Prospective students test out broadcast equipment in Strong Hall. Photo by Jamie Browder

The Mass Communication Program hosted its inaugural Exploring Mass Communication event on Friday, Oct. 26. UM students and faculty gave an inside look at the Department of Communication’s broadcast and multimedia journalism concentrations to high school students from around the northeastern part of the state.  

Those in attendance were juniors and seniors from Tuscaloosa County High, Brookwood High School, Shelby County High School and John Carroll Catholic High. A few students from home school programs also attended.   

Throughout the day students were able to participate in various sessions in Strong Hall’s video production studio, journalism classrooms and news studio in hour-long workshops.  

 The sessions featured crash courses in skills like producing in the studio, working studio equipment and writing effective news stories with attention to social media.   

During one of the sessions Dr. Bruce Finklea, assistant professor of mass communication, showed students how to put cameras together while Dr. Gheni Platenburg, assistant professor of mass communication, provided students with key tips for conducting a successful interview.   

“The goal of Mass Comm Day is to show incoming high school students what mass comm can offer them as a degree and what we do as a general field and a department,” said Ryan Sexton, a senior mass communication major. “Our ability to go and do anything is great.”  

Sexton added that the diversity of career paths students can pursue with a background in mass communication is what makes the major special; photojournalism, magazine writing, filming movies, or working on documentaries were just a few potential professions that he listed. 

In addition to providing informative lectures, mass communication professors Finklea, Brook Pruitt and Dr. Jay Cofield offered more hands-on activities, such as anchoring for UM’s news show, “The Buzz.”   

Rayna Brown, a senior from Tuscaloosa County High School, said working behind the scenes of the show was difficult at first, but she eventually got the hang of it. She added that she really enjoyed the experience of anchoring.  

“Mass communication is really fun from what I can tell,” said Brown, adding that attending Exploring Mass Communication caused her to reconsider her previously held higher education plans. Rather than moving out-of-state, Brown now intends to stay in Alabama to pursue an education at the University of Montevallo. 

Later, the event took a turn for the spooky, shifting from informative to entertaining with the introduction of the Scare My Shorts Off Film Festival. The second iteration of the event in the past two years, the festival featured student-made horror films. 

High school students Payton Townsend, Noah Gibson, Hannah Sanders, Gavin Manning and Aydon Stevenson won the award for Best High School Production for their short feature “Found Footage.”  

The winning piece starred five teenagers who ventured into an abandoned mental asylum and never returned. Months later, authorities released the teens’ last moments that had been caught on film. “Found Footage” is available to watch on YouTube.   

Cofield concluded the day by showing gratitude to the mass communication students and faculty who helped put the event together. He also expressed that he hopes the day helped recruit more students to study alongside the faculty in the future. 

“We think Montevallo is a great place to come learn about mass comm, and even if people decide to not come here, we still want to introduce them to skills that we use in the field,” said Cofield.