On Thursday, Oct. 30, both curious students and extra class credit seekers filled Comer auditorium to attend the 4th annual COMS Day. Each year, the event is curated by students in the COMS 499 Senior Seminar class in an effort to highlight the success and professional development of the department.
The first keynote speaker of the day was class of 1993 graduate Jonathan Nelson. At the time of Nelson’s schooling, the department was simply called the “speech” department, not the all encompassing communication studies of today.
Nelson, now serving in his 10th year as the general manager of the Birmingham Barons baseball team, stated that he uses the skills he learned in his speech major 20 years ago everyday.
He reminisced about how a professor once remarked to him, “If you can communicate effectively, you can do anything you want to.” From giving speeches at public events to communicating with his staff to maintain Regions Field, Nelson said his time at UM taught him to communicate “clear, accurate and consistent information.”
After a 15 minute intermission, the program then moved on to its “Present” panel of recent communications alumni.
Aubrey McClendon, the Membership Development Director of the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, graduated from UM in 2012. McClendon explained that she uses the skills she learned from her major to often convince potential buyers to purchase membership for the chamber. A few of the classroom learned skills McClendon uses in her everyday work include logos, persuasion and the dreaded but essential teamwork found in work groups.
Dr. Jeff Walker was the next of the recent alumni to speak. Walker graduated from UM in 2008 and attended grad school at the University of Alabama. Walker just recently took the position of Assistant Professor of Communication at Louisiana Tech University.
Walker explained that he was able to flex his communication muscles not only in the classroom, but in his extracurriculars as well. He stated that he used rhetorical tactics in his SGA meetings and persuasion skills as the Gold Side Leader in 2008.
The last recent alum present was Anna Archer a 2012 graduate that now works as the Administrative Assistant for Food Services at Red Diamond Coffee and Tea in Moody, Alabama. Archer explained that she did not have a direct career path straight out of college. She worked two different jobs until finding her current position at Red Diamond earlier this year. Archer named associate professor of communication Ray Ozley’s organizational communications course “one of the most instrumental classes” during her time here. She explained that the backbone of any job consists of organization and active listening.
To demonstrate the future of the department, the COMS Day volunteers held a panel discussion with Department of Communications Chair Sally Hardig, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication Bruce Finklea and newly appointed Dean of Fine Arts Steve Peters.
Senior COMS major Ryan Kirkland, the CEO of COMS Day, served as the emcee for the final event. The main focus of the panel involved the construction of Stronghall, a building that will house both the COMS and Mass Communication majors.
After the panel concluded, the COMS day volunteers lead the remaining audience members to the proposed future site of Stronghall. An awaiting tent housed cardboard blueprints and renderings of the building. Located behind the current site of the Mass Comm building, the structure will be linked to the current building by the construction of a breeze way. Stronghall is expected to begin construction in 2016.