The University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point Division of Communication hosted its annual Communication Week from October 15-18, 2012, bringing alumni into the classrooms to speak with students about their professional experiences.
Communication Week (Comm Week) first started in 1989 and occurred a few years in a row. Dr. Jim Haney and other faculty members developed the idea with the goal to bring back successful alumni to talk to students in a classroom setting.
In the past, before it ceased in the early 1990s, Comm Week acquired special funding that allowed the Division to bring in bigger names with the alumni. Linda Ellerbee and Richard Slazenger were a few that visited the university at that time, but eventually the funds ran out.
“When the funds we had could no longer sustain the big names we were bringing in to speak, we always seem to go back and bring the alumni in to speak. It was a popular and successful program,” Haney said.
Haney explained that Comm Week is so successful in the university due to its three main goals.
“We offer high-quality guest speakers, offer networking opportunities for students, and are able to maintain our alumni relations very well,” Haney said.
Students can gain insight when high-quality speakers, who are not working as professors, come in to the classrooms to speak. They can offer timely topics and relevance to the current standing of the field to the classes they visit. Their real-life experience allows students to make professional connections in their field of study.
“These students are networking with alums who graduated and sat in the same desks as them. They have the chance to ask questions and get valuable advice from the alums. Our hope is that there is a long line of students waiting to talk to them,” Haney said.
Alumni generally give their insights to questions about what they think students need to do to prepare themselves for the job market, what employers are looking for in prospective employees and encourage students to go out on their own and engage the connections they have made.
Typically, the Division of Communication faculty recommends which alumni they would like to see in the classroom. Alumni who speak provide the classes with unique material and insight across all emphases and appeal to a number of classes.
The last goal, Haney explained, is to maintain alumni relations. While some alumni donate financial support to the Division, some alumni dedicate a day of their time to give back to the university in some way.
“Some of our alumni donate a significant amount of money to our program and students, while others have a different way showing their appreciation,” Haney said. By participating in Comm Week, it gives us the opportunity to honor them and their accomplishments. It’s healthy for both the faculty and students.”
Comm Week is an opportunity for alumni to give back to the university that helped them get where they are today in their careers and share how they built upon the skills they acquired over the years.
“As for the idea of giving back, my story’s a little unusual in the sense that I went back to school to get my master’s when I was 46 years old. I was almost always the oldest person in the class, but once I was in the classroom, none of that mattered,” Kiefer said. “Grad school was by far the best educational experience of my life, and I’m indebted to UWSP for providing it.”
Similarly, Steven Heller is an alumnus who started giving back to the university as soon as he graduated. He participated in Comm Week this year, but he also donates a scholarship in his name each year to students who are actively involved in and around the university campus.
“I felt that the opportunities I had in student organizations were what made my college career what it was,” Heller said. “The ability for students to round out their education with real-world work experiences . . . I’m able to provide assistance to a student who has gone above and beyond furthering their education.”
Comm Week 2012 featured 14 returning alumni. Students and faculty were welcome to participate in the networking sessions outside of the classroom to interact with the alumni.