Giving Communication Students a Solid Base in a Changing Field
“I love the opportunity to work with students, help them develop the skills they need, and then watch them succeed after graduation.”
Digital Multimedia Specialist in Residence
Department of Communication
The Experience Behind the Education
Joe Atkinson, an Ohio University graduate, came to Evansville to be a Warrick County reporter at the Evansville Courier & Press, where he focused on police reports, city government, and movie reviews. When he left the newspaper, Joe did freelance public relations work and magazine writing before starting at the University of Evansville as director of media relations.
Balancing Work and Classwork
Joe’s work at UE sparked his curiosity with video work and led to teaching himself how to make videos. This skill would enable Joe to take on the digital media position, which involved web coding, video editing, and overseeing the University’s website.
In January 2014, Joe left UE to pursue independent video work. He produced 10 episodes of Top 9 at WNIN and his first feature length film, From the Ashes, a film about the UE basketball players in the plane crash in December 1977. While working on these projects, Joe also taught a reporting class at UE as an adjunct professor. When the department began looking for someone who knew digital media, Joe Atkinson was the one for the job.
“I wanted to stay active in the field, while still advising and teaching students,” he said, which is something he has been able to do. “I love this place, I love the opportunity to work with students, help them develop the skills they need, and then watch them succeed after graduation.”
Through balancing freelance work and classwork, Joe is able to be part of a major industry boom as well as educating those who are about to enter that field. “It’s an exciting time to be in the communication department,” Joe said. “The industry is growing so much and there’s a big need for video and web.”
The UE Department of Communication Stands Out
One of the main elements that sets UE apart from other colleges is the personal attention students receive. “I had a class last semester that had 20 students, and it was huge,” Joe said. “But I still knew everyone’s name. You don’t get that at a lot of universities.” For example, students working in the Mac lab in Hyde Hall can lean out the door and look down the hall to Joe’s office. If the door’s open, the students know they can come get help.
From this unique education experience, students receive a more than just a degree. “We give the classroom theory behind what you’re going to do when you graduate, but you can also practice it within a safety net,” Joe explained.” For example, in one of his classes, his students are assigned a client for whom they are going to do video work.
“I’m there to help, but for the most part they’re doing the work, determining the client’s needs and doing the video work.” This enables his students to become accustomed to working in a business setting, and making connections with people who are going to be hiring some day. Plus, these students are creating quality work that will go into their portfolio. “It’s more than just saying you did it,” explained Joe. “You actually do it.”
The communication department is full of real-world opportunities for students. In Joe’s multimedia class, his students have the chance to do something that could air on the local television station, WNIN. They can even submit their short films to festivals all across the country. “You learn the theory and the basics of it, and then you have the opportunity to get out there and actually do it,” said Joe. “You have that experience before you even get there and start looking for a job.”
Unique Opportunities for UE Students
Students at UE have the unique opportunity to gain valuable experience in their desired field. Sara Gensler, a senior communication and media studies major, was recommended by Joe to participate in the Jezreel Expedition in Israel, where she helped with the dig, did their multimedia work, created videos and took photos, and was even in charge of their social media.
UE has the benefit of being located in a “big small town.” “There’s a lot of interconnection here,” he said. “Local businesses and government are very open to working with the students and the University.” This connectivity between the school and the city enables students to work with real world clients on a global scale.
More importantly, Joe urges prospective students to find the school that fits them. “UE is a great school with great opportunities. If you’re looking for a smaller more intimate setting with faculty that you’re going to get to know and work with one-on-one, then this is a great place for you.”