me that I can be. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for their guidance and friendship. 

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